Six days ago I gave you a lovely Chocolate Granita recipe, all the while claiming that I am perfectly content without an ice cream maker in my own kitchen since I really don’t have room in my small apartment. As I wrote that post, I tried hard to convince myself that I am very happy exploring the wide world of hand-scraped granitas and other icy confections that don’t require equipment that takes up precious counter space. But as Shakespeare once said, the lady doth protest too much.
As soon as I published that last post, I immediately began doing online research on ice cream makers, just to see if there were any new streamlined options available. When I came across this KitchenAid freezer canister and dasher attachment that would fit directly onto the stand mixer that already lives on my counter, I didn’t hesitate. I even opted for express shipping. I figured that if I can store pots in my oven and baking trays in my broiler, I could certainly fit an 8-½ inch diameter canister in the freezer. (My freezer is never full anyway, playing host only to a few ice cube trays, bottles of both vodka and gin, a few packages of frozen passion fruit puree, and a dozen bags of various nuts from a recent Trader Joe’s shopping spree.) Since Manhattan apartment living is all about maximizing every storage possibility, it would almost be silly NOT to keep an ice cream canister in my freezer.
And here it is. Isn’t it a beauty?
I wanted to christen my new toy with a memorable first batch of frozen decadence. I have many ice cream flavors in my repertoire that are worthy of such a momentous occasion: lemon verbena, fresh ginger, passion fruit, bittersweet chocolate with peanut butter swirl, black raspberry with chocolate shards, even a gorgeous Guinness ice cream that makes my knees buckle. It was tough to narrow it down, but in the end I knew that this inaugural batch had to one of my all-time favorite ice cream flavors: SAFFRON.
Yes, that’s right. You wouldn’t ordinarily think of saffron used in a sweet context, but I love saffron ice cream to an insane degree. Saffron is a spice derived from the dried stigmas of the saffron crocus, typically used in Persian, Arabic, Turkish, and southern European cuisines. And in the same way that I recently wrote about olive oil proving itself to be an unexpected supporting player in many succulent sweets, saffron has become one of my most favorite flavors to incorporate into chocolate or cream-based desserts.
I’m always floored by how these vivid crimson-colored threads can infuse a pot of cream with the most intensely golden yellow color and an intoxicating honey-like flavor. I’m still refining my version of a saffron panna cotta, and I do a milk chocolate saffron truffle for CocoaRoar that is one of my more ecstatic creations.
Saffron ice cream is downright voluptuous, the luminous color of a buttercup as it churns and billows its way practically beyond the capacity of the machine. The first time I tasted such a thing, my taste buds exploded with pure joy. This luscious honey-kissed ice cream made me want to swoon, and I honestly felt that a whole new world of possibilities was opening up to me with that first delirious spoonful. If you want to win me over, just make me some saffron ice cream and I will be your best friend.
HONEY-SAFFRON ICE CREAM
After an Orpheus concert tour in Spain not too long ago, I bought an entire day’s per diem worth of saffron in the Madrid airport to give as gifts to many of my foodie friends. We all played around with saffron in both savory and sweet contexts over those next few months, and it was during that experimentation period that I began my torrid love affair with saffron ice cream. I hope you will enjoy this recipe even a fraction of how much I love it!
I’m very delighted to have stumbled across a blog post by pastry chef David Lebovitz on how to make ice cream even without a proper ice cream maker. If you are willing to stir a pan of custard base every half-hour while it freezes, you can adapt most ice cream recipes using this method. (Click here to read the full article.)
2 cups whole milk
2 tablespoons honey
½ cup sugar, divided
¾ teaspoon crushed saffron threads
6 egg yolks
2 cups cream
Place the milk, honey and ¼ cup of the sugar in a medium saucepan. Heat the mixture, stirring occasionally, until the honey and sugar dissolve and steam begins to rise from the milk. Remove the pan from heat. Stir in the saffron threads and cover, letting the mixture steep for 30 minutes.
Beat the egg yolks and the remaining ¼ cup sugar in a medium bowl with a whisk until they become light yellow and thick, about 2 to 4 minutes. Whisk ½ cup of the hot milk into the egg yolks, then very gradually stir this mixture back into the saucepan with the rest of the hot milk. (This method of gradually adding a bit of hot milk to the yolks before incorporating the rest of the milk tempers the eggs and prevents the yolks from scrambling, which they will do if they are “shocked” by a large amount of hot liquid all at once.)
Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the custard begins to thicken. It will coat the back of the spoon and hold an outline if you draw your finger along it. Do not let the mixture boil.
Strain the custard through a sieve into a heatproof bowl. Stir in the cream. Refrigerate the custard at least two hours or until it has chilled to 40°. (You can speed this process up by placing the bowl in a large bowl filled with ice water.) Freeze the custard in an ice cream maker, according to the manufacturer’s directions. Transfer to a plastic container and place in the freezer for 30 minutes before serving.
Makes 1 glorious quart.