Today was one of those days. You know, the kind of days . . .
when you wake up to cheerful children, and they stay that way for most of the day.
when your breakfast includes biscuits and crispy prosciutto.
when the heat of summer feels inviting - rather than oppressive - so you spend as much of the day as possible outside.
when you are serenaded by the sound of young cardinals, chickadees, blue jays, and catbirds cavorting around your home.
when the songs of said birds makes you that much more grateful for all the greenery available to shelter them.
when you realize that your not-quite-two year old can identify both catbirds and blue jays by their call alone.
when mowing the lawn feels like worthy, satisfying work.
when you are reminded of the joys of playing with a sprinkler for hours on end.
when a chocolate mesquite ice cream cone seems like a logical pre-lunch snack.
when inspiration strikes and you decide you need to build a breakfast patio.
Oh wait. Should we back up? To the ice cream? Okay.
Today was absolutely an ice cream day, and most specifically, it was the perfect day to sample our Flavor of the Day, chocolate mesquite. I've mentioned before that I've been playing with the intriguing flavors of mesquite flour, and with the recent heat (which, really, is the story of our entire summer) I decided ice cream was the obvious next experimental subject. The temperatures have relaxed just enough that we don't find ourselves understandably grumpy in the afternoons, and so I've been able to get back into the kitchen to make a batch of ice cream base. (For a while, there was no way I was willing to stand at the stove to stir custard over a hot flame! Ah, the ironies of ice cream - when you need it the most, it's too hot to make it.)
So I added mesquite flour to the chocolate base I use for ice cream - a delicious, rich chocolaty thick sauce that, when added in small amounts to ice cream base results in a creamy milk chocolate flavor, with increasing amounts giving you a more and more intense dark chocolate ice cream. Quite versatile. By the time I had the mesquite flavor at the strength I was going for, I wanted to just eat the base straight, with a spoon. I resisted (mostly).
Instead, I stirred it into some ice cream base and let my ice cream maker do the rest of the work. (During which time I wished that I made ice cream often enough to justify an upgrade to a real, commercial ice cream maker. But then, I realized, I would also need a separate freezer to store all my concoctions. How does David Lebovitz do it in that tiny apartment? I am at least happy to have two bowls for my machine.)
Kalen, who had been ambivalent, to put it nicely, about the ice cream while it was still a liquid, decided that he loved it once it froze into a more recognizable confection. So when he asked for an ice cream cone, just as I was preparing to make lunch? Of course I gave it to him.
Yes, my love. So long as you promise to run and play and be your wonderful exuberant self for the rest of the day - keeping all that sugar energy outside.
The flavor of mesquite, as we've previously discussed, is a natural with chocolate. But freezing it resulted in two unexpected changes, both for the good. First, the mesquite lends a smokey, warm sensation to the ice cream, and almost makes me imagine that I am tasting some chili pepper heat in there as well. (Which, now that I mention it, would be a great addition to the recipe!) The contrast of warm flavor with cold texture is complex, and good.
The second surprise is that it created a texture is unlike any traditional ice cream I've had. As Josh informed me, I shouldn't even be calling it ice cream, because that seems deceiving (regardless, apparently, of the fact that the ingredients and technique are exactly ice cream). It is incredibly thick in the mouth, with a substantiveness that doesn't start to immediately dissolve like normal ice cream. It feels like you could chew it, but it's not chewy. It feels like it's heavy with flour, but it's not grainy. In short, it feels more like a frozen pudding than an ice cream. And, in case that description made it seem less-than-optimal, it's incredibly appealing and addictive.
In fact, I'd be happy eating this ice cream all the time, if not for the other flavors I'm also working on. (Remember I said it was the Flavor of the Day? Yes, there are more flavors to come! It is a hot summer, after all.)
So, grab some gluten-free cones (or, okay, a martini glass if you'd like to play at being a bit more grown-up - both have their charms), find yourself a bag of mesquite flour if you haven't already, and pray that you have some perfect summer weather headed your way. Hot enough for ice cream, but accented by a cool-enough morning or evening for ice cream base-making.
And I hope that you, too, find yourself having one of those days.
Chocolate Mesquite Ice Cream
yields approximately 1 1/2 pints
Make the basic ice cream base:
1 1/2 fluid cups heavy cream
3/4 fluid cup whole milk
2 Tbsp light brown sugar
3 (54 grams) large egg yolks
2 Tbsp granulated sugar
pinch of salt
Combine the cream, milk, and light brown sugar in a medium bowl set over a pot of just-simmering water. Heat the mixture until hot.
In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, granulated sugar, and salt. Temper the yolk mixture by slowly whisking in a small amount of the hot cream, then add it all back to the cream mixture and cook over the double-boiler, stirring with a wooden spoon, until it is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon (nappe, in technical culinary terms). Be patient and really get the mixture as thick as possible - your ice cream will be all the better for it.
Strain the ice cream base through a fine mesh sieve into another metal bowl, and transfer that bowl to an ice bath. Stir frequently and add ice to the ice bath as needed to quickly cool down the base.
At this point, the ice cream base can be refrigerated, covered, for up to three days, until you're ready to churn ice cream.
Make the chocolate mesquite base:
1/2 cup Dutch-process cocoa
1/2 cup granulated sugar
4 Tbsp mesquite flour
1 fluid cup half and half
1/4 pound (4 ounces) bittersweet chocolate, chopped
Sift the cocoa, sugar, and mesquite flour into a small saucepan. Whisk in the half and half. Over medium-low heat, bring the mixture to a low simmer, and simmer for five minutes. Off the heat, add the chopped chocolate and whisk to combine. Chill.
Make the chocolate mesquite ice cream:
Whisk the chocolate mesquite base into the ice cream base. I added 1 1/4 cups chocolate mesquite base, but taste as you go; you may want your ice cream milder or richer. (And I must admit that the leftover chocolate mesquite base is being consumed plain, spoonful by spoonful. I can't just let it go to waste!) Pour mixture into the bowl of your ice cream maker, and churn according to the manufacturer's instructions.
Once the ice cream reaches soft serve consistency, transfer it into the container you'll be freezing it in. I like to use chilled 1-quart lidded glass bowls. Press plastic wrap directly on the surface, put the lid on, and stick it in the freezer. It's ready to eat once it's firm! Ice cream keeps, frozen, for up to two months.