First of all, thanks for being patient with me during this last week or so of transition. I’m so sorry that I’ve neglected my blog, but I am back and full force with a bunch of new recipes that I am really excited to post! Because I’m shifting gears now and getting ready to begin law school, I want to encourage you to subscribe to my blog so you will receive emails each time I make a new post. This way, if the frequency of my posts change, which they likely will, you will always be in the loop. To subscribe by email, scroll down on the homepage and look to the right side bar. I promise, however, that I will always post at least once a week when school begins. Now, on to the food!
Adam and I went to Sicily a few months ago and in Ragusa we found a gourmet gelato shop known for daring flavors. We tried beet root (gross), red wine, white wine, carob, pomegranate and, WOW, fennel ice cream. One of the things I already miss most about living in Jerusalem is that you can buy a kilogram of fennel bulbs (about eight bulbs) for roughly $2.00. It’s $4 for ONE BULB at Whole Foods! And $3 for two bulbs at Trader Joes! I have been seriously craving fennel since landing in North America, so I decided that it was time to seek out a fennel ice cream recipe and enjoy the flavor of fennel like its flowing from the faucet gurrrrrrrl.
First, a disclosure: I’m not crazy about ice cream. I don’t ever buy it at the grocery store. I’ll eat it probably once a year, and only if someone paired it with blackberry pie, everyone’s eating it and I feel forced. Frozen yogurt is my bag, baby. On top of that, I was initially scared of making ice cream because it’s…well, ice cream, for crying out loud. It’s like hearing someone picked flour stalk and ground it into poweder for their muffins! But because I’ve begun watching The Next Food Network Star and Masterchef, where everyone makes ice cream as a last-stitch effort when their tarts come out liquidy or they drop their cakes, I thought, “how hard could it be?”
And I have to tell you: it ain’t!
I made Adam take the first bite and when I saw his “focused face” turn to his “oh my god!” face, I knew I had succeeded. And not just succeeded—I had arrived. I shoveled a spoonful into my mouth and HALLELUJAH, HALLELUJAH!
Bells were chiming!
Birds were singing!
The bees were pollinating!
And I just hit my exclamation mark quota for the year.
This ice cream is unbearably delicious, as the Smitten Kitchen describes it. It is surprisingly thick and creamy, resembling dulche de leche or sweetened condensed milk, but it is not overwhelmingly sweet at all. And just when you have processed that what you are tasting is, in fact, thick and creamy, the fennel rises up the sides of your mouth like Moses parting the Red Sea and BAM! dives down your throat like an Olympic swimmer. The flavor! Ohhhhh, the flavor… Dear lord, this is fantastic. Make this. Now. Return to it with a teaspoon every day this week. Give it to your step children to make them love you. Make it for your boyfriend so he’ll finally propose. Spoon feed it to your grandparents so they’ll include you in their wills. Eat it with….WHY ARE YOU STILL HERE?
Makes about 2 cups; Takes about 40 minutes of actual work and the rest is just freezing time
What you need:
2 tsp fennel seeds; crushed
1 2/3 c heavy cream
1 c whole milk
¾ c sugar; divided
4 large egg yolks
¼ c dark chocolate; melted
How to do it:
Crush your fennel seeds with a mortar and pestle or with a few pulses of a coffee grinder. Alternatively, put them in a zip lock bag and smash them with something. They do not need to be a powder. Just broken so their aromas are released.
*A quick note before starting: try and keep your bowl in the freezer for as long as possible without removing it from the cold too much or for too long. The colder the better texture.
Start by placing a large metal or plastic bowl into the freezer. Bring cream and fennel seeds to a simmer in a small heavy saucepan, then cover and let steep OFF of the heat for 30 minutes. This will be our ice cream flavor.
MEANWHILE, bring milk, 1/2 c of sugar and a pinch of salt to a simmer in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring continuously until it reaches a simmer. Remove from the heat. This will be our milk mixture.
In a bowl, whisk together the yolks and remaining 1/4 cup sugar. Then add the milk mixture in a slow stream, whisking all the while. Return this new mixture (custard mixture) to the saucepan and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, until the mixture coats the back of the spoon and registers 175 F on an instant-read thermometer. I didn’t have a thermometer, so I did this just until it looked like it was about to boil and everything turned out fine. Do not let it boil though.
Immediately strain the custard mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into the bowl that has been chilling in the freezer, then quick-chill it by setting the bowl in an ice bath for 20 minutes (uncovered) or until the custard mixture is cool. To make an ice bath, just fill a larger bowl with ice and place the custard-filled bowl into the large bowl, surrounded by ice.
Then, strain the ice cream flavor through a fine-mesh sieve into the custard mixture. Continue to chill it in the ice bath for 45 minutes. As it starts to freeze near the edges, remove it from the freezer and stir vigorously. If you have one, use a hand-held mixer for the best results. I just used a spatula. Place back into the freezer and keep checking every 45 minutes or so, stirring as it freezes until the ice cream is frozen (it’s uncovered this whole time). This will likely take at least 4-5 hrs, or maybe even need as long as overnight to completely harden.
To make Stracciatella ice cream, melt some dark chocolate in the microwave, drizzle it over nearly frozen ice cream and then stir it once it has hardened, breaking up the stripes of chocolate into flakes. Transfer the ice cream to a covered container and store in freezer. Enjoy!