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cherry float

Chocolate Cherry Ice Cream Float

cherry floatI haven’t been cooking very much this summer. Partly because I’m on a go slow in the kitchen after testing over 350 recipes for both Recipes from Brixton Village and Slow Cooked and partly because all I’ve wanted to eat for weeks are cherries.

Particularly abundant and well priced this season, I’ve been buying pounds and pounds of them from Brixton Market for £1.50 a lb and just gorging on them for breakfast, lunch and dinner. They are one of my favourite fruit and it’s been utter luxury to indulge like I have been. In fact, I’ve even managed to have too many of them and needed to find ways to use them up.

Some of my lack of appetite has come from how warm it’s been and I’ve been alternating my cherry fest with ice lollies and sorbets, but hadn’t felt the urge for actual ice cream until I saw some leftover chocolate in the cupboard to go with those cherries and inspiration hit.

I have been a lip balm queen since Mister North bought me a pot of Morello Cherry lip balm from The Body Shop for my twelfth birthday. I cycled through their whole range, not dallying near the Kiwi Fruit one for long, and fell particularly in love with a limited edition version that was Chocolate Cherry. I rationed that little pot out for ages and each swipe of it reminded me how much I loved the combination. I moved on from it to a prized Dr Pepper Lip Smacker and from there to my current die hard obsession with Carmex.

I hadn’t really thought about my lip moisturising choices as a teen since those heady days, but standing there with a bag of cherries in one hand and a bar of chocolate in the other and I just knew what I had to do. I had to combine all the best things of my early years and make a chocolate cherry Dr Pepper ice cream float immediately.

Chocolate Cherry Ice Cream (makes one litre)

  • 450g fresh cherries, pitted
  • 25g sugar
  • 200g milk chocolate
  • 600ml double cream
  • 397g tin condensed milk

This is the simplest ice cream possible made to a non churn recipe I love so much I even used it for my Observer Food Monthly piece last year. It freezes quickly and scoops straight from the freezer and can be adapted to any flavour you fancy.

Begin by pitting your cherries. I find this oddly relaxing and not particularly faffy to do. I end up with lots of halved cherries. Lay them out as flat as possible and sprinkle the sugar over them to macerate them. This makes them lovely and juicy. Leave for up to an hour.

Break the chocolate into a large bowl and set it over a pan of boiling water, making sure the water doesn’t touch the base. Stir it well as it melts to keep it nice and glossy. Once melted, set it aside to cool down for about 10 minutes.

Take the macerated cherries along with any juices they have created and roughly puree them with a hand blender. A bit of texture is fine, but try not to have any bits of skin if you can help it. Set them aside.

Pour the double cream into a large bowl and beat until it starts to thicken. You don’t want it to be whipped cream, but to get to the point where it flops over lazily and thickly. At this point, beat in the condensed milk until combined and airy. An electric whisk is nice here but some old fashioned elbow grease does the trick too.

Stir in the melted chocolate and the cherry puree. Fold until completely combined. It will be a pale pinky brown in colour. Pour it all into a plastic container and put the lid on it. Freeze for at least 4 hours. It will be a lovely creamy soft serve style.

Chocolate Cherry Dr Pepper Ice Float (makes one)

  • 330ml can full fat Dr Pepper
  • 1 large scoop chocolate cherry ice cream
  • kitsch item to accessorise, either an umbrella or gaudy cocktail stirrer

To make your ice cream float, get a good sturdy glass and pour an ice cold can of Dr Pepper into it. I am that person who genuinely likes the taste of diet fizzy drinks usually, but it’s got to be the real deal here.

Then gently drop your scoop of ice cream into the glass. The soda will fizz and froth and create the finest carbonated beverage on earth. Stick a straw in the glass, swizzle with a stirrer (I favour a flamingo myself here) and set a long spoon on the side before getting stuck in.

