Friday, March 12, 2010

Orange Date Ice Cream

It wasn’t until just a few years ago that I realized how much I enjoyed the caramel deliciousness of dates, especially when combined with other balancing ingredients like cheese or citrus. Such rich ancient jewels of fruit surely belong on our tables and in our recipe repertoire from time to time.

Among all the varieties, Medjool dates are considered the largest, plumpest and most prized and should be readily available in your area. Dating back to Egypt in the 5th century BC, dates were transported by the Moors to Spain and thrived throughout the Middle East and the Mediterranean. Medjool plantings originating from Morocco and Jordan are now cultivated in the Coachella Valley of California. I find the most beautiful specimens at my local Farmer's Market.

This ice cream captures the lovely balance of caramelized spiced dates and the bright citrus acidity of oranges. The dates are cooked for a few minutes with a splash of sherry, cinnamon and orange zest to bring out their creamy quality. This compote is then folded into an orange ice cream for a perfect contrast. Once a spoonful lands on your palate, each co-mingling of ingredients reveals itself in perfect order.

As we drift into a welcome season of spring fruit and flowers, Orange Date Ice Cream helps to bridge the waning days of winter and the sunny promise of lots of new spring ice cream recipes to come.

Bench notes:
- You may sometimes see a white powdery film forming on the surface of dates. This is due to their high level of natural sugar and is not a cause for alarm. It’s just sugar crystal formation. You can warm them in the oven or steam them and the crystals will dissolve.
- I used a Lustau Amontillado Los Arcos Sherry. It has a nutty bouquet and just the right amount of dryness and sweetness. I also think a Rainwater Madeira, with its caramel, orange and hazelnut notes, would work very well in place of the sherry.
- Salt is a very important ingredient in pastry, especially when it comes to chocolate and citrus. Salt really brings out the truest flavor of orange in this ice cream. Keep adding a few crystals at a time and you'll soon see how significantly it changes the taste.
- If you prefer, you can strain out the orange zest just before you spin the ice cream. I left it in because I don't mind it and I like the splash of color it adds for plating and photos.
- If you don't happen to have Grand Marnier on hand, go ahead without it.
- For an additional textural element, you could also toss in or garnish with toasted almond slices.

Orange Date Ice Cream

zest of 2 large navel oranges
1 C whole milk
2 T honey
1/3 C sugar
4 egg yolks
1 C heavy cream
1/4 C orange juice
1 t lemon juice
1 t Grand Marnier
pinch of salt, to taste

1/4 C amontillado sherry
1 1/2 T water
2 T brown sugar
1/4 t cinnamon
zest of half an orange
6 Medjool dates
tiny pinch of salt

Place milk, honey and the zest of 2 oranges in a saucepan and bring to a low simmer. Remove from heat and steep for 30 minutes.

Combine heavy cream, orange juice and and lemon juice in a bowl with a strainer placed on top. Set aside.

Whisk the yolks and sugar until thick and pale. Add warm milk mixture in a steady stream, whisking constantly until combined. Pour mixture back into the saucepan and cook over moderate heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until mixture coats the back of the spoon. Remove from heat and pour through the stainer into the bowl with the cream mixture. Whisk to combine and cool. Add Grand Marnier and a pinch of salt to taste and whisk until thoroughly combined. Place in a clean airtight container and chill overnight.

Chop the dates into small pieces. Place sherry, water, brown sugar, orange zest, cinnamon and salt in a saucepan over low heat. Bring to a slow boil for about 2 or 3 minutes, stirring continuously. Add the chopped dates and lower heat. Cook a few more minutes until the liquid is absorbed.

Freeze the orange ice cream base in your machine. Pour about half of the ice cream into a clean container. Dot the surface with half of the date mixture. Pour another layer of the ice cream on top. Dot the surface with the remaining dates and use the tip of a spoon to press them down into the ice cream. Press a piece of plastic wrap onto the surface, cover and place in your freezer until firm.


MaryMoh said...

That's awesome ice-cream. I would love to try this. Can't wait for summer to be here.

Sarah said...

Fantastic. Good note about the salt for the oranges. I have an abundance of oranges right now and have been cycling through the orange ice creams. This will have to be my next!

Anonymous said...

This looks amazing. Really. I adore sherry, and one of the reasons why is because it tastes like dates, which are among my favorite foods. I can just imagine how delicious this ice cream must taste. Yum.

pastry studio said...

Thank you all for your sweet comments.

arugulove, now I know why I seem to just instinctively pair dates and sherry!

Victoria said...

This looks beautiful and delicious.

Have you ever tried Mathilde Orange XO Liqueur? I get it instead of Grand Marnier. A review of it on a blog called said this about it:

"While Grand Marnier has a hotter, more alcoholic character, the Mathilde Orange XO tastes mellower, adding to the orange base notes of wood, vanilla, and butterscotch."

I like it a lot and use it to flavor loosely whipped cream that I put on a very plain orange cake I make.

pastry studio said...

Victoria, thanks so much for your suggestion. I've never heard of it and it sounds like a really interesting and delicious alternative. I'll have to see if I can find it here.


Aileen said...

these icecreams is a kill! :(.. i love them..

vanillasugarblog said...

dates w/ grand mariner in ice cream, heavenly i say.

Mimi said...

Your ice cream flavors are always so amazing sounding. I found my old Donvier the other day. I may have to dust it off, get it in the freezer and try this one out. I love dates!

Diana H said...

Such a creative ice cream. I like the sherry and dates, and also the orange. What a great match of flavors.

Antonietta said...

I might have to go out and buy and ice cream maker just to make this recipe!

Wildside Africa Kenya said...

I really love dates. They just make one healthy dessert.

lds young women said...

We added this in our menu for our small restaurant business. This is really one of our patron's favorites.

poker supplies said...

I tried your recipe at home! My kids loved it!

payday loan software said...

My sister likes the idea of making ice cream from dates.

para kazanma said...

This is something new. :) I'll have to buy an ice cream maker.

automated forex trading robot said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Unknown said...

I love eating ice cream while watching depressing movies. ;)This would be something nice to curl up with.

Explosion Proof HVAC said...

I love ice cream..The sweetest treat ever.

auto insurance said...

Nice one.This will be very great in the table.

saturday mike said...

I made this over the weekend and ate it last night. It is phenomenal!! A really great ice cream.
I didn't have Grand Marnier, but I did have Cointreau, so I used that instead. I also didn't use quite as much orange peel (only 1 orange in the custard) and it was certainly orange-flavored enough.
Very different, and very good!

Anonymous said...

Dates and Oranges, sound ethereal! I would love to make this san alcohol. Do you have any ideas on what to substitute the Sherry with? Thank you and I love your blog :-)

pastry studio said...

Thanks very much, Anonymous. I don't really have a substitute for the Sherry except to try orange juice or just plain water. It will be quite different but I think it will still taste pretty good!