Sweet Bay Ice Cream
My own desire for cinnamon scented warmth tempts me to add varying combinations of these spices to everything I make. Cinnamon dusted pears fill my Basque cake, a vanilla cream filled delight from the French Basque region. A caramelized cinnamon ice cream, made with a Herme technique of toasting sticks of cinnamon under slowly caramelizing sugar sits on the cakes side. An apple strudle carries the traditional "apple pie" flavors of cinnamon, allspice, and ginger. But enough will soon be enough, and I can't spend the entire autumn come winter cloaking my entire menu in these warm spices.
With the temptation to over use these common spices, I have been left to find an alternative, quickly. The question is posed, how can I add warmth to my autumn menu without reaching for these spices? I found an answer in a small, pale leaf called Bay.
This humble leaf, almost forgotten to stews and soups, has ancient roots in glory and prestige. The leaf of the common laurel tree, bay once crowned Greek and roman victors, Olympic athletes, and was given to scholars and poets ceremoniously upon receipt of earned honors. Modern victors now receive recognition through gold medals and oversized checks, and the bay leaf is left to crown small glory in our kitchens.
Too long held captive on the savory side of the kitchen, these green woody leaves have a pleasant, autumnal quality reminesent of tea, magnificent in desserts. Their distinct flavor is familiar to every palate, yet offers an unexpected surprise when featured in dessert. Deep and earthy, the flavor is best presented as a companion to rich, creamy desserts.
Infused into the cream for pumpkin pie, bay offers a elegant alternative to the combination of nutmeg, cinnamon, and clove so familiar that it has it's own container in the spice isle. It is also a beautiful flavoring for a custard like creme brulee or pot-de-creme, creme anglaise, and ice cream.
Sweet Bay Ice Cream
8 to 10 bay leaves
1 cup milk
2 cups cream
1/2 cup sugar
4 large egg yolks
1. Break the bay leaves and place them in a small, heavy bottomed sauce pan. Add the cream and milk, and bring this to a boil. Turn the heat to it's lowest setting, and leave this mixture to infuse for half an hour.
2. After the mixture is appropriately infused, remove from the heat and set aside.
3. Whisk the egg yolks and sugar to a thick ribbon. Slowly temper the cream with the eggs, adding a little bit at a time, whisking well between additions.
4. Return the custard to the sauce pan. Cook this over medium low heat, stirring constantly with a heat proof rubber spatula, until the mixture thickens.
5. Strain the custard into a bowl and chill. This can be done quickly in an ice bath, or overnight in the refrigerator, covered well.
6. Churn in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturers instructions.