Saturday, April 27, 2013

Cinnamon-Honey Fried Ice Cream

When I was 16, I got my first "real" job at the only mexican restaurant in North Platte, Nebraska where I was a senior in high school.  It was a small town and there were only a handful of restaurants to apply to and for some reason I had a major grudge against Applebee's so I went to the mexican restaurant first.  I learned a lot at that job and I actually really kind of loved being a server at a restaurant, but one of the best things I discovered working there was Fried Ice Cream.  I distinctly remember watching the chef and prep cooks scoops balls of cinnamon ice cream and then coat them in a mixture of cornflakes and honey and cinnamon before frying them for just a few seconds.  It was almost magical to me that ice cream could go into the deep fryer and come out solidly frozen.  So when I find out that the dinner party we were going to tonight had a mexican theme and I was assigned to bring dessert, I knew I needed to figure out how to make fried ice cream.
But when I started googling recipes online I was bummed to find that most of the recipes online just use plain old french vanilla ice cream, which seems so boring to me, and certainly doesn't compare to the cinnamon ice cream that the restaurant I worked at used in their fried ice cream.  Since you can't buy cinnamon ice cream in our local grocery store and I had the time and inclination to get a little fancy with dessert since it was my only contribution to the group dinner, I decided I would just make my own cinnamon ice cream.  Inspiration hit when I stumbled across a recipe for Cinnamon-Honey Ice Cream (after looking at 15 or 20 different cinnamon ice cream recipes).  I have adapted the recipe a bit (8 egg yolks seemed excessive, especially compared to the numerous other recipes I looked at for cinnamon ice cream and I wanted just a little more cinnamon flavor than the original recipe called for), but it is from a recipe book called Flour: Spectacular Recipes from Boston's Flour Bakery & Cafe
Honestly, this is quite possibly the best ice cream I have ever made.  It is the kind of ice cream that elevates you to a new plane of enlightenment.  The flavors of honey and cinnamon are subtle and smooth and round - not cloyingly sweet from too much sugar in addition to the honey and not overtly cinnamony like a stick of Big Red gum - just perfectly warm and mellow.  It is totally a flavor to try on its own, without anything added, just to experience its richness and interest.  I could see this taking apple pie a la mode to a whole new level.  When Paul and I were testing the results, we drizzled a little caramel sauce on the plain ice cream and it was fantastic.  I don't mean to oversell here, but seriously, this ice cream is delicious and if you don't have an ice cream maker, I would recommend buying one just so you can try making this. 
And this is technically non-fried fried ice cream because I didn't throw these into the deep fryer just before serving them.  Instead, I drizzled butter over my cornflake crumb mixture and toasted it in the oven for a similar flavor profile with less hassle.  And aside from the "wow" factor of having just tossed ice cream into super hot oil, there isn't much difference in taste between my version and the true fried version.

Cinnamon-Honey Ice Cream 

(original recipe found here)
2 cups whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
2 cinnamon sticks, broken in half
5 egg yolks
3/4 cup honey
2 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp kosher salt
In a medium pot, stir together milk and cream.  Break cinnamon sticks in half and add to the pot.  Turn heat to medium-high and scald the mixture by cooking until tiny bubbles begin to form around the edge of the pan (do not let mixture boil).  Take the pot off the heat and let it sit for 1 hour while the cinnamon steeps.
In a medium bowl, whisk egg yolks.  Then slowly whisk in honey, sugar, and ground cinnamon until everything is combined.
Set the milk mixture over medium-high heat to scald again. 
Whisking constantly, slowly add milk mixture to egg/honey mixture in small increments.  When two mixtures are completely incorporated, return to pot and set over medium heat.  Stirring continuously with a wooden spoon, cook until mixture thickens and coats the back of spoon (6-8 minutes).  Take mixture off heat and pour through a fine sieve into a bowl (I skipped the sieve step and just pulled out the cinnamon sticks and I think it turned out perfect). 
Whisk in kosher salt and cover bowl, then refrigerate until the mixture is uniformly cold (at least three hours).  When mixture is completely cold, churn according to ice-cream maker directions, then allow it to cure by pouring the soft ice cream into a container and freezing it in the freezer 2-4 hours or longer. 


Faux Fried Ice Cream

1 recipe Cinnamon-Honey Ice Cream
3 cups cornflakes, crushed into coarse crumbs
1/4 cup coconut
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup butter, melted
Scoop hardened ice cream into six 3-inch balls and place on a cold baking sheet lined with waxed paper.  Work quickly and immediately place ice cream balls in the freezer to harden for 2-3 hours.  The ice cream balls do not need to be perfect because they will be shaped better later when the crust is added.
In a medium bowl, mix cornflakes, coconut and cinnamon.  Drizzle melted butter over cornflake mixture, stirring until fully incorporated.  Spread in a layer on a baking sheet and bake at 375 for 10-12 minutes, stirring at least once in the middle of the baking time to toast the coconut and cornflakes.  Remove from oven and allow to cool completely.
Once ice cream is completely frozen and cornflake mixture is cooled, press crumb mixture into ice cream, shaping into a ball.  Work quickly and return to freezer covered in plastic wrap until ready to serve. 
To serve, drizzle with caramel (my favorite), chocolate, or strawberry syrup, then add a bit of whipped cream and a cherry.  Makes six servings.


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