You cannot eat or drink an ice cream float neatly so don’t try to. Simply savour the flavours and revel in it. When I say this float is the taste and excitement of my whole childhood served up in one glass, I don’t think I’m quite doing it justice. It’s my favourite thing of the whole summer, maybe even the year…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Date Ripple Ice Cream

A few months ago, my eye was caught at a local shop by a branch with what looked like yellow velvet mini apricots on it. A sucker for slightly Disneyfied foods, I picked a branch up and enquired as to what it was of the shopkeeper. He explained that they were fresh dates, brought in for Ramadan when iftar or the breaking of the fast is traditionally performed with a date and water. Not only do they look fabulous, they are less sweet than dried dates, so I thought I’d definitely give them a go. A bit of Googling told me they are known as barhi dates and that they are pleasantly fresh and cleansing.

Forgoing the small sherry I often have as an aperitif, I decided to try a fresh khalal date instead. Plucked from the branch, they were as silky smooth as a perfect peach with a serious crunch when I bit into it. And then all the moisture was sucked from my mouth in a startling fashion that pursed my lips like the Grandma in George’s Marvellous Medicine. My mouth felt as if it was first thing in the morning after a heavy night on the sauce and as if I’d scoured it out with oxalic acid for funsies first. My teeth were on edge, my mouth tasted foul and I had to brush my teeth several times to remove the sensation. It was one of the worst things I’ve ever eaten.

Sulking slightly, I left the dates to sit on the windowsill as punishment for letting me down and went away for a few days. When I came back, the dates had wizened, shrunk down and deepened in colour to a wonderful glossy shade of amber that just gleamed with natural sugar. They looked much more appetising than those lifeless things you see in trays around Christmas with their own fork. I ate quite a few just off the branch and revelled in their candy like feel, but wondered what else I could use them for. As usual, when in doubt, I thought ice cream…

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Vietnamese Coffee Ice Cream

 

Last month I finally got the chance to try an iced coffee for the first time since an ill advised carton of Nestle Frappe back at primary school which scarred me for life (I think it’s where they got the idea for that 3 in 1 monstrosity they were pushing at Tube stations recently). This time I showed more sense and went to the Vietnamese cafe Banh Mi Bay and sampled this summer drink made by the people who do it the best.

Strong, but not bitter and slightly sweet from condensed milk, it was so refreshing I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I wanted to re-live its cooling caffeine hit and when Kavey mentioned that July’s Bloggers Scream for Ice Cream challenge was a condensed milk custard, I knew what I had to do…

Vietnamese Coffee Ice Cream (makes about a litre)

  • 410g can of condensed milk or two small cans (Polish shops usually sell the bigger ones & are great value)
  • 3 tablespoons freeze dried coffee dissolved in 60ml of water, cooled slightly
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 250ml double cream
  • 250ml whole milk
  • pinch salt
  • freeze dried raspberries (optional)

First make your coffee. You’re probably having kittens at the thought of using instant coffee, but I always keep some in the house for baking and cooking as you want a good strong coffee flavour without too much liquid and proper ground beans don’t do this. If you really object to the instant stuff, this is a good time to try cold brewing coffee and using the concentrate that method creates instead. I wasn’t organised enough so instead I used 3 tablespoons of freeze dried espresso powder in 60ml or 1/4 cup of boiling water and left to cool a bit while I made the custard. I find when you freeze ice cream it lessens the flavour and I like a proper coffee kick from my custard so heaped the coffee in.

I warmed the cream and whole milk, adding in the condensed milk so it all melted and looked like thick creamy custard. I separated the eggs and beat the yolks, adding in a bit of the condensed milk custard to temper it before adding it all back into the saucepan to thicken. Add in the coffee and the salt and str until blipping gently and thickening nicely. It’s like a regular ice cream custard base but much easier to do without splitting or it not coming together. Chill well. It will look as set in the bowl at this point as pannacotta and will be a little bit difficult to get into the machine without ladling.

From reading the expertise of the people organised enough to get their posts up on Kavey’s blog in time, it looks like you could freeze other condensed milk based custards without a machine because of the texture of the custard is airier than usual and wouldn’t just make a big icy block (see her comment below). I used my machine as normal as this is egg based and while it was churning, turned my attention to the garnish.

I adore coffee and raspberries together. The tang of the berries works especially well with coffee desserts and I decided I wanted to cut through the richness of this ice cream with a sprinkle of freeze-dried raspberry. Unfortunately I wasn’t organised enough to mail order these and instead spent an afternoon trekking round London trying to find them in Whole Foods and Waitrose and Fortnums and not getting very far. Instead I bought a bar of 36% cocoa milk chocolate with raspberry from Marks and Spencer and took my frustration from my failed shopping trip out on it with a rolling pin.

