Cherry Vanilla Ice Cream

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The cherry is ready to meet its maker. Who is also its eater.

Summer is upon us. Everyone hoist their ice cream spoons!

My kickass husband brought home some beautiful Bing cherries the other day, because he knows I like them. They were a wonderful bright surprise wrapped up in an irresistible red colour! 🙂 Cherries are a food that you can snack on with your eyes as well as your taste buds. I love them not just for their flavour, but for their appearance, emblematic of happiness, cheer, and leisure.

CherryIceCreamCherries

“Cherry ice cream smile, I suppose it’s very nice!”

I had never made cherry ice cream before, although I’d had a go at raspberry and strawberry, both of which were amazing. But for those, I did not use a custard base, instead using sour cream to add thickness and tang to the base. For the cherry ice cream I saw reflected in the cherries’ shiny exterior, I wanted a richness that only a custard can give.

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The silkiest ice cream you’ll find anywhere, ever, in this bowl.

I’ve made custard ice cream bases before, with banana and chocolate chip cookie dough being the household favourites. (I still intend to blog about those!) Making a custard can intimidate the home cook, but don’t let it! It’s easy. The key is cooking the yolks over a low heat, so that they don’t suddenly become scrambled egg. Even if little bits of the yolk do this, you can still strain the mixture so that the scrambled egg is left behind and all you have is a silky smooth custard base.

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Be-spoon my beating heart!

This ice cream recipe, from Williams-Sonoma, is supposed to be just cherry-flavoured. But the recipe incorporates vanilla extract, which, I think, gives the ice cream a vanilla kick and takes it into cherry vanilla Coke territory. If cherry vanilla isn’t your thing, then leave out the vanilla extract. The next time I make this, I’m going to omit the extract, because while I love cherry vanilla Coke, I was looking for a simple cherry flavour in this ice cream. Other changes I made were using heavy cream instead of 2 parts cream to 1 part milk, and adding butter to ramp up the cream’s fat content. The higher the fat content, the silkier the ice cream. The addition of yolks helps with texture, too, and I increased the number of yolks by 25% (from 6 to 8).

The result is the silkiest, smoothest, most delectably textured ice cream I’ve made to date. The cherry chunks provide delicious contrast to the ice cream’s smoothness, and boost the cherry flavour. The ice cream itself is sublime. It’s a perfect balance between cherry and vanilla flavours. Leave out the extract, and you’ll have an amazing, creamy, smooth cherry ice cream.

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The cherry harvest went swimmingly this year.

Cherry Vanilla Ice Cream

Ingredients:

For the custard base:
3 generous cups heavy cream
1 1/2 TBS unsalted butter
8 egg yolks
generous 3/4 cup white sugar
2 scant tsp. vanilla extract

For the cherry mixture:
1 – 1.5 lbs. pitted Bing cherries
generous 1/2 cup white sugar
1 1/2 tsp. lemon juice
3 TBS Kirsch liqueur, optional

Method:

For the custard base:
Place cream and butter in a 2 – 3 quart heavy-bottomed saucepan. Heat over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally to ensure the butter melts, until liquid reaches a simmer. (It’s fine if it reaches a boil, but be warned – if it gets to the boiling point, it will attempt to boil over and out of the pan.)

Meanwhile, place the egg yolks and 3/4 cup sugar in a medium bowl. Make sure the bowl is large enough to accommodate the volume of the cream-butter mixture. Whisk the yolks and sugar together vigorously for 5 minutes; you want the yolks and sugar thoroughly mixed and thickened, and the longer you whisk, the thicker they will become.

When the cream is at a simmer or boil, take off the heat. Immediately pour it in a small, steady, slow stream into the yolk mixture, whisking like mad the whole time – if you don’t add the hot cream mixture to the yolks slowly while whisking, the yolks will cook. Take your time and add the hot mixture slowly. Once it is all incorporated in the yolk mixture, whisk for a minute to ensure everything is completely blended.

Take a bowl large enough to accommodate ice water and the saucepan and prepare it for the saucepan. You’ll plunge the hot saucepan into this bowl to quickly stop the contents cooking. Make sure there is not too much ice water in the bowl, or the ice water will spill over the sides of the saucepan and ruin the contents. Set aside.

Pour the yolk-cream mixture into the saucepan and heat over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens slightly and coats the back of a wooden spoon, to the point where a finger drawn along the back of the spoon will leave a line. To be honest, this test is inexact; the line should stay in place without the rest of the spoon’s coating running immediately in to fill it. The time this takes is around 9 to 15 minutes. Don’t let the mixture start to simmer, because this means the yolks will begin to solidify into a sweet scrambled egg like substance.

Once the mixture has thickened, take it off the heat and stir in the vanilla extract. Immediately plunge the saucepan into the bowl. Make sure the ice water won’t pour over the sides of the saucepan and set the whole assemblage aside.

For the cherries:
Place the cherries and 1/2 cup sugar in a 2 quart heavy-bottomed saucepan and heat over low heat, stirring occasionally, and bring to a simmer. The goal is to break down the cherries and slightly thicken the juice they release. This takes around 9 – 15 minutes. Make sure the cherries don’t burn.

Once the juice has slightly thickened, take off the stove and stir in the lemon juice. If you taste the cherry mixture at this point, it will be slightly too sweet. This is as it should be; freezing the ice cream base will abate the sweetness slightly.

Allow the mixture to cool, then stir into the custard base. Cover this mixture and refrigerate at least 3 hours, or up to 3 days. If refrigerating for more than 3 hours, be prepared to stir the mixture again – the longer the cherries sit in the base, the more juice and flavour they release. 🙂

Churn in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s directions. Eat ice cream within 3 to 5 days.

Source: Heavily adapted from Williams-Sonoma

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