Saturday, 12 April 2008

Rhubarb Ice Cream

Like many a convert, I have become more passionate and vocal about the cause of rhubarb than those who might have grown up believing in its magic. I invariable have an 'Oooh, rhubarb!' moment if I see it mentioned in a recipe book or spot its pinkness on display at the market. This Saturday afternoon will be spent planting my fruits and vegetables for the season, with rhubarb included among the seeds I've bought (that is, if the weather holds. And it better, since I've just stuck the laundry outside).

This recipe for rhubarb ice cream so caught my eye that I finally bought an ice cream maker because of it. The ice cream maker had been on the wish list for a while, particularly because we only eat non-diary ice cream in the A&N house and it can be very hard to come by in the UK. Now that we have a kitchen big enough to hold gadgets, the ice cream maker jumped the gadget queue and was designated my next birthday present (in June, perfect for the start of ice cream season). But, as rhubarb isn't available in June, I ignored all that had been decided and bought the ice cream maker last week. Some would point fingers and say I lacked patience, but I'll just point out I've wanted that ice cream maker
for a time that spans years, so really, I've been very patient indeed.

The ice cream is made with a custard base with stewed rhubarb and its syrup added into the mix shortly before the end. The picture of the finished dessert in cookbook was enchanting - a delicate pink cloud of creaminess, the frozen-egg-and-cream equivalent of Cinderella when she puts on her slipper or Snow White when she wakes from her slumber. The custard base led me to think of serving meringues with it to use up the egg whites, furthering the delicate airy nature of the dessert. It was enough to make me stick my arm out the window for the birds to perch on as I sang to them and whipped up my kitchen delights.

Clearly I was deluded, and I should have known that a first attempt at something rarely produces stunning effects. The basic vanilla ice cream was luscious and didn't taste or feel compromised by the thinner soya cream and milk we added to it. I think the problem came from the rhubarb (*gasp!* Not the magic rhubarb!). The rhubarb didn't break apart enough once it was added, and since it was late-season rhubarb I probably should have cooked it longer than I did. The bigger problem was the syrup. Again, I probably should have cooked it down further, added it in sooner, and made sure it was cold rather than just cooled, but as soon as it was poured into the ice cream it turned the ice cream texture into a liquid from which it never recovered. The meringues were crushed while being juggled around the oven to accommodate other things.

It still tasted wonderful, but the rhubarb chunks suffered once they were put into the freezer, becoming solid crystalized masses that reminded you where every one of your fillings were and made you shrink back a bit in the remembered-pain of having had cavities. Tips for future ice cream making were learned, and more may follow, but I'm still looking forward to the ice cream season with excitement. As well as my birthday, now that I have another present coming to me.

Winter Rhubarb Ice Cream, from Skye Gyngell's A Year in My Kitchen Ice cream base:

  • 450 ml double cream
  • 150 ml whole milk
  • 1 vanilla pod, split lengthways
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 120 g caster sugar
Rhubarb flavoring:
  • 1kg rhubarb
  • 1 vanilla pod, split lengthways
  • 180 g caster sugar
  • 150 ml verjuice or water
  1. Start by making the custard base: pour the cream and milk into a heavy-based pan an place over a low heat.
  2. Scrape the seeds and place the seeds and the pod into the cream mixture.
  3. Slowly bring to the boil, remove from heat and set aside for 15 minutes so it can infuse.
  4. Meanwhile, beat the egg yolks and sugar together in a separate bowl until the mixture
  5. turns thicker and paler.
  6. Gently reheat the cream mixture and pour it into the eggs, whisking as it's poured.
  7. Place everything, now combined, into the pan and heat over the lowest possible heat, stirring until the custard thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon (about 6 - 8 minutes).
  8. Remove from heat and set aside in a bowl to cool.
  9. Wash and trim the rhubarb, then cut into 2 inch/5 cm chunks.
  10. Place rhubarb in a saucepan with the vanilla pod, sugar, and verjuice/water. Turn the heat onto medium and stir gently to start the rhubarb off.
  11. Bring to a simmer, then turn heat down to cook gently for 10 minutes or so, stirring occasionally. The rhubarb should be soft and on the verge of falling apart (if using later season rhubarb, you may need to cook for closer to 20 minutes).
  12. Remove the rhubarb and set aside in a dish. Taste the syrup to make sure it's both tart and sweet at the same time (adjust for taste if needed) and turn the heat up to simmer away half the syrup.
  13. Pour over the rhubarb and allow to cool completely.
  14. Once the custard is cooled, pour into the ice cream maker. Just before the ice cream sets, pour in the cooled rhubarb and syrup, and churn for a further 10 minutes.


helen said...

that's a shame that it didn't turn out how you wanted but at least the basic vanilla was good so that's encouraging! I love the idea of rhubarb ice cream though - I don't think I've ever actually eaten it.

Lore said...

Any fruity, vanilla or chocolate ice cream is a kick by itself. Even if it didn't turned out how you wanted, it still looks great and makes me go for a spoon and come right back :)

Fearless Kitchen said...

