Pumpkin (sp)Ice Cream
By Tom Yates
Make no mistake about it, we are ice cream people. Big time ice cream people. One year, in lieu of exchanging anniversary gifts, we pooled our money and bought a mack daddy tabletop ice cream maker. At any given moment on any given day, we’ll have some form of ice cream tucked away in the freezer. I can practically make it in my sleep. Some folks might think that ice cream is a seasonal treat. Seasonal, as in the summer season. Sure, there’s nothing better than bellying up to a cooling cone, bowl, or carton of ice cream on a blistering hot day. That said, it doesn’t have to be relegated to summer.
Kicking through the gravel paths at the farmers’ market, stacks and stacks of sugar pumpkins lulled me into daydreaming about the upcoming holidays. Or, most importantly the food associated with the holidays. Thinking about the usual suspects, I zeroed in on pumpkin ice cream. Why not? There’ll be pies galore wherever we turn. Pumpkin soup might even enter the picture. Pumpkin scones. Pumpkin biscuits. Pumpkin rolls. Pumpkin muffins. Pumpkin everything. Still, surrounded by pumpkins smack dab in the middle of an urban pumpkin patch, I drifted back to ice cream. Pumpkin ice cream. Eaten on its own, scooped onto warm pumpkin pie for a holiday double whammy, or dolloped into steaming hot coffee for a sweet creamy boost, pumpkin ice cream could possibly be the white-canvas flavor bomb of the season.
Because I’m not a baker, I’ve never given much thought to the debate surrounding the use of canned pumpkin versus fresh pumpkin. I have given a lot of thought to knowing where my food comes from as well as the faces behind the food. So, canned or fresh? Although it probably wouldn’t have mattered, it’s pumpkin season right now, for pity’s sake. Why waste the riches?
It was probably as simple as opening a can. I halved a smallish Madison County sugar pumpkin (sometimes referred to as pie pumpkin), scooped out the seeds, reserved the seeds, plopped the two halves onto a baking sheet cut side down, and slid them into a preheated oven to roast for one hour before pulling them from the oven to cool. When they were cool enough to handle, I scraped the soft yellow flesh into a food mill and turned it into a delicate puree. After a quick whisk, I slid it into the refrigerator to chill for a couple of hours.
Using an electric hand held mixture (old school), I whipped 5 egg yolks with 1 cup light brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger, and 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg. After heating 1 1/2 cups heavy cream combined with 1 1/2 cups whole milk to a low simmer, I gradually mixed the warmed dairy with the egg mixture to temper the eggs before adding the combined mixture back to the simmering cream. When the custard was thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon, I strained it through a fine mesh strainer, and added 2 teaspoons of thick Madagascar Bourbon pure vanilla bean extract before blending it with 1 1/4 cups of the chilled fresh pumpkin puree. Thinking it was still a bit grainy from the puree, I passed it through the mesh strainer again for a smoother consistency and slid it into the refrigerator to chill.
The easy part. I poured the pumpkin custard into the chilled ice cream canister, clamped on the lid, and let rip for 25 minutes before scooping the ice cream into a plastic container and tossing it into the freezer to set up.
Gilding the Lily.
I rinsed the seeds under warm water to release them from the fibrous pulp and dried them with a clean dish towel before tossing them with 2 tablespoons melted butter, 1 heaping tablespoon sugar, a dusting of cinnamon, and a pinch of sea salt. After a quick mix, I slid the seeds into a 350 oven for about 8-10 minutes to toast and caramelize.
Maple Spun Sugar.
I might not excel at sweets, but I can spin sugar. Although it can be dangerously tricky, it’s actually quite simple and fun. Now, I didn’t want to go all croquembouche, spinning fine delicate sugar threads all over the kitchen like a whirling dervish. I wanted sturdy shards of shatteringly crunchable spun sugar. Edible sugar glass.
I combined one cup sugar with half cup water, 1 tablespoon corn syrup, and one teaspoon pure maple syrup in a small cast iron skillet. After cranking the heat to medium, the sugar and corn syrup slowly dissolved into the water. Without stirring, I let the mixture bubble and rip until it reached the hard crack stage, 300-312 degrees on a candy thermometer. Working quickly and very carefully, I drizzled and twirled the molten maple sugar concoction over a non-stick silicone mat. It was a one shot deal. Spun sugar has a mind of its own. It waits for no one. Just before the melted amber sugar solidified into maple stained glass, I scattered a few candied pumpkin seeds into the lacy shards.
Cheers to quiet daydreams in the pumpkin patch.
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