I am so proud of this ice-cream – it’s the creamiest, softest, most beautifully textured ice-cream I’ve ever made, and it really is a total and utter fluke, because it was inspired by leftovers.
Every year at quince time, I find myself totally unable to resist buying more quinces than I can eat in a reasonable time frame. I use them in sweet recipes, in savoury recipes, baked, poached or slow-cooked, and incorporate them into cakes, crumbles or tagines. Which is odd, because I am never quite sure whether I like them – I’m just totally seduced by their scent.
Nigella Lawson has a wonderful recipe for roasted quinces in her cookbook, Feast. You basically take a kilo each of water and sugar, make a syrup, halve the quinces, and bake the whole lot for a few hours (the recipe is on the internet, but since it isn’t from Nigella’s own site, I’d rather not link to it). It’s incredibly sweet – in fact, you’ve pretty much just candied quinces by the time you are done – and you are left with these totally decadent, deep-red quinces in a thick, quince-infused syrup with an almost jammy consistency from the pectin in the fruit. You can only really eat it in small doses.
Which is why I always end up, weeks or months after the quince season ends, with a little bowl of candied quinces and syrup in the fridge. They don’t go off – that’s how much sugar we’re talking about – but the quinces do eventually start to harden a bit. And you have this glorious syrup, which, I know, is just the thing to drizzle over cakes or ice-cream or whatever, except that I just don’t do that. In fact, I don’t know what to do with it.
Well, I know now. It makes the most *amazingly* flavoured and textured icing. I think something about the way the sugar crystals are dissolved and the pectin thickens things changes the way the ice-cream freezes so that you don’t get ice crystals. In a less fraught week, I’d look up what Harold McGee had to say on the subject, but at the moment, I’m mostly concerned with preserving this recipe while I remember it.
Because this is hands-down the best ice-cream I’ve ever made. I’m already looking forward to next year’s quince season.
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300 ml milk. I used low-fat milk and it worked just fine.
1 vanilla bean
4 large egg yolks
100 g sugar
1/4 tsp cardamom
300 ml cream
2/3 cup thick poaching syrup from Nigella’s quinces
1 cup chopped candied quinces or caramel apples or both, if that’s what your fridge looks like, or neither, because this ice-cream needs no help
Now what will you do with it?
First, you need to make custard. Scary! No, not really scary, because I know you already know how to make lemon curd and this is really no harder than that.
Split your vanilla bean lengthways, scrape out the seeds into a small saucepan, and pop the bean in, too. And then try to figure out how to get the rest of the little, sticky seeds off your knife and fingers, where they now reside.
Heat the milk until it is nearly boiling, then remove it from the heat, and let cool for 15 minutes, so that the vanilla can infuse.
You could spend this time separating your eggs, actually. Keep the whites for meringues or macarons, because you only need the yolks today.
Beat together the egg yolks, sugar and cardamom until they are pale and fluffy. This won’t take very long. Pour the milk slowly into the egg mixture, beating constantly as you go. You don’t want to cook the eggs, so do make sure the milk isn’t still boiling hot (and if it is, you also haven’t infused it long enough, so be patient!).
There are two ways you can make the custard at this point, because the objective is to heat everything slowly until it thickens, which is just before boiling point. You want to go slowly so that you don’t get accidental scrambled egg custard, which pleases nobody. Or at least, nobody that I know. Traditionally, one whisks the egg mixture in a bowl over a pot of simmering water. I started off doing this, but it was taking *forever* so I got bored and decided to try a microwave method, similar to the one I use for lemon curd – basically, you put the microwave on at 50% power, and heat the proto-custard, taking it out every 60 seconds and whisking it like mad, until it starts to get thick. Usually the point where you get one big, gloopy bubble and pull the whole thing out in a hurry is what you are aiming for.
Lay a piece of gladwrap directly on the custard (this prevents it forming a skin), and put in the fridge until the custard is cold. If you are impatient, like me, you can put it in the freezer, but do check on it every twenty minutes or so – you don’t want to freeze it yet.
Add in the cream, and stir it together well.
Scrape in the quince syrupy-jam, and try to mix through, but don’t worry if the cold makes it all clump up a bit, because the churning seems to magically take care of that. I have no idea how, but it does.
Now you get to churn it! And I’m afraid I am presuming for this purpose that you have a machine. I’m sure the still freezing method would work, but my freezer doesn’t get cold enough for it. Also, I’m lazy. So. Churn your ice-cream in your ice-cream maker until it’s beginning to look like soft-serve.
You can use the churning time to cut up fruit, if you plan to put chunks in.
If you are planning to put in quincey chunks, do so now. Mine still had syrup attached to them, and the ice-cream promptly un-set, but it didn’t seem to matter, because I wound up freezing it from quite soft, and it still wound up amazingly creamy.
Freeze the ice-cream for an hour or two, until solid. This will never be a very solid ice-cream, it definitely has a soft-serve consistency and starts to melt pretty quickly at room temperature, but that’s OK, because it’s delicious. It’s also quite sweet – one only needs a small serve.
One is happy, regardless.
I can’t actually think of too many flavour variations, I’m afraid. I mean, this recipe is born out of a fairly unique set of leftovers, and if I had anything else quite like it, it would be a different recipe. It would be interesting to make something similar with a conventional jam, however.
In terms of food allergies, this is of course nut- and gluten-free and vegetarian, but not low-fructose, low-GI, or egg or dairy free, and certainly not vegan. You might be able to replace the dairy with almond or soy milk and some sort of soy creamer; I’d certainly go with almond rather than soy if possible, for the flavour. I would not use coconut milk here. I’m afraid this would be a whole different ice-cream without the eggs, so I can’t help with that one.
This would be lovely paired with a pistachio cake or shortbread; a sprinkling of toasted pistachios over it would also be lovely (especially lightly salted ones, come to think of it). But it’s beautiful alone, too.
Two years ago: Recipe: Steph’s Sticky Date Pudding Cupcakes with Caramel Sauce