I cannot believe that it’s already Thursday. I attribute the seeming disappearance of the week to the fact that I traveled to NY on Sunday, to house-sit while my parents are away for the next week. If you’re a regular reader, you know that I do this fairly often. It is, in fact, one of my favorite things. My parents take vacations to see family and go to things, and that means me, here in upstate NY, doing the exact opposite. Which is pretty much my ideal vacation. I make a mess of my mother’s usually pristine kitchen on a daily basis. I pick a ton of flowers from the gardens, then quell bouts of paranoia about some of them being poisonous because I think my throat feels funny, and maybe my face feels a little tingly too. (I read weird non-fiction medical books. This is the result.) I don’t answer the house phone. I barely look in the mirror. I wear the same comfy sundress until it actually feels dirty. In short, I have a grand ol’ time. Just me, nature, and a couple of cats.
Back before my little vacation, I made some delicious angel food cupcakes, which left me with a bunch of leftover egg yolks. I was pretty fixated on using them for ice cream, and as I was flipping through my copy of The Perfect Scoop, the recipe for Orange & Sichuan Peppercorn ice cream jumped out at me. I’d had my eye on the recipe for a while, as I love a little bit of unexpected spice in a dessert, especially a cold one. And since I’d also received a jar of sichuan peppercorns in my sample pack from Mark and Reese of Season with Spice, it was pretty much a perfect choice.
I decided that I wanted to add chocolate to the ice cream, seeing as chocolate + orange is great, and chocolate + spiciness is also great. Logically speaking, all three should combine to create one big heap of greatness, right? I won’t keep you guessing, the answer is definitely YES. BOLD ALL CAPS YES.
I realize that some might be skeptical of the idea of sichuan heat in an ice cream, but I promise you, it’s in no way overwhelming. The aroma of the peppercorns is almost floral, which makes them perfect for a dessert like this. When you eat the ice cream, the first flavor that hits you is the orange, and it pretty much just tastes like a delicious creamsicle. Then you get the spice and the chocolate simultaneously, which are awesome together, and work super well in contrast to the orange. And the heat of the peppercorns lingers a little, just enough to make you want another bite to cool your slightly tingly mouth. And the process repeats itself. Many times.
I think it’s possible that this is my favorite ice cream I’ve made to-date. And that’s saying a lot, because it’s up against some pretty tough contenders. I felt like SUCH a jerk when my mom discovered the ice cream in the freezer the morning before they left and said, “You made ice cream? So we can have some tonight for dessert?!” And I had to respond, “Well……I actually still need to photograph it.” (Don’t worry, mom, I’ll leave some behind for you guys!) Also, if you aren’t sure where to buy sichuan peppercorns, definitely check out the Season with Spice shop. You can find them there, along with tons of other awesome spices.
Orange & Sichuan Peppercorn Ice Cream with Chocolate Chunks
(adapted from The Perfect Scoop)
makes: 1 quart
3 tbsp sichuan peppercorns
1 1/2 cups of whole milk
1 1/2 cups of heavy cream, divided into 1 cup and 1/2 cup
1 cup of sugar
4 oranges (unsprayed, preferably)
6 large egg yolks
1 cup of roughly chopped bittersweet chocolate
Crack peppercorns into coarse bits with a mortar and pestle. (Alternatively, you can put them in a ziploc bag and smush them with something — rolling pin, hammer, wine bottle, meat tenderizer, etc.)
Heat the milk, 1/2 cup of the cream, sugar, and peppercorns in a saucepan. Zest the oranges directly into the pan. Once the mixture is warm, cover and remove from heat, and let steep for 1 hour.
Pour the remaining 1 cup of cream into a large bowl and set a strainer on top. Prepare an ice bath big enough to hold the large bowl. Rewarm the peppercorn-infused mixture and beat together the 6 egg yolks in a separate bowl. Once the peppercorn-infused mixture is warm, temper the eggs by slowly whisking it into the eggs a little at a time. Once you’ve incorporated the two, pour everything back into the saucepan.
Stir constantly over medium heat with a heatproof spatula, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula. Pour the custard through the strainer into the large bowl of heavy cream. Transfer bowl to the ice bath and stir until cool.
Chill the custard in the fridge overnight, then process in your ice cream maker as per the manufacturer’s instructions. Add the chocolate chunks in during the last couple minutes of churning.