Lemon Ice Cream

1 October, 2008

I have long envied my sister her ice cream maker and had begun to wonder if my budget could stretch to the £250 that a proper Gelato costs. I asked my dear friend, Nick, who also has an ice cream maker, if he could recommend any and he immediately offered me his spare ice cream churner. The churner is a delight and I have been busy this summer testing it out with various recipes, yoghurt or cream versus egg custard with a variety of different flavours.

After much testing I have decided I prefer the custard based ice cream and as a basic recipe I have settled upon that of my favourite cook, Simon Hopkinson. His recipe for Vanilla Ice Cream can be found in his book, Roast Chicken and Other Stories. He has a wonderful approach to food and cooking and is very encouraging by making you not worry if things should start to go wrong. His practical tips for rescuing one’s culinary efforts are usually very apt. And most importantly his recipes work.

So armed with his vanilla ice cream ingredients I set about making lemon ice cream.

The ingredients are as follows:

4 small or 3 large lemons

7 eggs [yolks only]

9 ounces castor sugar

25 fluid ounces double cream

1 pint of full fat milk

lemon balm [optional]

Pour the pint of milk into a pan and grate the rind of the four lemons into the milk. Only because I had some growing in the garden I also put in a few leaves of lemon balm. Bring the milk to nearly boiling point, simmer for a minute or two and then leave to cool for about half an hour and allow the lemon rind and lemon balm to infuse in the milk.

You might find the milk curdles. If it does, don’t worry, just keep whisking it. When I first made this I also added the lemon juice to the milk which produced a pan of curdled sour milk. But regular whisking kept it all together and by the time the other ingredients had been added all was well.

In a bowl separate out the yolks from the whites and add the castor sugar to the egg yolks. Whisk until the eggs and sugar are creamy, I usually do this for about 5 minutes with an electric hand whisk.

Rather than throw the egg whites away, you can freeze them and use them for meringues. I sometimes divide the whites into three batches and add them to omelettes or scrambled eggs.

Once the egg yolks and sugar have been combined, keep the whisk going and dribble in the lemon juice. After the lemon juice has been thoroughly mixed in, add the cooled milk, but take out lemon balm first. Whisk together and pour back into a pan and return to the heat and gently bring to a simmer. This is the tricky bit. You need to keep the heat going for as long as you dare without turning the mixture into scrambled eggs. My technique is to keep stirring until the liquid starts to visibly thicken and then resort to a hand whisk for a minute longer.

Various people will tell you various things about when the custard is ready. One of which is to stop once the custard coats the back of the spoon. Hopkinson is wonderfully dismissive about this, saying that as soon as you put a wooden spoon into the egg mixture it will coat the back of it, so it is a pretty useless test. He urges you to live a little dangerously and take the custard to the edge of disaster. All I can say is that with a bit of practise you will begin to know when the custard is done. It is one of those inexplicable things, it will feel right. I also give it the finger test and only think about taking it off the heat once the cream mixture is so hot to the touch you think it might scold you.

When you are happy that the custard is ready, pour in the double cream, mix all the ingredients together and lastly sieve the whole mixture into another bowl and put it into the fridge for about an hour and then follow the instructions of your ice cream maker.

You may wonder about the sieving, I find it gives a beautifully silky texture to the ice cream. If you prefer a more gritty ice cream or want the bits of lemon in the finished ice cream then don’t worry about sieving.

I served the ice cream with my version of tarte tatin [made with plums rather than apples, but that is for another time].

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