The ice cream project: sour cream anise ice cream
This one is a shameless ripoff of an ice cream I've eaten at Sanford, which is the local place I most highly recommend if someone else is paying. I was intrigued by the idea of sour cream ice cream when I saw it on the menu and I figured I would give anise a shot. It blew me away.
I grew up avoiding anything that might taste like black licorice or jelly beans, which I still abhor, but over the years of my progressively zealous food love I have learned a thing or two about that distinctive anise flavor. The revelation came when I figured out that two foods I really crave, Italian sausage and Thai curry, are both made with anise-y ingredients (fennel and Thai basil, respectively). This made me reconsider my aversion to all things anise. The next step was warming up to fresh fennel, a food I never ate until I was in my late 20s, and eventually also to Ouzo and Pernod. Anise goes really well with sweet flavors and is often used in Eastern European baking, not that I know anything about that. I like it now enough to seek it out. (At this point there are almost no flavors I really dislike. Black licorice is just so strong, so that would be one. I eat some of them now and then so it's not a total aversion, but I also dislike bananas. I wish I didn't but I do. Aside from black licorice and bananas, I don't think there's any food I would politely decline on the basis of not liking its flavor.)
I made this ice cream because I had cream and sour cream in the fridge past their use-by dates. I had only two eggs, moreover, so I wanted an ice cream that I thought would be thick enough without my usual yolk-rich mixture. Sour cream is thick, I reckoned, and can compensate for some of the eggs. I reckoned right. Like my caramel ice cream, this one was so thick it hardened in no time at all. Faster freezing means less overrun. Overrun is the air that is beaten into ice cream as it churns, and less air means more creamy, dreamy. (Commercial ice creams can be up to half overrun by volume, which means that you end up eating a lot of air.)
To make this I first steeped a teaspoon of anise seeds in a cup of heavy cream by heating the mixture just to a simmer and then leaving it for half an hour.
Then I proceeded with the custard method using five oz. vanilla sugar, 1 cup sour cream (full fat of course), half a cup of heavy cream, and two yolks. I reserved the heavy cream to stir in after the cooking. When it was thick on the stove I strained the seeds out and left it in the fridge to chill.
As you can see from the paddle, the mixture was very thick. It froze in about three minutes, and I quickly transferred it to the freezer to harden. It scooped beautifully a few hours later and had that gelato/frozen custard texture that pleased me so much in my caramel ice cream: ultrarich, perfectly smooth, no ice crystals on the tongue. The flavors combine beautifully, like natural complements. Like cream cheese and buttermilk frozen desserts, sour cream ice cream introduces a welcome tartness that balances ice cream's sweetness and wakes up the tongue. It's really great.
Sanford serves this with lemon pound cake and lemon curd but I can't be bothered to make stuff like that. I take my sour cream anise ice cream straight up.
My other ice creams: