Here we are, under two-weeks-and-counting until Thanksgiving; my bar none favourite holiday of the year. There's a laundry list of things to do between that day and this, but I've got one thing settled - a secret to stash away in case of emergency on those busy days - and it goes like this: honey and toasted nutmeg ice cream.
It was in between plans of roasts and butter rolls that I started to consider a spiced ice cream. Not for the main event, as there's tradition firmly in place for that - intended instead as a ramp up to those times of feast and family. The theory was a sound one, as, in practice, having a pint of frozen ambrosial goodness sets a humming tone of anticipation for what's to follow.
I like it alone, and I'd like it with an apple cake or a slice of pumpkin pie. In the case of the latter I think the two custards, one frozen and one, well, pie - similarly smooth but contrasting in temperature and heft - would be particularly nice on a shared plate. Or if, say, this ice cream was employed to simultaneously spark the warmth and soothe the sour of that plum crumble I talked about before, that would work too.
Having said that, I don't know if I'd want it in mounded servings. A smallish scoop suits me fine, and a smallish spoon too. There's a reason behind this uncharacteristic moderation; despite the short list of ingredients, this ice cream's taste develops slowly on the palate. It meanders. It slips along on a base of cream, and the combination of honey and nutmeg is carried to a station greater than its beginning.
And on that note, there was a point as I whisked eggs and the cream steeped, that the combined scents of the two mixtures on the counter reminded me, worryingly, of eggnog. Our relationship is tempestuous, that between the Nog and me. It starts out festive and merry but often ends in the overstepping of boundaries and things taken too far.
I'm not ready to rekindle the romance; it is one best saved for the end of the year.
Lucky for me then, that when combined, there's a levelling to the egg and the spice. While the first introduction of this ice cream might be a vague suggestion of yuletide cheer, the actual impression it leaves is altogether different.
Without the boozy undertones of rum or bourbon or brandy, whatever your mix — and I'm not critisicing a boozy undertone, as I am a big fan — but without that alcoholic throatiness, the nutmeg blooms broader; with a tickling heat, yes, and also a higher, flowery, perfumed taste that is in beautiful cooperation with the honey's similar disposition.
(But don't let my particular mood stop the addition of a spirited pour into the mix.)
So there you are, set for Thanksgiving. And October. And Wednesdays.
Honey and toasted nutmeg ice cream
Adapted from Saveur Issue #134.
I have made this ice cream once with egg yolks alone and again with whole eggs. The batch with whole eggs had a clearer, brighter flavour of honey and spice. As one would expect, the egg yolks afforded a silkier custard, which had its own merit.
In the dead of winter, in need of a cold-weather-worthy ice cream and feeling particularly blithe, I might try it with 8 egg yolks for kicks. Go with what works for you.
1 whole nutmeg
1 1/2 cups milk
1 1/2 cups heavy cream (35%), divided
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup liquid honey
6 egg yolks or 4 whole eggs, see head note
1/8 teaspoon salt
Grate 2 teaspoons of nutmeg into a small skillet. Toast the ground nutmeg over medium heat until aromatic, around 2 minutes. Remove to a bowl and set aside.
In a medium saucepan, combine the milk and 1/2 cup of heavy cream. Add the rest of the (whole) nutmeg to the pot with the milk mixture and bring to a simmer over moderate heat. Remove from heat and allow to steep for 10 minutes.
In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks (or whole eggs, if using) with the sugar, honey and salt. Pouring in a thin, steady stream, whisk in the hot milk mixture into the eggs. Tansfer the mixture back to the pan and cook, stirring, until thickened, 8-10 minutes. Pour custard through a fine-meshed sieve into a clean bowl. Stir in the remaining 1 cup heavy cream and toasted nutmeg; cover custard lightly and chill.
Churn in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer's direction then transfer to an airtight container and freeze until set.
Makes 1 quart.
- The type of honey used will greatly impact the ice cream's flavour. A wildflower honey will be subtle and almost fresh, with the cream coming through, while a more robust buckwheat will be far more prominent.