Strawberry Dark Chocolate Balsamic Frozen Custard

First, let me just say THANK YOU for all of the lovely comments and encouragement on my post yesterday.  I have the most wonderful readers, and I appreciate y’all more than I can express.

So, how about a treat?

We picked up two pints of absolutely gorgeous strawberries I’ve ever seen at the farmer’s market last weekend.  They were much smaller than the Driscoll berries that are so ubiquitous at the grocery store (or, as my brother calls it, the “gross-ery store”), and far sweeter.  Even The Young One, who usually limits his fruit consumption to apples, grapes, bananas and the occasional pear, has been eating them.  And while they’ve been delicious on their own, I was moved to do something else with them.

So I broke out the ice cream maker for the first time in over a year.

I have also become enamored with the dark chocolate balsamic vinegar I purchased online – it’s sweet, but not cloyingly so, with a rich, dark chocolate flavor and aroma.  Used in concert with the dark chocolate balsamic vinegar mustard we purchased at a nearby natural foods co-op and a high-quality extra virgin olive oil, it makes a incredible vinaigrette for a salad composed of bitter greens; drizzled over fresh berries it is incomparable.  It also gives this frozen custard complex and sophisticated flavor that in no way detracts from the sweet and slightly acidic strawberries.

I used organic, fair trade coconut milk for the custard but the coconut flavor is barely, if at all, detectable.  You can substitute an equal amount of heavy cream – about 2 cups – if you wish (and make actual ice cream), but made as written this is a marvelous dairy-free dessert that is rich and not too sweet.

Strawberry Dark Chocolate Balsamic Frozen Custard

Strawberry Dark Chocolate Balsamic Frozen Custard

serves 6

1 can coconut milk
3 large egg yolks
2 cups strawberries, quartered
3 tablespoons raw honey
3 tablespoons dark chocolate balsamic vinegar

Heat the coconut milk in the top of a double boiler over simmering – not boiling – water until very hot.

Place the egg yolks in a small bowl and beat lightly with a fork; gradually add about ½ cup of the hot coconut milk to the egg yolks, whisking constantly. Scrape the egg yolk/coconut mixture back into the top of the double boiler and continue cooking, stirring frequently, until the mixture has thickened enough to coat a spoon. Pour the custard into a medium mixing bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until cold.

While the custard is chilling, place the strawberries, honey and dark chocolate balsamic vinegar in a heavy saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the strawberries are soft and “saucy.” Remove from heat and allow to stand until the custard has finished chilling.

Pour the custard and strawberry mixture into an ice cream maker and freeze according the manufacturer’s instructions.

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Peppermint Ice Cream

Peppermint Ice CreamWhen my kids came to visit for Thanksgiving, Darling Daughter asked if I’d buy some Ben and Jerry’s.

“No,” I said, ” but I’ll make you some ice cream.”

She didn’t do a very good job of hiding her disappointment that there would be no Karamel Sutra or Neapolitan Dynamite in her future, but I was undaunted.  I had tasted what comes out of my ice cream freezer, and she hadn’t.

Several days had gone by before I mentioned the ice cream again, and she (somewhat reluctantly) agreed that I should make some.  After polling the family and getting the usual reply of “Chocolate!” from The Young One and “Coffee Toffee!” from Beloved (those two are fiercely loyal to their favorite flavors of ice cream), Darling Daughter asked for peppermint.

Oh, like I’d turn that down – aside from Bluebell’s Pecan Pralines and Cream (oh, Bluebell, I miss you so!!), peppermint is my very favorite flavor of ice cream, and the fact that you can usually only find it during the holidays makes it all the more special.

This peppermint ice cream will put the stuff you get at the store to shame, and Darling Daughter agreed.  Even The Young One ate it enthusiastically, and that kid doesn’t eat anything enthusiastically.

Don’t have an ice cream maker?  Don’t sweat it – go here for instructions on how to make ice cream without an ice cream maker.

