nosh friday: vanilla-black pepper ice cream
Generally, the odder something sounds, the more I want to try making it. When I came across a recipe for vanilla-black pepper ice cream from David’s Lebovitz’s book, The Perfect Scoop, I was intrigued. Steeping peppercorns in cream? Vanilla beans? Floral aromas? AS ICE CREAM?!
I was hooked.
I decided to make this for the Fourth of July family picnic, as my dear family are usually my guinea pigs for my mad scientist cooking experiments. However, we had a slight detour on the way to the ice cream machine, so this is a mad science experiment that took an even more unexpected turn.
The custard was made, chilled, and poured into the ice cream machine. My dear, darling, beloved father, in his efforts to be helpful, mentioned that there didn’t appear to be much custard there; there might not be enough. He said that his recipes usually tell him to just top it off with some extra heavy cream if it looks low, and so he grabbed a container of half-and-half from the fridge and poured in about a cup and a half. As much as I love and trust my father, I watched, mute in horror, at what was happening to the beautiful, vanilla bean-flecked ice cream I had just spent two hours making.
It is not an exaggeration to say that I nearly cried.
So, after over an hour in the ice cream machine, churning away, it ended up….still liquid. So in my creative efforts to not waste it, I decided to pour it into espresso cups, to be drank like a really, really rich, tiny milkshake. You could still taste the floral, slightly peppery taste of the peppercorns; I plan on making this recipe again and am excited to try it as actual ice cream.
1/2 cup (125 ml) whole milk
1/2 cup (65 g) sugar
1 tbsp black peppercorns, coarsely cracked
1/2 vanilla bean, seeds scraped out
pinch of salt
1 cup (250 ml) heavy cream
3 large egg yolks
Warm the milk, sugar, peppercorns, vanilla, salt, and 1/2 cup of the cream in a medium saucepan. Cover, remove from the heat, and let steep at room temperature for one hour.
Rewarm the peppercorn-infused mixture. Pour the remaining 1/2 cup cream into a large bowl and set a mesh strainer on top. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. Slowly pour the warm mixture into the egg yolks (I would even advise drizzling it at first as not to cook the yolks), whisking constantly, then scrape the warmed egg yolks back into the saucepan.
Stir the mixture constantly over medium heat with a heatproof spatula, scraping the bottom as you stire, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula. Pour the custard through the strainer, pressing the peppercorns gently to extract as much flavor as possible. Discard the peppercorns and stir the custard into the cream. Stir until cool over an ice bath.
Chill the mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator, then freeze it in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. (Unless yours turns out like mine — then pour into espresso cups and sip!)
Serves about 4 people