The first post I put on this blog was a recipe for panna cotta that I made last Christmas, so this post for another Christmas dessert seems to be a milestone of sorts. I guess more than anything I’m surprised I’ve managed to actually blog as much as I have (and I know it’s not a lot), given that my food blogging talents lie more in lurking on other blogs than actually writing my on my own.
I had the idea for this recipe ridiculously early, like in about July or something. I worried that I would forget it for some reason so I wrote it on a post-it note and stuck it on my wall. Next to the notes for the important things I need to do, like write a thesis… It came to me when, strangely enough, I was drinking the key ingredient for this ice cream – Pedro Ximénez sherry. I’ve never been a fan of sherry, but Pedro Ximénez is different – it’s thick and sweet and tastes like Christmas pudding. Because I’m a crazy genius, I came up with the idea of putting something that tastes like Christmas pudding into ice-cream and calling it Christmas ice-cream.
This isn’t the most practical recipe to share on the blog because you really need an ice cream maker, which isn’t exactly a common piece of kitchen equipment. I don’t own one either (and I own other single-use appliances such as a pasta maker and a yoghurt maker), but luckily I could borrow my brother’s. Actually, I borrowed from all over the place for this recipe. I wasn’t sure of the best way to get the sherry into the ice-cream, and what other flavours to put with it, so this recipe is very much an amalgamation of many other ideas. For example, the ice-cream itself is the vanilla ice-cream recipe from David Herbert’s The Really Useful Cookbook (it really is, really useful). Then, I searched the internets for dessert recipes with Pedro Ximénez. I thought about adding some chocolate to the mix, but decided that was too complicated or something, and also thought about caramel and raisins, until I remembered that raisins are rubbish. Finally, I decided the best way to incorporate the sherry was to soak dried cherries (even though dried cherries are stupidly expensive) in it for a day or two, based on Joy the Baker’s recipe for cherry bourbon ice cream. Somewhere along the line, flaked almonds also got thrown in the mix.
I think for Christmas day we’ll have this with fresh berries and chocolate truffles. The best thing about it as my contribution to Christmas day lunch is that it’s already done. The worst thing about it is that I made four batches, well, five including the test one, and as a result I have a stupid number of egg whites in the freezer. And I refuse to eat egg white omelettes because the thought of them makes me depressed. First world problems can be such a drag.
Pedro Ximénez, sour cherry, almond and vanilla ice-cream
This recipe makes about a litre of ice-cream.
1/3 cup dried sour cherries
about 1 cup Pedro Ximénez
500 ml full-cream milk
1 vanilla bean
6 egg yolks
1/2 cup + 1 tbs caster sugar
250 ml thin cream
1/3 cup flaked almonds
Put the cherries in a jar with a lid and cover with sherry. Put the lid on and leave for a day or two. I left mine for a day, because I’m impatient, but I think two would have been better.
On the same day you cover the cherries with sherry, you can make the custard base for the ice-cream (it needs to cool completely before you can churn it in the ice-cream maker). Place the milk in a saucepan. Split the vanilla bean in half and scrap the seeds out into the milk. Put the pod in the milk too. Heat over a low heat until it almost simmers and then remove from the heat.
Whisk the eggs yolks and caster sugar for 4-5 minutes until thick and pale. I used a food processor with a whisk attachment to do this. Add the milk and vanilla mixture in and whisk until combined.
Put the combined mixture back in the saucepan and cook over a low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until it thickens slightly. It’s done when it covers the spoon (you should be able to run your finger down the back of the spoon and leave a path for a few seconds). Be careful not to overcook the custard, or let it boil, as it will curdle. It will take about 20-25 minutes, and you really can’t leave the kitchen in this time.
Strain the custard into a bowl, let it cool to room temperature and then put it in the fridge overnight. Discard the vanilla pods.
When you are ready to churn the ice-cream, lightly whisk the cream and then whisk it in to the custard. Churn it in an ice-cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions (these are different for different machines so not worth noting here). While the ice-cream is churning, lightly toast the flaked almonds and let them cool. Strain the cherries (reserving the sherry), and chop roughly. When the ice-cream is almost set, add the almonds, cherries, and 2 tbs of the sherry.
The ice-cream will still be quite soft after it’s churned, so you will need to freeze it for a while before serving. Homemade ice-cream can be a bit hard and need to be warmed slightly before serving, but the alcohol in this keeps it soft and you can serve it straight from the freezer.