Friday, 26 February 2016

Witbier-inspired ice cream

In a reversal of the normal way of these things, my New Year’s resolution was to eat more ice cream. More specifically, I vowed to finally use the ice cream maker I've had in a cupboard for months and months, since I now have a freezer big enough to hold the bowl. Inevitably, it didn't take long for me to contemplate ways in which I could incorporate beer into my recipes. I came up with lots of fun ideas, some of which I’ll hopefully get round to in the coming months. My favourite, though, was an ice cream inspired by and witbier – not containing any beer, but  evoking the orange peel, coriander and spicy esters found in the style and, hopefully, complimenting those flavours when the ice cream and beer are consumed together.

The first step was to drink a wit to narrow down exactly what those flavours should be. As is well known, wit is brewed with orange peel and coriander, so these ingredients were a no-brainer. Drinking a bottle of Hoegaarden (not the most exciting example, but the only one I could easily get hold of on a whim, and actually better than I imagined it would be), I also detected hints of clove, black pepper and nutmeg and, conveniently for my ice cream recipe, a suggestion of vanilla in it’s dry, sweet finish.

I adapted the basic vanilla recipe included in ice cream maker’s instruction manual, which involved heating 600ml of single cream until just below boiling, then removing from the heat. Next, I combined 8 egg yolks and 230g caster sugar in a mixer, then added the still-warm cream to the bowl and blended it with the sugar and eggs. This mixture is then returned to the pan, at which point I added my extra ingredients. These were as follows;
  • 2 tbsp dried orange peel
  •    2 tsp coriander seeds, toasted in a dry frying pan beforehand
  •  4 cloves
  • A few black peppercorns
  • A pinch of nutmeg
  • The ‘caviar’ from one vanilla pod, scooped out with the end of a sharp knife    
I heated this mixture until steamy, then poured it into a large mixing bowl and added 600ml whipping cream and a pinch of salt. Leaving the spices and orange peel to infuse, I covered the bowl and left it to chill, transferring it to the fridge once it was cold and leaving it overnight. The next morning, I passed the mixture through a sieve, which removed the extra ingredients but retained the specks of vanilla caviar, and added it to the pre-frozen bowl of my ice cream maker and churned for about 20 minutes before scooping into containers and placing in the freezer.

The resulting ice cream is delicious. The orange and coriander flavours don’t jump from the bowl – you could use more if you wanted, but I like the fact that, as with witbier itself, these flavours are subtle. The vanilla is clean-tasting and fresh, far preferable to the synthetic essence recommended in the recipe, and the spice and orange peel brings a slightly floral, perfumed edge and a toastiness that recalls marshmallows.

Since it was ready just in time for pancake day, I decided to try some crepes with a tiny dusting of sugar and orange juice in place of lemon, with the ice cream served on the side. This was paired with the white IPA brewed by Adnams for Marks & Spencer, a beautiful marriage of witbier and IPA. It's hopped with what tastes to me like Sorachi Ace, which brings out the orange notes even more. The fresh orange juice livens up the ice cream, and the slightly herbal edge of the beer adds an interesting dimension. The bitter finish maybe wasn't perfect for this particular dish, but there’s a lot to like in the pairing.

And then it was time to try the ice cream with a witbier and, although Orval obviously isn't a wit, I couldn't resist using the branded glass as a sundae dish. I chose St. Bernadus wit, which I'd never tried before - it's relatively heavy on the coriander, very strongly carbonated and has a slight metallic edge which recalls rhubarb or lemon. It works with the ice cream, though not spectacularly. The real fun began when I poured a little beer into the ice cream dish, treating the beer like the espresso in an Italian affogoto.

The coriander and orangey flavours are accentuated, as I'd hoped, but the flavours in the St. Bernadus that I wasn't expecting are actually more successful here. The lemon tang in the beer kind of reminds me of lemonade, as does the high level of fizz, and these elements conjure up ice-cream floats from childhood. The creaminess and vanilla have a suggestion of custard which marries nicely with the sharp rhubarb notes in the wit.

For my next experiment, I think some beer might make its way into the ice cream maker. I'm thinking over some ideas involving dunkelweisse, brown ale and milk stout which, depending on how successful they are, may turn up here in the coming months.

No comments:

Post a Comment