Saturday, July 9, 2011

Fresh Peach Ice Cream


 
When I was a kid I never looked forward to peach season...I never even noted its occurrence. The only peaches I had ever tasted were the ones sold at grocery stores. They were almost always devoid of flavor and dry...or worse, mealy (Is there anything worse than a mealy piece of fruit?). Like much of the produce that filled the produce aisles in the grocery stores of my childhood, there was nothing about them to love or desire.
 
I don't remember when I learned that peaches grew in abundance in my home state, but I will never forget the summer we discovered the ripe, just-picked Missouri peaches being sold at the farmers' market. They were juicy beyond belief, sweet and loaded with flavor. Now every summer I wait with great anticipation for the arrival of the early crop.

We are very lucky in that the Missouri peach season is long and abundant. Some years we are able to enjoy local peaches into September. For a small household of two we go through an astonishing number of peaches each week. I eat one almost every day for breakfast...and I am always tucking them into cakes, muffins, tarts, crisps, salads, compotes and homemade jam. It would not feel like summer if there weren't a bowl of peaches sitting on our kitchen counter.

 
This year while trying to come up with a seasonal dessert to create a sweet ending for a July class, I thought of peach ice cream. After making it, I think I have found a new favorite peach dessert. Intensely peach-y and creamy...as a friend said, "the essence of peaches and cream"....it is the perfect summer treat and an excellent means of showcasing the best of the local crop.
 
To obtain that intense peach flavor, I combined the peaches with a small amount of sugar and some lemon

 
and cooked them down to concentrate their flavor—somewhat like making jam (but with a lot less sugar).  Cooking the peaches before adding them to the custard base is a bit of an unusual step.  I have only come across two peach ice cream recipes that use cooked peaches...one by Dorie Greenspan and another from Gourmet. Most recipes simply use peeled and puréed fresh peaches. The reason for this is there is a premium placed on "fresh" peach flavor. But since fresh fruit is loaded with water, when the fresh peach purée is further diluted with custard the peach flavor of the ice cream is a bit faint. I can't say for sure, but I suspect that the high water content of the purée would also tend to produce a slightly icier final texture.
 
I made two different test batches of peach ice cream. One used a custard base made with all cream and the other used a base made of half cream and half milk. The one made with all cream was an over-the-top, rich and creamy, ice cream experience. But after a few bites, it was just a bit too rich...even for me. Also, it seemed to be more about cream than peaches—the extra fat softened the peach flavor. The one I made with half milk was still very creamy, but it was also refreshing. And best of all the peach flavor was front and center...a true celebration of the peach.
 
If you like ice cream...and you like peaches...I think you will love this ice cream. And even if you don't live in a peach producing state, you shouldn't have too much trouble finding juicy, tree-ripened peaches that were grown somewhere not too far from where you live. In recent years, grocery stores have begun to respond to the demand for foods that are more regionally sourced. I discovered that a grocery store near my home began carrying the tree-ripened local crop a few summers ago. And it was during my last visit that I noticed a huge display of peaches, conspicuously separate from the California peaches, with a sign that proclaimed "Missouri peaches have arrived!" I guess a lot of people have begun to look forward to peach season....

 
 
Peach Ice Cream
 
1 1/3 lb. ripe peaches (4 medium), peeled, pitted and sliced (see note)
2 t. lemon juice
1/3 c. sugar
 
1 c. cold heavy cream
1 c. whole milk
6 egg yolks
1/4 c. sugar
a pinch of salt
1/4 c. honey (3 oz.)—gently warmed, if not pourable
1/8 t. almond extract
 
Prepare the peaches: Place the peaches, lemon juice and 1/3 c. sugar in a medium saucepan and stir to combine. Place the pan over medium to medium-high heat and bring to a simmer.

 
When the peaches begin to soften (after about 5 minutes), mash with a potato masher

 
and continue to simmer briskly, stirring regularly, until you have a thick peach compote (about 20 to 25 minutes total cooking time). Any large pieces of peach that remain should be very soft. Stir more often as the compote thickens to keep it from sticking and scorching. If you would like a smoother purée, transfer the compote to a food processor and process to the desired texture. You should have 1 3/4 to 2 cups peach compote. Chill.