I sprinkled some crushed chocolate chunks into each section of my silicone tray and poured the ice cream in, topping with more crushed chocolate and freezing as ice cream bars. I served these between wafers and the crunch of these and the chocolate chunks made the ice cream seem even creamier than it was. Not to toot my own horn, but this was the best coffee ice cream I’ve ever had and coffee ice cream is my favourite…

 

Rhubarb Surprise Ice Cream Sandwiches

My ice cream life was varied and disparate when I was a wain. There was the exquisite gelato of family holidays to Italy ( scene of one of my most memorable moments when I brattily declared I didn’t like ice cream to howls of disbelieving laughter), Mr Whippy style cornets with a flake on the side, the mouth puckering but moreish lemon sorbet my mum’s friend Ann made at dinner parties and slices of raspberry ripple from a rectangular carton, often served on the side of fresh raspberries from my granny’s garden but also slipped between two wafers to make a slider.

Cue quizzical eyebrow raising from our foodie readers. Well to us Norn Irish (and Scottish) folk, a slider is not a mini burger, it’s an  ice cream sandwich, usually from a van or one of those amazing Celtic-Italian ice cream cafes both countries welcomed so happily due to their super sweet tooth. Possible to make at home if you could get your Dale Farm in the right sized block and work quickly, they were more often a treat bought on a seaside trip or at the end of a Sunday out. They came in several souped up versions such as the nougat wafer (dipped in chocolate and nougat and pronounced nugget) or the seemingly sophisticated oyster, but my favourite was the version that had a Flake inside. I could work out how they got the figs in Fig Rolls, but not the Flake inside one of these.

Quite hard to eat in a dignified manner, these required a careful combo of licking, nibbling, turning and eventually biting to make sure you got every drop without it exploding down your front. I imagine it was their trickiness to eat that has led to them seemingly vanishing without a trace these days. I haven’t seen one for years and neither had the other slightly bemused people I canvassed about them. It looked like I was going to have to make my own version. It was a project worthy of one of Kavey’s ice cream challenges!

Chocolate is all very well and good but my last two batches had both been chocolatey and I felt I needed some fresher and tangier to hit the spot. One of those perfect lightbulb moments happened and I realised that a stick of poached rhubarb inside the ice cream would make a perfect grown up copy of that childhood classic…

Rhubarb Surprise Ice Cream Sandwiches:

  • 4 egg yolks
  • 250ml milk
  • 500ml double cream
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 5 stalks rhubarb
  • pack of rectangular ice cream wafers

I used a silicone tray like this one to make individual blocks of ice cream. All instructions are for this tray, but you could use something else if you prefer.

Roast your rhubarb in the oven at 150℃ for about 20 minutes until soft but still holding its shape firmly. Then set aside the narrower stalks on a plate so you have enough for nine pieces and allow them to drain any juice away. Puree the rest of the rhubarb in the blender.

Then make your ice cream base by heating the milk and sugar together until bubbling but not boiling. Add in the cream. Separate the eggs and beat the yolks in a small bowl. Then add a cupful of the warm cream mixture to the egg yolks and stir. This will temper the yolks so they don’t scramble when you add them to the hot liquid. Then add the egg mix to the warmed milk and cream and cook gently until starting to thicken and coats the back of a spatula. Take off the heat and chill well before churning in your machine.

About five minutes before your ice cream machine has done its job, add in the rhubarb puree to flavour your custard base. Make sure your ice cream is still quite soft and malleable and then put a dessertspoonful in the base of each section of your tray. Place the cut piece of roast rhubarb on top and then cover it all with another spoonful of ice cream so there are no gaps. When all are filled, put the tray flat into the freezer to chill completely for several hours so that each little block is nice and firm.

