Peach Leaf Ice Cream
Our local peach season has come and gone already but you can still make use of your (or a local farmers) peach tree. Did you know you can steep the leaves and get a lovely almond extract type flavor? I am continuously surprised by mother nature (you old sneaky beast, you). Simply warm whatever it is you wish to flavor and steep for 5 minutes; any longer and the flavor will be quite bitter. I steeped the leaves in cream and milk for this recipe but have also thought of steeping them in melted butter and using it to make an almond cookie or cake. Look for that recipe soon 🙂
If you have ever used almond extract, you will be very familiar with the flavor the leaves impart. I find almond extract to be overwhelming, however, and much prefer the peach leaf flavor. It adds a little extra interest as there is just a slight astringency on the end (which gets much more intense if you over-steep the leaves). I made one batch of ice cream with no other flavorings and while I loved it, it got kinda boring after a while. The second batch was much more balanced with the addition of vanilla extract. If you wanted to take the flavor up another notch, add a couple tablespoons of your favorite alcohol. I think Kirsch, the cherry flavored liqueur, would be ah-ma-zing. Try it and then promptly bring me some.
Why Homemade Ice Cream
Why make your own ice cream? My arguments are as follows:
- It is fairly straightforward to pull off once you have a handle on the process
- Did you know a lot of the big name brands are pumping up their ice cream with air to increase volume and thus increase profit? Sad but true – you are literally paying for air. Check out this blurb from Cook’s Illustrated’s testing of vanilla ice cream:
- “Though it’s not listed on the label, another important component of modern-day ice cream is air. Manufacturers aerate their ice creams to produce a lighter texture—but also, more important from a cost perspective, to increase the overall volume. “Overrun” refers to the percentage increase in volume from aeration, which by law can go as high as 100 percent.”
- Making it at home means you can control the ingredients – no stabilizers, preservatives or names you can’t pronounce.
The downsides? You need an ice cream maker and although not absolutely necessary, an instant read thermometer is so very useful. Buy it once though and make ice cream any time you want.
Ice Cream Ratio
My recipe is based on the custard ratio used in Michael Ruhlman’s Ratio. The basic ratio is 4 parts milk/cream : 1 part yolk : 1 part sugar by weight. The same ratio is used to make creme anglaise, creme brulee, creme patissiere and ice cream; the difference is in how each item is thickened and/or cooked. I won’t go into the details here, but if you want to learn more about how altering the ratio will change the end result, I highly recommend picking up his book (it includes ratios for tons of other common foods, like pasta, bread, vinaigrette, and more).
Peach Leaf Ice Cream
Combine the milk and cream in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer, stirring often, over medium heat. Add the peach leaves and submerge as much as possible under the liquid. Allow to steep for 5 minutes and then promptly remove with a slotted spoon.
In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, eggs and salt until fully combined. Ladle about 1/2 cup of the steeping liquid into the egg-sugar mixture and whisk to combine. Repeat with another 1/2 cup, whisking to combine. Then pour in the remaining liquid and whisk to combine again.
To make the custard, set up a double boiler (see recipe notes for additional details). Place the bowl with the milk-cream-sugar-eggs mixture over a saucepan with 1-2" of simmering water and stir constantly, ensuring that you get into any corners or edges of the bowl. This is where an instant read thermometer is a must - you will want to test the temperature every couple of minutes until it reaches 175°F (it should take about 10-15 minutes). If you don't have a thermometer, you can always test your luck and do it by sight. You will want to cook it until it reaches a nappe consistency - dip a spoon in the custard, turn it over and draw your finger across the back. If you have a clean line, it's ready. Remove from heat and add the vanilla extract, stirring to combine. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Allow to cool on the counter and then transfer to the refrigerator until completely chilled - 8 hours to overnight.
To make ice cream, follow the manufactures instructions for your ice cream maker.
Using a double boiler is the best way to slowly cook a custard without the danger of curdling. To set it up, find a medium to large saucepan that will hold a mixing bowl on top while maintaining 2-3" between the bottom of the bowl and saucepan. Ideally, the majority of the sides of the bowl will set inside the saucepan (if only the bottom of the bowl sits inside the saucepan, it will take for.ev.er to cook).