Spice House

On Monday night I used a whole nutmeg, 4 cardamom pods, 4 cinnamon sticks, 5 bay leaves, 2 Tbsp of peppercorns, and an entire hand of ginger in a meal for four people.  Except for the bay leaves and 1 Tbsp of peppercorns, all of those items were used in the dessert.

I have a weakness for winter spices, and though I love them all individually and in varied combinations, ginger is the spice I rely on most, for both savories and sweets.  I sprinkle ginger into muffin, pancake and waffle batter, onto baked fruit, onto fresh berries, slice it into stir-fries, soups, and sometimes even salads. 

Some people might have chosen a more soothing and comfortable dessert to follow highly spiced braised short ribs, and for a while I contemplated a single-flavor sabayon, but on Sunday I discovered a recipe for what was called ‘Gingersnap Ice Cream.’  I was immediatley riveted. 

Gingersnaps have always been my favorite kind of cookie, and any recipe that promised to deliver the same taste in an ice cream was almost magnetic in its pull.  I was desperate to make it, but I was short a few of the ingredients.  I didn’t have the called-for heavy cream or milk, but I did have two cans of coconut milk.  I didn’t have twelve (twelve!) eggs to divest of their whites for sole use of the yolks, but I did have three very large whole eggs.  I dove in.

I peeled and sliced the ginger as thinly as possible, put all the spices into a large tea ball and moved them both to a large skillet.  Over all went the coconut milk and sweetener, which I then brought up to almost a boil.  Off went the heat, on went a lid, and the mixture sat, infusing, for 20 minutes.  At this point I was supposed to fish out the spices and discard them, but I could hardly think that it would hurt to leave all that ginger to infuse for the full 24 hours of chilling before it was churned. 

So it was.  I ladled out about half of the liquid, mercilessly whisked it together with the eggs, and added it back to the pan.  This I cooked over low heat until it was thick, then poured into a supersized tupperware container and stashed in the fridge overnight.   Just before my guests were due to arrive, I swept a sieve through the custard, pressed on the captured ginger slices to extract every last bit of their juice, and then decanted the mixture into the ice cream freezer and left Teacherman to churn away.

The color of the finished product was a bit pallid (coconut milk, I must admit, is _grey_ and no other color), but the taste was sublime.  The ginger was the main presence, but the other spices were noticably there, backing up the lead.  Surprisingly, the ginger wasn’t firey, but merely (if one can use such a seeming negative) intense; the mouth did not burn, but it tingled.  I wouldn’t characterize it as tasting like a gingersnap, but neither could one call it simply a _ginger_ ice cream.  Gingersnap will have to do; it may not recall the cookie, but snappy it most certainly is.

Teacherman quickly scooped out all four servings and put the bowls into the freezer, then hesitated.  I silently got out two spoons, handed him one, and then vultured over the frozen cylinder, each of us meticulously scraping up all the remaining rock-hard bits of frozen delight.

Published in: on April 5, 2007 at 4:22 pm  Leave a Comment  

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