Prepare the custard: Place the cup of cold cream in a medium-sized bowl and place in the refrigerator to keep it cold.
 
Place the milk in a medium-sized, non-reactive saucepan and bring to a boil. While the milk mixture is heating, whisk the egg yolks with the 1/4 c. of sugar and the salt until thick. When the milk boils, temper the egg yolks by gradually whisking in about 1/2 c. of the hot milk mixture. Stir the tempered egg mixture back into the saucepan and place the pan over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until the custard begins to thicken and a path forms when you draw your finger across the custard-coated back side of the spoon—an instant-read thermometer will read about 175°. Immediately strain the custard into the bowl of cold cream. Stir in the honey and the almond extract. Refrigerate (or place in an ice bath) until cold, stirring occasionally. Cover until ready to use.
 
Prepare the ice cream: Combine the cold custard and the peach compote.


Freeze the ice cream in an ice cream machine according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer to a freezer container and freeze for an hour or two before serving. Makes one quart peach ice cream.
 
Note: To peel the peaches, cut a small slash on the bottom (the "blossom end") of each peach. Place the peaches in a heat-proof bowl. Pour boiling water over the peaches and let them sit for 30 seconds. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the peaches to a towel and let them sit until they are cool enough to handle (a minute or two). Using a paring knife and your thumb, grab the peel at the slit and pull. The peel should come away easily in three of four pieces.

19 comments:

Lisa said...

Yum, I love peach ice cream and July is National Ice Cream Month, or so I'm told. This looks fabulous. I'd like to invite you to come by and link it up to Sweets for a Saturday (open till Monday night). http://sweet-as-sugar-cookies.blogspot.com/2011/07/sweets-for-saturday-25.html

The Contess said...

Peach ice cream reminds me of warm summer Sunday evenings with the neighbors all gathered around an ice cream churn . Each year we swore it was better than the year before. Good friends, good times, and good ice cream!

Katey said...

Wonderful! So nice to finally find a peach ice cream recipe where you make >peach< flavored ice cream instead of vanilla with peach chunks! Love it. Thank you!

Paige said...

Thank you Katey. I hope you enjoy it!

janeinpa said...

I love the recipe and the base tastes delicious, but I had trouble getting it to freeze. The bowl was well frozen and I refrigerated the base overnight. I'm a newbie to ice cream making so I'm wondering why I had trouble? Is it the fruit? Could there be too much liquid? Maybe my custard should have been thicker? I made chocolate last week and had spectacular results. I'd like to learn from this challenge.

Paige said...

Hi Jane, I'm sorry you had trouble with the freezing process! Without seeing your results, I can only guess at what happened, but I'll give it a stab: Off the top of my head I can only think of three things that will prevent ice cream from freezing. The first you have already addressed...an ice cream canister that has not been in the freezer long enough to be deeply frozen...and a base that isn't cold enough. It sounds like neither of these were the problem. The second and third things are too much sugar or alcohol in the base. Sugar lowers the freezing temperature of the base. One way to soften the texture of an ice cream that is always too hard is by adding more sugar (in any form...granulated sugar, honey, corn syrup, etc.) or alcohol (which is basically sugar) to the base. If you followed the recipe, I don't think this was the problem either.

You mentioned that you were a newbie when it comes to making ice cream. So I wonder if maybe you thought that freshly churned ice cream was supposed to be its final, firm consistency straight out of the churn? Ice cream typically only firms up to what I would call a "soft serve" (definitely not scoopable) consistency in the churn/ice cream freezer. This "soft serve" ice cream is then transferred to a chilled container and put into the freezer where it will continue to firm up and reach its best texture in about six hours. I typically plan on a 24 hours schedule when I make ice cream. I make the base in the morning (or evening)...then run it 8 to 12 hours later when I know that it will have had time to chill deeply...and then plan on eating/serving it after another 6 to 12 hours in the freezer. It takes more planning, but produces consistent results.