When you are ready to eat the ice cream, take the tray out about 5 minutes before and run a blunt knife round the block to loosen it and the block should pop out in one piece. Pop between two rectangular ice cream wafers (I used Askey’s for extra childhood nostalgia) and then get your chops round this awesome ice cream sandwich. The ice cream is super creamy and custardy with a proper tang from the rhubarb shot through it and the whole thing is made amazing by the frozen piece of rhubarb which makes it all taste a bit like a quarter of the eponymous sweeties. I revisited childhood memories and instead of being disappointed, it was even better than remembered…

 

White Chocolate Nutella Sorbet

 White Chocolate Nutella sorbet

 Every so often, you realise you’ve never seen certain things you just assumed existed. Baby pigeons, a body positive article on the Daily Mail, a smiling traffic warden or white chocolate Nutella…

People love Nutella, especially ones like me who associate it with childhood holidays so it seemed strange that in this day and age they haven’t gone the Marmite route and brought out variations on a theme with different types of chocolate. It looked like if I wanted to try this elusive style of spread I’d have to make it myself.

I came across this David Lebovitz recipe for home made Nutella and while it looks gorgeously rich and much more alluring than the shopbought stuff, it also seemed quite labouriously faffy with its milk powder and two types of chocolate and dollops of honey. I wondered if I could simplify it and still end up with some thing essentially spreadable? I like to think I did just that and that the most difficult part of it was finding a half decent brand of white chocolate!

White chocolate Nutella spread:

  • 200g white chocolate (I used two large bars from Marks & Spencer)
  • 120ml whole milk
  • 100g hazelnuts
  • 75g sugar
  • 50ml vegetable oil

Firstly, either buy ready skinned hazelnuts or prepare yourself for a horrible kitchen job when you skin them yourself. i was advised to boil them for 3 minutes in a small amount of water and bicarbonate of soda to help loosen the skins rather than just roast them. Unfortunately my small amount must have varied to their’s and it all boiled over leaving my cooker coated in a fizzy brown liquid that clung like nobody’s business. Then when I rubbed the skins off in a teatowel, they stained the cloth forever more and although the entire skin came off, they stuck to everything like glue. I then had to roast the nuts at 220℃ for about 25 minutes to dry them out and turn them golden brown.

However this palaver redeemed itself when I went to grind the nuts in a food processor and they turned to a soft powder with ease which I haven’t noticed before with just roasted nuts. Hazelnuts finally tamed, I turned my attention to the rest of the recipe and heated the whole milk and the sugar gently on the stove. Then I broke up the chocolate and blitzed it into the hazelnuts until I had a thick paste.

white chocolate buttons and hazelnuts

Add the warmed milk mixture into this paste and blend it all together (in batches if needs be) and then return it all to the pan to heat it through and make sure the chocolate is totally melted and everything is combined. Then add the oil, a tablespoon at a time until the whole thing looks soft and spreadable rather than stiff and unyielding, bearing it in mind it will thicken as it cools. I probably used about 60ml in total but depending on your chocolate you might need more.

White chocolate Nutella jar

Pour into a sterilised jar and allow to cool. It will be scoopable and spreadable and in my experience very very good with homemade mini doughnuts. It isn’t as smooth as the shopbought version or David Lebovitz’s one but it tastes great and I don’t mind the texture of the nuts. The only problem is that because of the fresh milk it has a fairly limited shelf life even if kept in the fridge so I decided to turn it into sorbet using this recipe from The Little Loaf as a rough guide.

White Chocolate Nutella Sorbet:

  • the jar of Nutella from above
  • 200 ml water
  • 50g sugar
  • 100g extra white chocolate

Heat the water gently and dissolve in the sugar, melting in the extra white chocolate in lieu of the cocoa powder in the original recipe and then stir in the homemade Nutella until you have a thick shiny custard like soup. If you really don’t want the texture of the nuts in your sorbet then strain the mixture through a sieve at this stage. If you don’t mind/are lazy, pop it all in a bowl and chill well before either churning in your ice cream machine or mixing with a fork every so often in the freezer to create a sorbet.

This is the grown up glamourous sibling of that childlike doughnut dip. Icy cold, nutty and sweet, it’s as sophisticated as chocolate spread gets. It’s delicious, but very rich and a little goes a long way but the whole thing is preserved by freezine so you can dip in and out every time you get the craving. I plan to serve it on the side of the dark chocolate sorbet as a real contrast or as an ice crem sandwich so you still the Nutella on toast vibe. I’m even more baffled as to why I’ve never seen a white chocolate version before. It’s converted me to what I always thought was kids’ chocolate!

White chocolate Nutella sorbet