It's too bad that it didn't turn out like you wanted, but it sounds like you've got a good idea of what to do next time. I hate to admit that I've never tasted rhubarb, but I've just sent a link to your posting to a friend whose fondness makes up for my neglect.

Sophie said...

Hey, this just gives you an excuse to make another batch and perfect the recipe!

I adore rhubarb too, especially with creamy things (I just bought a big batch to cook up for having with my porridge)

Amanda at Little Foodies said...

This sounds really good. I love rhubarb! I really like it stewed with elderflower cordial and served warm over a really good vanilla ice cream.

Antonia said...

I have become rhubarb obsessed over the past month and can't get enough of it! Haven't made an ice-cream though, this sounds excellent. You are right - anything added to the ice-cream maker needs to be properly chilled prior to adding, or it simply won't firm up. I made this exact mistake with my first ice-cream. Anyway, it looks delicious to me!

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Experimenting is a process! Still this sounds excellent.
Certainly I think you were very patient. And definitely a 2nd birthday present is in order.

White On Rice Couple said...

It's over 100 degrees in Southern California right now and we're just drooling over your cool ice cream right now!
We tried growing 2 rhubarb plants but our dog beats us to the stalks. She loves rhubarb! When we finally get out hands on some (from the grocery store), we'll be making some for sure!

Cynthia said...

What is you try cooking the rhubarb until it literally falls apart and the syrup thickens, then rub the rhubarb and syrup through a sieve and use whatever pulp you get along with the syrup to add to the ice cream mixture. Just a suggestion. :)

Pixie said...

I have rhubarb in my fridge atm- I am debating making a jam with it; I wish I could attempt something similar to this ice cream but I don't have an icecream maker and not in the mood to stay churning ice cream in the freezer every two hours either.

Anonymous said...

Interesting! I haven't tried to make soya ice cream before. Would you recommend?

Late season rhubarb is alot tougher, I have some in my fridge, think it's destined for the stew pot.


Scoopalicious said...

rhubarb ice cream sounds AWESOME...can't wait to try it...

Emiline said...

Oh, man! That sounds like something that would happen to me. I always have great ideas, but they never turn out so well.
That sounds like a really interesting ice cream though.
I just recently saw rhubarb in the stores, here, and I want to buy it. Would strawberry rhubarb pie be too boring? Granny is coming for a visit.

Gigi said...

Rhubarb ice cream? I am so intrigued! I've only had rhubarb with strawberry as a pie. I wish I could grab a taste1

Cooking said...
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Annemarie said...

Hi Helen - It was still very good, you're right, and we have made the vanilla again since then so we don't have much to complain about!

Hi Lore - Your right - the ice cream didn't last long. :)

Hi Fearless - I hadn't tasted rhubarb until a couple of years ago, and though it took me a few tastes to be convinced I love it now. Hope your friend takes some ice cream round to yours and shows you what it's all about. :)

Hi Sophie - Rhubarb and porridge is great; I had some of that with the extras that were cooked up!

Hi Amanda - Nice to see you back. :) Rhubarb and elderflower sounds wonderful, and very very british!

Hi Antonia - If you have any rhubarb recipe tips I'd love to hear them. I'm always surprised by how healthy it is and so think any chance to cook with it is a good one.

Hi Tanna - Thanks for agreeing with me about the present. :) I haven't yet settled on what it will be, though...

Hi Diane and Todd - I'll be planting rhubarb this week, and am already nervous about the local wildlife getting to it. Between cats, foxes, and birds, I just know one of them will love it and will break my heart by stealing it all.

Hi Cynthia - I think that's a great suggestion! Definitely along the right lines of thinking, particularly with the later season rhubarb I used. If there's some at the market this weekend, I'll be trying again. :)

Hi Pixie - I feel your pain. The ice cream maker was finally bought after I *did* try the hand churning thing recently and got too frustrated to do it again. Hope you find some tasty treats for your rhubarb.

Hi Niamh - If you're tempted by soya ice cream, I'd definitely say it's worth it. Everything comes out slightly vanilla-y because the soya cream tastes that way, but you can balance that out. I would say it's really worth it making a custard base for any ice cream, since the eggs help give the fatty mouthfeel that plain soya milk can't match.

Hi Scoopalicious - Thanks!

Hi Emiline - If I know grannies, they'll be happy with *anything* you make for them, so she'd love a rhubarb and strawberry cake. I made a wonderful rhubarb crumble a little while ago which is linked to in this post, so if granny is more of a cake and coffee girl, that might work too.

Hi Gigi - If I could express a spoonful over to you, I would. :)

Tartelette said...

Just mention the word rhubarb and I'm there! I'd eat it :)

jasmine said...

I like Cynthia's suggestion. I hope you attempt it again.

Rhubarb season comes next month for us...I've not cooked with it yet, but your admiration for it makes me want to try it this year.


Jeanne said...

I'm also a late convert to rhubarb who now adores it :) NO space for an ice cream maker in my kitchen though... I know, I know, that's no excuse not to make ice cream - it had better go on the to do list. What a pain that things didn't turn out as expected - but I love the crushed meringue pic!