If your chocolate ice cream was very firm straight out of the churn, I'm guessing that this was because it contained chocolate (not cocoa). Chocolate is hard at room or refrigerator temperature and would necessarily firm up quite a bit more in the churn than milk, cream or eggs which are all liquid at room or refrigerator temperature.

I hoped this helped. And I hope you will keep making ice cream! I think ice cream is one of the most satisfying and enjoyable things to make!

janeinpa said...

Thank you! I am trying again this weekend. The bowl has been in the freezer for a week, so I hope it's good and frozen! The only thing I did last time was to use about 1/4 more cream and then deducted that from the milk so it still came out to 3 cups. Could that be it? The chocolate did have grated chocolate bars in it, so perhaps you're right. However I wouldn't say the peach ever got to soft serve consistently...just an icy slurry. I froze some fresh peaches last weekend and when I thawed them they had a lot of juice. I am not sure if that will be too much liquid, but I'll give it a go.

Paige said...

Hi Jane, Altering the relative ratio of cream and milk shouldn't alter your result (other than to make it more or less rich). As long as you preserve the ratio of your total quantity of liquid (2 c. (not 3 c.---maybe that was a typo in your comment?) cream/milk plus 1 3/4 c to 2 c. cooked peach compote to 6 yolks, etc.) you should be fine. It shouldn't make a difference if the peaches have been frozen or not. The purpose of cooking them to a compote is to get rid of excess water (which is the same whether they are fresh or frozen) and concentrate their flavor. Good luck!

janeinpa said...

Great. Yes, I meant 2. I'm just wondering if there is a scientific reason to wait until the last minute to combine the peaches with the custard? I was thinking if they were combined sooner, the peach flavor would be stronger.

janeinpa said...

I seem to have come out with just over a cup of the peaches. Will it screw up the ice cream if I just use this?

Paige said...

I don't think it matters when you combine the custard and the peach compote. I don't think it will make the flavor stronger if done earlier...but there isn't any particular reason to wait either. As long as the base (custard plus compote) is thoroughly chilled, you should be good.

And if you only have a cup of peach compote, this might be the source of your soft ice cream...because it will increase the proportion of sugar to everything else. You could add some cream (or milk--I prefer ice creams where the dairy is half milk and half cream...but as long as you don't have more than 2/3 cream and 1/3 milk, your ice cream should still have a nice texture) so that your total milk/cream/peach compote is 3 3/4 to 4 cups. Or, reduce the sugar in the custard by a couple of tablespoons (25 grams). It's a very small amount...so this may not be your problem at all...but it's worth a try.

janeinpa said...

Another question if I may. When I made it the first time, I heated the cream and milk together to make the custard because that's what I did with the chocolate ice cream. When it was finished I put it into an ice bath to cool it. Is it necessary to make the custard just with the milk and then pour it over the cream? I'm just trying to learn the reasoning for all of your steps so I hope you don't mind me asking so many questions.

Paige said...

There are a couple of reasons for not heating the cream. First, if the cream is cold (and in a chilled bowl), then when you strain the hot custard into it, you will immediately stop the cooking process of the custard. The custard will curdle (the eggs will scramble) if the temperature goes over 180-degrees...and your custard will be in the neighborhood of 170-degrees when you take it off the heat. Stopping the cooking process is imperative. I'm guessing that you poured the finished custard for the chocolate ice cream over a bowl of chopped chocolate--the hot custard melted the chocolate and the chocolate brought down the temperature of the custard. If your custard got too hot the first time you made the peach ice cream (it would have looked grainy/scrambled if this happened) it might not have set properly/evenly.

Another reason for not heating the cream is that you lose the fresh taste of the cream. But if you're using UHT or ultra-pasteurized cream, this isn't really an issue.

janeinpa said...

