White Russian Ice Cream

Diego gave me an ice cream maker for Christmas last year and we’ve had so much fun with it since. The prospect of making my own ice cream in whatever flavor I desire is so exciting to me that I sometimes find myself up late at night looking through ice cream recipes online. Nothing good ever comes out of this but that’s a different story. There have been hits (Cherry Garcia, chocolate gelato) and misses (Basil ice cream. It reminded Diego of pasta.) but they’ve all been equally exciting.

Clockwise from left: chocolate gelato with salted caramel pecans, basil ice cream, chai ice cream

Last week, I saw an article on alcoholic ice cream floating around online and it really piqued my interest. I had never made alcoholic ice cream before and as the article points out, alcohol prevents your ice cream from freezing so how is this possible? (For the same reason, a little bit of alcohol is added to sorbets to achieve that slushy texture instead of ending up with a block of fruit-flavored ice.) It also reminded me that it’s been a while since I busted out the ice cream maker. Alcoholic ice cream. It was time. Besides, what better excuse is there to make ice cream again?

For this White Russian ice cream, you’ll need:

1/2 cup milk

2 1/2 cups cream

1/2 cup sugar

4 egg yolks

1 T unflavored gelatin

1/4 cup water

2/3 cup refrigerated vodka

2/3 cup refrigerated Kahlua

1. We start by making the custard, the base of the ice cream. The custard is like a blank canvas. Once this is made, you can flavor it and add to it whatever you like. Start by adding the milk, cream and sugar into a pan. Heat the pan over low heat and stir until the sugar starts to dissolve. Make sure this mixture doesn’t come to a boil. I accidentally boiled my cream while making panna cotta one time and it wasn’t pretty – once it gets to boiling point, it boils over very fast and it burns on the bottom!

2. Crack 4 eggs and separate the yolks into a large mixing bowl. Whisk. Pour about 1/3 of the warmed cream mixture into the mixing bowl and whisk again. This is called ‘tempering’. Basically, we’re bringing up the temperature of the eggs a little bit so that they won’t be shocked by the warmth of the mixture in the pan. Shocking them is known to result in scrambled eggs. Pour tempered eggs into the pan, still on low heat.

Counter-clockwise from top: egg yolks, tempering, everything back in the pan.

3. Keep stirring until the custard thickens, about 15-20 minutes. You can test for doneness by running your finger down your spatula. If the line is runny, keep stirring. If it holds, you’re done. It should look a little something like this:

And that’s it! Your custard is done. Transfer your custard into a bowl and cover the top with plastic wrap. This prevents your custard from drying up on top which forms an unappetizing and aesthetically unpleasant layer of “skin”. In the article, this custard was strained into the bowl but I forgot. Whoops. Anyway, you can wait for it to cool a bit before you pop it in the fridge or get right to it, for about 3 hours or overnight.

4. When your custard is chilled, we can get started on spiking it with vodka and Kahlua. Transfer the chilled custard into a large mixing bowl. In a small saucepan, heat 1/4 cup of water. I don’t have a small saucepan so I just microwaved the water and transferred it to a big measuring cup. The objective is to dissolve 1 T of unflavored gelatin in the water so whatever works for you. Once it’s all dissolved, you can add in the chilled vodka and Kahlua. Stir.

5. Once you stir in the vodka and Kahlua, you’ll notice that the gelatin will start to stiffen. Quickly strain the alcohol mixture into the chilled custard and stir well.

6. So that was it! The secret ingredient is gelatin! Don’t you just love finding out little things like that about food? You can now pour your spiked custard into the ice cream maker with glee and start churning.

All was going really well until I noticed that this custard was taking forever to harden. Non-alcoholic custards take about 20-25 minutes to get to soft-serve consistency but this had just slightly thickened after the same amount of time. I gave it about 15 more minutes and then I started to panic. In an attempt to help along the hardening process, I dissolved more gelatin in a bit of hot water and mixed in some Kahlua. I then dropped this mixture with a tablespoon into the ice cream maker, not really caring that it had turned into Kahlua globs. When that didn’t work, I sat down to watch the instructional video again while the machine churned away. And aha! I saw that the ice cream was still really soft when it was poured into a container to freeze. Whew. So I stopped hyperventilating, turned off the machine and did the same.

Check out the little specks of gelatinized Kahlua. Oh, well. All we have to do now is freeze this sucker. It will take a while. Mine was in the freezer overnight. It felt like forever. Also because I accidentally left the freezer door ajar for like, an hour. Ugh.

But look at this beauty!

You can hardly see the specks of Kahlua, really. OK fine, I could see some of them but it’s really not that bad – when you bite into one, it’s like a pop of Kahlua in your mouth. This alcoholic ice cream is very potent, the first bite was quite a shock. The potency seemed to lessen as I worked through my scoop but the alcohol was so strong that it was almost unpleasant which is a shame because, apart from that, this ice cream has some really nice flavors going. The slight buzz afterwards almost made up for it but seriously, the next time I make this I would reduce the vodka by half. In the meantime, cheers!

Fun Food Fact: Homemade ice creams tend to taste egg-y. Not a big fan? You can substitute the eggs with cornstarch! Mark Bittman teaches you how.


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