You can't make everything from scratch

...but you can sure try!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Ice cream, sauce and texture

Ice cream may not be the first dessert food you think of in the middle of winter: This is a season for molten chocolate cakes and warm tartes Tatin. But things change if you think about ice cream differently: ice cream is a sauce.

Sure, there's nothing wrong with having a big bowl of heavenly hash all on its own, and nothing beats an ice cream cone in the middle of summer at the amusement park. But I believe that ice cream really comes into its own when it forms one element of a composed dessert plate. It can provide an invigorating counterpoint in temperature and texture to the other items on the plate, and it provides an element of dynamism as the diner tries to eat it before it melts.

Or maybe that's overthinking it just a bit.

A while back, I was discussing a local gelateria with a friend in Ottawa. She mentioned that they sold carrot gelato, and the first thought that occurred to me was that, if carrot gelato was good, parsnip gelato would be even better, since parsnip is just as earthy, but sweeter and perhaps a little more delicate than carrot.

In an amusing example of serendipity, I ended up having parsnip gelato on a "steamed winter pudding" at Toronto's Canoe restaurant a few weeks after that discussion, and all my suspicions were confirmed. I asked the server if the pastry chef would be willing to share the recipe, but he didn't seem optimistic...

Fast forward to the other night. One of my favourite Christmas gifts this year was David Lebovitz's book The Perfect Scoop. Although there's no recipe for parsnip ice cream in the book, there's enough general information that I was able to cobble one together. (Actually, I just used the sweet potato ice cream recipe, substituting parsnips for the sweet potatoes.) For a first try, I was really happy with the result. If I hadn't had the guidance of Lebovitz's book, I probably wouldn't have thought to put vanilla in it, but I think the vanilla is really important to the flavour. I haven't sprung this dessert on anyone but my husband yet, but because the colour is so neutral, it'll be interesting to see if my first victims tasters can figure out what it is without being told.

I'm still working on the other elements of the composed plate, though...

Parsnip Ice Cream
This recipe is a close transcription of how I made the ice cream this time, with a couple of additional notes. It should be considered a work in progress

1 lb. parsnips, diced
9 fluid ounces whole milk [It might be a good idea to use a little more than this]
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract [1/2 tsp. is probably sufficient]

1. Cook the parsnips in water to cover until tender. Drain.
2. Heat the milk with the sugar just until the sugar is dissolved.
3. Run the parsnips through a food mill into the milk mixture. [It would be a good idea to run it through a fine-mesh strainer to make sure it's completely smooth.]
4. Add the vanilla and mix well.
5. Chill thoroughly and process in your ice cream maker.


  • At 4:47 AM, Blogger James Melendez said…

    Any eggs in the recipe?

  • At 8:35 PM, Blogger Matthew said…

    Nope, not in this one. I'm still trying to work out the pros and cons of French- vs. Philadelphia-style ice cream. Any idea what eggs would contribute?

  • At 3:29 PM, Blogger James Melendez said…

    leaving out eggs would produce a sherbet type of ice cream. The French would use half milk and heavy cream or straight cream with the sugar and parsnip puree. The eggs would be tempered into the hot milk/cream/parsnip mixture (creme anglaise) then returned on low heat and stirred until the mixture coats the back of a spoon (nappe). The creme anglaise is strained, cooled, and then placed in an ice cream maker. The result would be theoretically "parsnip ice cream."


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