It's not really in my nature to just make straight up strawberry ice cream. Le yawn. Addicted to counterintuitive flavor combinations that just work, it's surprising to me that I actually hadn't made ice cream before this week. It is a perfect blank canvas for infinite combinations. The first ice cream I made was a honey cardamom ice cream with goat cheese and candied toasted almonds. It was complex yet comforting: all at once nutty, floral, tart, creamy, and sweet. A recipe for it is forthcoming, I promise.
Inspired by the strawberry jalapeño soda I had from Pure Sodaworks last week, I decided on a hot/cold jalapeño strawberry ice cream. I love the mixed message of spicy, cool, and creamy at the same time.
I decided that I wanted more of a jalapeño flavor than would be imparted by merely steeping jalapeños in the base and straining them out. I considered just tossing some chopped jalapeño with sugar and adding it in like nuts at the end of churning. That seemed a little heavy handed to me at the time, but after this attempt, I think I might try it. I like the idea of a crunch that packs a lot of jalapeño flavor. I used both fresh and candied pickled jalapeño with some sugar to make a rough jalapeño sugar purée because I wanted bright green visible specks of peppers in the ice cream. Next time I will use more candied jalapeños, as I wanted more pronounced tartness. The resultant ice cream was actually quite subtle, but not without lots of flavor.
After a springy dinner of risotto with leeks, lemon, and arugula, I served him a bowl of my creation along with a piece of ridiculous (in the best possible way) bittersweet chocolate soufflé. I figured chocolate soufflé could make anything awesome to anyone. (recipe also forthcoming!)
I'll just say, he's not one to be effusive about much of anything. Ever. With the exceptions of Nick Cave, David Bowie, and Romantic poetry. As such, I didn't except much of a response and was prepared to be happy if he ate it, perhaps giving me a satisfied nod. Or perhaps I was prepared to be happy if he hated it so that I could horde it all. But he loved it and he even said so... effusively! He had seconds. Taken with a bite of chocolate soufflé (also laced with cayenne...we like it hot around here), dessert doesn't really get better.
I don't personally consider this a "crazy" flavor combination, but I realize that some people might do some face scrunching/ eye brow raising/ other facial expression of doubt. Just trust me, when I had that soda I knew this combination made sense. Actually before I had that soda I knew it made sense, which is why I ordered said soda. It's fresh, a little grassy, fruity, spicy, cool, and creamy.... it's basically everything I wanted it to be. If my finicky other half will eat it, I think it's safe to say that it's a pretty accessible flavor despite sounding, to some, adventurous.
This recipe is wonderful as is, but I consider it a rough draft, and plan to continue experimenting. Feel free to do the same.
Jalapeño Strawberry Ice Cream
For the Base:
2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
healthy pinch of cayenne (optional)
For the Jalapeño Sugar:
1 medium jalapeño seeded and chopped
5 slices candied jalapeño
1/8 cup sugar
For the Strawberry Purée:
(makes about twice as much as you need, I swirled about half in and used the other half as a topping)
1 pint of strawberries (about 1 1/2 cups)
1/8-1/4 cup sugar, depending on your preferred sweetness
In a bowl whisk together the milk, cream, sugar, vanilla, and cayenne until the sugar is dissolved. Chill thoroughly. Once chilled, churn in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturers instructions.
While the ice cream churns make the purées. Combine the ingredients for the jalapeño sugar in the bowl of a food processor (I use a mini for this), and pulse until the jalapeno is very finely chopped. Set aside.
Combine the strawberries and sugar in the food processor and pulse until puréed. Set aside.
In the last five minutes of churning, add in the jalapeño sugar. I also added a pinch of couse sea salt. When the ice cream is done churning pour half into the container you intend to store it in and swirl a quarter of your strawberries into it, just swirling a bit, not turning the whole thing pink. Pour the other half on top and repeat the strawberry swirl. Reserve remaining strawberry sauce to top ice cream or for another use.
Either eat soft serve (my preference) or chill in the freezer until hardened and scoopable.