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Monday, June 28, 2010

~Creamy Sweet & Tangy Sharp~ Most delicious contradiction ever

One thing (or maybe a few things) I miss about living in the Bay Area is all the great food I knew exactly where to find.  One of the rights of passage about living in an urban area is finally learning all the great places to eat and being able to call them to mind without a yellow book.  One in particular is O Chame on bustling 4th street in west Berkeley.  I try to go every time I'm in the area for all the wonderful dishes!  One that I will never forget nor have I ever seen elsewhere is a Caramelized Balsamic Vinegar Ice Cream!  I've been trying to figure out the recipe ever since I knew how to make creme anglaise... Food copy skills don't fail me now:

 ~Caramelized Balsamic Vinegar Gelato~

1 1/2 C Superfine Sugar                                               
4 1/2 Tablespoons Aged Balsamic Vinegar                

6 Large Egg Yolks                                
1 3/4 C Whole Milk                                
1 C Heavy Whipping Cream 

SPECIAL TOOLS: Large Metal Bowl
                              Deep Sauce Pot x2
                              Fine Mesh Strainer
                              Ice Cream Maker 

Yield - Roughly 1 Quart

This is pretty basic recipe but it's made using a much different method.  The usual sugar in the finalized creme anglaise isn't added with the eggs, but is made into a caramel and added last before the final straining.  A roundabout method some would say, but the end result is very much worth the effort!

Start by making the custard base. 

Place a pot of water on medium low heat to simmer for a double boiler. The wider the better here because when you go to cook over it, especially when cooking fragile things like eggy custards, you'll want to distribute the heat over a wider area and thus reduce the risk of burning/over cooking.

Heat cream and milk in a medium sauce pot until you get a light scald then remove from heat. Whisk eggs and 1 Tablespoon (to help in the custard forming) of your sugar in a large metal bowl. Temper hot cream mixture SLOWLY into eggs just a small bit at a time for the first half, stirring all the while to bring the temperature of the two liquids closer together and prevent burning. Add the rest slowly, whisking to combine thoroughly as you go.

Place the egg and cream/milk mixture over your double boiler pot and cook about 10 minutes, scraping the bottom and sides constantly with a rubber spatula, until it begins to thicken. The mixture should cling somewhat to the spatula and will hold a line made with your finger.  Depending on the thickness and shape of the pot and the bowl this may take some time but don't be tempted to crank up the heat as too much heat can boil the mixture and curdle the egg in the liquid (sweet scrambled eggs.) Strain through a fine mesh strainer to remove any bits of overcooked egg or cream then place in a vessel and into the fridge

Next Make your balsamic Caramel:

To make the caramel, place your sugar in a deep sauce pot over medium high heat to melt and cook. You can add a TINY amount of water to help it along but in this case, less is more. Keep a pastry brush and glass of water handy to brush down the sides to prevent crystals forming.  Try not to stir but you can swirl the pot gently to aid in even melting.  Try not to do this if you don't absolutely have to.

Heat the sugar until it melts and just begins to go golden. Working quickly, douse the bottom of the pot in cold water and pour in your vinegar.  You can add less vinegar or more vinegar   Swirl to mix and slowly pour into your cream base, stirring all the while to prevent overheating.

Stir quickly with a rubber spatula, scraping the sides every so often until the mixture is uniform in color and all of the caramel has disolved, then strain one last time.  Any large chunks will dissolve slowly but keep at it.  All of the flavor is in the caramel so don't toss any of it out for timeliness' sake.  Just as with the Vanilla Gelato, place into the fridge over night to chill and Hydrate.  Be sure to cover the custard with plastic wrap in contact with the custard surface as just like any custard, air can cause it to skin over...  also no fun.  This base can be kept in the refrigerator for up to a week. 

FOOD SCIENCE NOTES: Ice Crystallization in Ice Cream

Prepare your choice of ice cream machines and remove your custard from the fridge.  Pour in the custard and churn on low speed until you get a thick soft serve consistency, about 12 minutes. Chill in the freezer for 4-6 hours.

This dessert is one that can be paired with many, many different flavors both sweet and savory or simply served by itself.  One way I personally have presented it that got positive feed back was with fresh strawberries and a small bit of fresh, strong, Parmesan cheese!  Maybe serve with a chilled strawberry basil soup or just berries and a basil leaf.  So many possibilities and so much time to try them all!  One way of plating is with a garnish of bubble sugar.

Notes on Presentation:  Bubble Sugar Garnish



Scott, the Inexpensive Eater said...

I love this! I've been trying to come up with a balsamic flavored ice cream for a couple of years - always a huge failure. This is a GREAT idea! I'll definitely have to try it!

Anonymous said...

I tried it today and the author forgot to show when to add the 1 3/4 cup of whole milk listed in the ingredients.

I added the milk after the caramel and put the mixture in the refrigerator. We'll see how it comes out tomorrow in the ice cream machine.

I make ice cream regularly and this one is a huge mess as caramel solidifies quickly when off the heat.

Pastry Ninja said...

Forgive the milk error all of my readers... Was in an editing frenzy and I seem to have deleted that word by accident. A minor error fixed as of this moment.

As for the issue of caramel solidifying too quickly it can be a matter of user error: too much agitation, too much water added in brushing the sides or simply heating too quickly. I've made this recipe many times and I've not had that problem myself so I hesitate to speak to the issue specifically.

One variation that may make it simpler, as noted by previous "anonymous", is to add some of the cream to the caramel base (as in making soft caramels or caramel sauce) while cooking. Be careful though as you may end up curdling the milk via the balsamic or too much heat if not careful.

Pastry Ninja said...

Also: the caramel can tend to solidify if the sugar used is too coarse. Superfine (or casters) sugar is often difficult to find but can be made at home by putting regular white sugar in a food processor or coffee grinder for a short spin. Hope these additional notes can help! Thanks