Marshmallow Ice Cream

It’s above forty degrees, therefore: ice cream.

Really, I should stop trying to come up with excuses. It’s much more like: I’m alive, therefore: ice cream.

Yesterday the temperature barely made it to thirty-five degrees, work was extremely trying, and dinner did not come together well. (All of my cooking oils have gone rancid, in spite of being practically new. This distresses me). I really needed ice cream.

I’d planned a fruit dessert for dinner, though, meaning that I didn’t have any cream–or dairy products of any kind. I did, however, have coconut milk. I always have coconut milk–it’s probably one of the few canned goods, aside from tomatoes, that I think of as a staple–and I rarely have cream, unless I’ve purchased it with a specific recipe in mind. At least half of the ice cream recipes I make seem to end up being prepared with coconut milk.

Thus: coconut milk! I scanned through my copy of The Perfect Scoop (the best ice cream cookbook I’ve encountered) for a recipe that could easily be adapted to the use of coconut milk. No out-of-the-ordinary ingredients, nothing so simple that it relied on the flavor of cream to be good, etc.

In the end, I chose the recipe for Leche Merengada, a Mexican dessert in which milk (not cream, just plain milk) is mixed with beaten eggs whites and then used as the base for an ice cream. A recipe calling for milk seemed like a better fit for the thickness of coconut milk and there were barely any other ingredients involved. Instant gratification: I love it.

I poured one can of coconut milk into a small bowl, then added several dashes of cinnamon and a big pinch of dried lemon peel (my frozen stash of ‘fresh’ lemon zest was just depleted last week). The original recipe, of course, calls for infusing the milk with a cinnamon stick and fresh lemon zest, but I didn’t have the time. I sweetened the mixture with a little simple syrup–another deviation from the recipe, which calls for sugar, but I wanted to make up the volume of liquid the recipe actually called for, and a can’s worth of coconut milk didn’t quite measure up.

I whipped three eggs whites–the recipe calls for two, but my eggs are local, and thus (given that it’s barely spring) quite small–sweetened them a tiny bit, then folded the glossy, shiny beaten whites into the coconut mixture. It didn’t combine perfectly, but I didn’t really expect it to. I poured the slightly lumpy mixture into the ice cream maker, and Teacherman (he of the strong biceps) set to churning.

Continuing in the spirit of the day, alas, the churning didn’t go very well. The mixture flash froze to the walls of the cylinder, but stayed rather liquid in the center, in spite of a very long churning time. Hmph. We scooped out what we could, hacked a bit at the sides, and gave up. We put our bowls in the freezer for a while, but before more than half an hour had gone by, I got jumpy, and we took them out again, ready to dig in.

Swoon.

I’m not entirely sure how, but the ice cream tasted like marshmallows–or rather, the perfect marshmallows, the platonic ideal of marshmallows that only really exist in one’s imagination.  I suppose that this isn’t too hard to understand, given that the marshmallows I make are based on sweetened, beaten egg whites, sometimes with cinnamon, but still.  The ice cream’s final flavor was more than the sum of its comparatively few ingredients, and, except for the “marshmallow” tag, which immediately leapt to mind, I can come up with few descriptive markers.

The coconut milk made it creamy, without making it tongue-coatingly heavy; the egg whites gave it the light, airy quality of a good, soft meringue; the cinnamon added an indefinable background layer of sweetness; and the lemon added an almost floral note, one that wasn’t at all obtrusive, but that made me stop at the first bite, wondering.

Coconut milk is already a staple; I don’t really need a reason to buy it.  But now I might have to dedicate an entire cupboard to it.

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Published in: on April 2, 2008 at 8:57 am  Leave a Comment  

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