Tuesday, August 07, 2007

K is guest-blogging about Heston Blumenthal's perfect ice cream

There is obviously a good reason for stepping up as a first guest blogger: current recipe is inspired of In Search of Perfection by Heston Blumenthal, a challenging macho cookbook waiting for the boys’ egos to be satisfied. Browsing through the 20-plus step recipes Pille decided that it is not her style. Therefore it takes a guest blogger for Blumenthal to be featured here on Nami-Nami.

I noticed Jersey milk ice cream recipe in the book right away as it included dry ice as a freezing component (see here; note step 2 of the recipe: 'Put on safety gloves and protective goggles and open the packet of dry ice':). Carbon dioxide ice at -78.5 C is a familiar substance to me from constructing a cloud chamber for tracking cosmic particles, a well-known experiment in particle physics. Dry ice is mainly of industrial use and it can be bought only during working hours and from the industrial gas company situated far outside the city. While I was waiting for a moment to go and fetch it, our KitchenAid Ice Cream Attachment had finally arrived from Germany. Although using dry ice would have lead to dramatic photos of the mystical fumes sneaking out of the bowl, it seemed quite pointless to overcomplicate things.

Eliminating dry ice lead to an unexpected realisation: with just four components - milk, double cream, unrefined caster sugar and glucose syrup - to be heated gently until the sugar has dissolved, this is one of the simplest ice cream recipes one can possibly find.

Blumenthal’s book has a pleasant feature: thorough stories about finding the best ingredients, the essential part of a quest for perfection. For example ice cream recipe requires milk with fat content 5.2% from organic free-range Jersey cows. I have nice memories of cycling on a sunny autumn day through green pastures on Jersey Island few years ago and participating in a staring contest with a genuine free-range Jersey cow, but I also remember that it took me a multi-stop air travel and a whole day to get there. Besides Estonians do not use double cream with fat content 48%, we have whipping cream (fat content 35% - 38%) instead.

Therefore following Blumenthal’s footsteps, without compromising his perfectionism, called for creativity. I calculated that an average fat content of a milk/double cream mixture in the recipe was 21.2% and for the whole recipe 17.3%. (For the sake of comparison David Lebovitz's vanilla ice cream that Pille prepared a day before had 25.2% fat content for the dairy component plus 5 high-calorie egg yolks making an average fat content of a mix 21.4%). Using premium 3.5% milk and 35% whipping cream in 50/50 mixture I ended up with 19.2% fat for a dairy component and overall fat content 15.7%. That falls neatly in the middle of the range of 10-20% fat content, that according to Harold McGee is characteristic to most good ice cream recipes.

Glucose syrup is needed in the mix to give ice cream smooth, creamy consistency without the presence of yolks or high fat content.

After standard procedure with the ice cream maker, the end result was with smooth texture and notably milky, clean and fresh taste. I was resisting temptation to add a spoonful of Pure Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Extractor to throw in pieces of quality chocolate or to pour over some maple syrup. The recipe just seemed too simple. I closed my eyes and brought back childhood memories of a simple milk ice cream called Plombiir. In 1980s we had Soviet Union, iron curtain and stagnation and the producers did not yet know the virtues of artificial ingredients and milk & skimmed milk powders.

Blumenthal writes in his book: 'Perfection is the ultimate, the best something can possibly be. For many of us, the perfect meal won’t be some fancy restaurant food. Stuck on a desert island, our dream dish is more likely something we grew up with and have taken to our hearts.'

Apparently molecular-gastronomic image does not tell all about the chef of The Fat Duck.

For the Jersey milk ice cream

500ml Jersey whole milk
300ml double cream
80g unrefined caster sugar
100g glucose syrup

400ml 3,5% Alma piima
400ml 35% Alma vahukoort
80g demerara suhkrut
100g glükoosisiirupit

Segada ained kergelt kuumutades kuni suhkur on sulanud, jahuta. Jäätisemasinas segada madalal kiirusel kuni segu omandab pehme jäätise struktuuri. Jätta segu tahenema sügavkülmikusse.


Anh said...

Pille, how funny! I just watched Heston Blumenthal made this ice cream during his show lately. Glad you tried it out, and it worked! It rocked!

Alanna Kellogg said...

Surely, this is something entirely new: when before has a food blog's post included the words, um, what were they? particle physics? I also can't help but notice that it's 'all about the making', what about the eating? You scientist sorts, you. :- )

K and S said...

this post was fun to read! thanks :)

David said...

Hi Pille: Yes, if you use invert sugars, like glucose, you can cut back on the f-a-t, since it makes the ice cream smoother. (Glucose is hard to get in the US so people often use corn syrup, which is a questionable product in some people's minds.) And some people find the taste objectionable.

Glad you have an ice cream maker so you can play around. And yes, I would've added that vanilla extract !

Dagmar said...

Great post K, I enjoyed reading it! :-)

Anonymous said...

K, I'm surprised you hold back on the dry ice ! What happened to a boy's love of dangerous pursuits and complicated procedures !?

Jeanne said...

Great post, K! And so definitely written by a boy ;-) Ice cream sounds ridiculously simple once you take out the dry ice. And aren't those Jersey cows and their staring something else? I love them and I have to say their milk makes great cream for Jersey fudge!

Shaun said...

K - The texture for this ice cream does indeed look perfectly creamy, which is all one wants in an ice cream. I'm glad you did without the dry ice, only so someone like me could envision following this recipe. It is handly to have your equation to work out the ideal fat content required and how essential it is to fall between the percentages specified. Harold McGee makes science so approachable, at least to one of a less than scientific mind, like myself. Now that you've made it, do you wish you had added the vanilla extract, or is this recipe really the one for the perfect vanilla ice cream?

Anonymous said...

Anh - yes, it was pretty good even without dry ice

Alanna - there is a truth in what you say. I tend to lose interest in food when I have prepared and tasted it. Friends are for eating it up :-) However, I love to eat what Pille prepares.

K & S, Dagmar - thanks for commenting

DavidL - I wonder if the use of invert sugars /corn syrup was initially meant for reducing production costs while keeping the texture...

Roxy - there is a simple reason for avoiding dry ice: my limited time budget during working hours. You cannot get dry ice during the weekends or after the work, at least in Tallinn.

Jeanne - I guess Jersey cows are aware of their outstanding position in the cow-world and this is why their glance is so noble and understanding :-)

Shaun - McGee's book was Pille's present to me and I find myself consulting the book quite often. It is kind of a myth-buster for cooking and cooking myths are still common. Yes, I would add vanilla extract next time. Milk & vanilla is a proven match. As the taste of original ice cream is so pure and subtle, I guess the right balance will be important.

Anonymous said...

WTF? Hey it's not 5.2 percent like you said, Heston said he chose Jersey cows because their milk has 25 percent more butterfat than milk than most other breeds

Pille said...

Anon. - according to the UK Dairy Council info sheet, Jersey & Guernsey milk has just over 5% fat.