Peppermint Ice Cream

makes about 1 quart

1 cup whole milk

pinch of salt

3/4 cup sugar

2 cups heavy cream

5 large egg yolks

2 teaspoons pure peppermint extract

1/2 cup coarsely crushed peppermint candies

Set up an ice bath by placing a 2-quart bowl in a larger bowl partially filled with ice and water. Pour the cream into the smaller bowl and set a strainer over the top of the bowl.

Heat the milk, salt and sugar in a heavy saucepan over medium high heat until very hot, but do not boil.  In a separate bowl, stir together the egg yolks;  gradually pour some of the hot milk into the yolks, whisking constantly as you pour. Scrape the warmed yolks and milk back into the saucepan.

Cook over low heat, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom with a wooden spoon or heat-resistant spatula, until the custard thickens enough to coat the spoon or spatula.  Strain the custard into the heavy cream. Stir over the ice until cool, add the peppermint extract, then refrigerate to chill thoroughly.

Freeze the mixture in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions, adding the crushed peppermint candies during the last 2 or 3 minutes of freezing, just long enough to incorporate them throughout the ice cream.

Watermelon Sorbet

Watermelon SorbetBeloved and I ate ourselves stupid this weekend.  Ribs, grilled corn on the cob and baked beans on Saturday, and a turkey breast we smoked ourselves, roasted sweet potatoes and coleslaw on Sunday.  I also bought a small seedless watermelon, knowing we’d be eating it three meals a day for the next 3 days.  But that’s okay – I love watermelon.

I’ve had better watermelons, frankly, and as I gazed at the container of it that I’d set out on the breakfast table Sunday morning I idly mused over how, even if we eat it three times a day for the next 3 days, some of it was going to be thrown out.  My mind went from that to wondering if I could make a juice or something, when a light bulb went off over my head.  I mean, literally – I sat straight up, eyes huge, and yelled, “OH!!”, causing Beloved to slop his grapefruit juice all over his cheese omelet.

“What???” he asked, apparently under the impression I was on the verge of a heart attack.

“The watermelon!” I exclaimed.

“What about it?”

“I know what to DO with it!!”

Beloved, having great self control, did not give me any further suggestions as to just what I could do with the watermelon.  Instead, he settled back down and began rescuing his omelet.  “What are you going to do with the watermelon?”

“SORBET!!” I crowed.  “Watermelon sorbet!!!”

“Marvelous,” he said, rather absent-mindedly as he wiped off a piece of grapefruit juice-drenched bacon.  “Sounds great.”

Fast forward to that evening, as he said, “This is GREAT!!”

And indeed it is.  It is simple, too, as well as light and refreshing.  I will SO make this again, and soon, too.  In fact, I’ll never throw out leftover watermelon again!  Indeed – from now on, it’ll be a question of how much I allow my family to eat so I can make this treat.

Note:  I used a seedless watermelon, and just cut it into chunks and pureéd it in my blender – the seeds disintegrated.  If you use a regular watermelon, you will have to seed it first, of course.  Also, you don’t have to use the vodka, but its sole purpose is to keep the texture of the sorbet smooth.  Two quarts of sorbet will give you 16 half cup servings, which is like 1/4 tablespoon – less than one teaspoon – of vodka per serving.

Don’t have an ice cream maker?  Don’t sweat it – go here for instructions on how to make ice cream without an ice cream maker.

Watermelon Sorbet

makes 2 quarts

8 cups cubed watermelon, seeded

1 cup water

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup vodka

Combine the sugar and water in a heavy, medium sized sauce pan.  Bring to a boil over medium high heat, stirring constantly.  Boil for 2 to 3 minutes, until the sugar has completely dissolved.  Remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool.

Place the watermelon in a large mixing bowl and pour the simple syrup and vodka over it.  Working in batches, pureé the mixture – in a blender, not a food processor – until no lumps remain.

Pour the mixture into the ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturers instructions.  Scrape into a 2 quart container with lid and place in the freezer until firm.