Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Helado de crema morisca

My darling friend and neighbour is from the city of Campeche.  When we traveled there for her wedding, I was delighted by the street and bar foods, (panuchos being a favourite for the late night set), amazing seafood and the drinks, agua frescas (tamarindo!) and fruit juices.  I also learned that Mexican food doesn't always mean heat.  While it certainly CAN (the habernero is painfully hot!) and there are an astonishing number of hot sauces and condiments, I was delighted with the earthy, acidic and roasted notes amongst the myriad of complex flavours that define regional Mexican cuisine.  Most expat Mexicans also have a favourite sweet dessert be it chocolate or coconut based (and usually with canela/cinnamon) that reminds them of home.

Sugar? I know, not the first thing one thinks of when it comes to Mexican food, but one spoonful of helada di crema morisca and that will change.

And ice cream? Not something I thought I'd be finding in abundance in a country where coconut milk, cold beer or tequlia are the (stereo)typical restortives.. it was in a small shop on the square that contained some of the most pecular flavour of ices that I had ever seen. Forget the savoury ice cream trend of the 90s, this was something else. Chocolate, chile, and camaron (prawn) ice cream?

No prawns here, however, the flavour building blocks of this ice cream begins with sherry. You can try using any of the oloroso or blends, but I had good results with a simple fino. The prunes that I use are still very moist and require only a few minutes in water to soften. If you can get a good Mexican vanilla it adds amazing flavour but is not critical here (I've used Tahitian paste with no complaints). The real flavour (and texture builder) was achieved by the use of tinned evaporated milk.

A strange ingredient, but essential in the typical milky, strong Mexican coffee. The scent of which lured me from my hammock every morning. The richness provided by the evaporated milk makes massive amounts of heavy cream unnecessary.  My first memories of that flavour are from stolen sips of my grandfathers tea and later, my mother's cheesecake ice cream (served with a delectable strawberry sauce).  It worked then and it certainly works now.

So here is where I am reminded of what my sister asked me when we tried this recipe the first time.. that is sounded rather geriatric in nature and did I get my recipe form a nursing home menu?? Sherry and prunes? I suppose it does.

And it's delicious.
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Helado di crema morisca
  • 1 1/4 c caster sugar
  • 1 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 375mL whole milk
  • 125mL sherry
  • 2 large or 3 small egg yolks, lightly beaten
  • 160mL evaporated milk
  • 240mL heavy cream (35%)
  • 1-2 tsp. vanilla (paste or good extract)
  • 1 C (loosely packed) dried prunes, rehydrated with boiling water and chopped fine.
Blend the dry ingredients and add the whole milk to dissolve sugar mixture. Bring to the boil over meduim heat. Add the sherry. Simmer for about a minute or so.
In a small bowl, lightly beat yolks and, whisking constantly, add some (about a cup) of the steaming milk in a thin stream. This will temper the yolks and prevent the formation of scrambled egg bits. Add the tempered yolks back to the pot and keep over low heat near a simmer for 2-3 minutes (mixture will heat to about 180C) and begin to thicken.
To start the cooling process, remove from heat and add the evaporated milk, prunes, vanilla and the cream. Pour into a bowl and cover the mixture with either saran or parchment allowing the cover to sit right on the surface (so no skin forms). Chill for a few hours or overnight to allow it to chill completely.
I've never set this in the freezer just by stirring, rather I use my Cuisinart. This also makes about 2 liters which is more than my machine holds so I use two bowls.
Enjoy!

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