Thank you Paige. I'm pleased to report that the ice cream was a success today. I didn't read your post in time, so I heated both the milk and cream, but I think I dodged the bullet. I poured it into a bowl sitting in ice cubes so I hope that stopped cooking sufficiently. With the chocolate, I did pour it over grated chocolate so I see what you are saying. Anyway, I think my mistake the first time was that I didn't let the custard get thick enough. I don't have a thermometer, so I thought it coated the back of the spoon even when it wasn't very thick. I cooked it longer yesterday and I could see that it was considerably thicker. I was a little iffy on when to take it out of the ice cream machine. It seemed to be at the softserve consistency but it had only been turning for 15 minutes. I ended up letting it in another few minutes and it may have gotten a little more frozen but I'm not sure. Is there a rule of thumb to know when it's at the uptimum state? Anyway, it's hardening up in the freezer, but what I tasted so far is delicious.

janeinpa said...

Last thing! It seemed fine when I took it out of the machine and into the freezer. Its been in the freezer 6 hours now and it hasn't gotten any harder, though. It's still the consistency of soft ice cream. Is it the fruit? It tastes great, but it's pretty sloppy to serve people. Before I made it, I found a few more frozen peaches, so I ended up with about 1 1/2 cups of peach compote. I took a bit off the sugar in the custard as you suggested, so I don't think there was too much sugar.

Would you say I could try making cherry by substituting cherries for the peaches?

Paige said...

Hi Jane,

I don't think there is a particular length of time for when an ice cream will be set....something in the 15 to 25 minute range is pretty normal. Each custard base is a bit different...plus the temperature of your canister will have an effect--and that temperature is dependent on your freezer (how cold it is, how often you open the door to get other things...etc.) If the ice cream is the consistency of a firm soft serve, it's done.

As for why it wouldn't be set harder after 6 hours in the freezer, I couldn't say. Your freezer may have been in a defrost cycle...or you may have been in and out of it more than usual...or the temp isn't set that cold to begin with. I have never had this problem. My ice creams are always so firm that I have to let them temper in the fridge or on the counter for a few minutes before I am able to scoop them. I don't think the fruit is the issue.

You can of course try with cherries. I have never made this base with cherries, so I can't offer a recommendation on how to adjust the recipe (if at all). I have a cherry semifreddo recipe posted that includes a bing cherry compote. You might take a look at that. I guess what I would really recommend is that you find a recipe specifically for cherry ice cream so that you will be starting with something that worked for someone else, rather than experimenting. I think it's great to experiment, but I think you have to have a substantial knowledge base first before you do that. The only way to get that knowledge base is to work with reliable recipes first.

Hope this helps. Happy cooking!

janeinpa said...

The peach did eventually harden and was a big hit with friends. I'm still wondering about holding back the cream and pouring the custard over it. If you only make the custard with the milk and then pour it over the cream, you don't have custard anymore, do you? It's liquid that doesn't set like custard, isn't it?

Paige said...

Hi Jane, I'm so pleased to hear that you and your friends enjoyed the peach ice cream! Thank you for letting me know.

As for your question, I think maybe you're confusing stirred custard (creme anglaise/ice cream base) with baked custards (flan/pot de creme/creme brulee). The coagulation of the egg in a baked custard "sets" the mixture into a soft solid that can be molded/sliced. In a stirred custard, the coagulation of the eggs results in a thickened liquid. This is a VERY surface description of what's going on...if you are interested in the underlying details, you should check out Madeleine Kamman's the New Making of a Cook...or Shirley Corriher's books CookWise and BakeWise.

In more practical terms, pouring your finished milk/egg/sugar custard over the cream is simply extending...or enriching...your finished stirred custard. You are not destroying your custard base by doing this any more than you are destroying it by adding chocolate or peach puree. (If you added cream to a finished baked custard, you are correct, you would no longer have a scoopable "set"...but ice cream is firm because it is frozen...not because it has been baked to achieve a "set".)

If you are interested in more things related to ice cream, you should check out David Lebovitz's blog...or his book The Perfect Scoop.

Paige said...

Hi Jane, I don't know if you follow my blog regularly, but I thought you would be interested in knowing that I just posted an ice cream "basics" post...inspired in part by our conversation! Thanks, Paige