01 September 2013

From Napoli, with Love: The Sweetest Trifecta

Neapolitan Party
While you were busy singing "I scream for ice cream!"I went home and whipped up two batches of the stuff: strawberry rosewater, and vanilla bean. And a chocolate cake.

I've never been a plain vanilla ice cream person, but David Lebovitz' recipe turned my stubbornness on its ugly little head, bean by crunchy minuscule bean. I followed the recipe exactly, except I doubled it. Because not filling my ice cream maker to capacity is a sin I just can't commit. And then I hit the repeat button but added boiled-down fresh strawberries, scaled down the vanilla, and tinged it with rosewater. Add Nigella's flourless olive oil chocolate cake, and I had a ramped-up, multimedium version of one of my favorite childhood ice cream flavors.

This tri-colored sugar party seems so nostalgically Midwest-grocery-store to me, but it (both surprisingly and not surprisingly) planted its roots in Naples but got all diva-popular in Paris and doesn't necessarily mean chocolate/vanilla/strawberry. But that's all my mouth ever knew Neapolitan to mean, so that it will remain for me. Except for the whole ice cream / cake swap thing, but believe me. I didn't go wrong here. It's an exquisitely balanced combo, but also pretty to look at. Until you notice the ice cream melting, at which point you'll saw your dreamy gaze in half and eat frantically.

I love other people's birthdays. They're a thinly shrouded excuse for gluttony. All you have to do is send a couple willowy pieces of cake home on the train with Mrs. Birthday, save a similar proportion for your spouse, and then you get the rest of the cake for yourself. And the ice cream, because it won't survive the train ride home. Or the train ride to work. (Apologetic shrug.) So sorry. Win-win-win.

I've included only the strawberry ice cream recipe, because the other two I made exactly as found in their respective virtual homes (links within the above text).

strawberry ice cream
strawberry rosewater ice cream

makes about 1 quart (1L)
adapted from The Perfect Scoop (Ten Speed Press)

  • 2 1/2 cups (500g) fresh or frozen strawberries
  • 1 cup (250ml) whole milk
  • A pinch of salt
  • 1 cup (150g) sugar
  • 2 cups (500ml) heavy cream
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (If you don't have access to the good stuff, make your own!)
  • 2 Tablespoons rosewater extract
  1. Over medium heat, bring the strawberries and a pinch of the sugar to a boil, cover, reduce the heat to low, and let simmer, stirring occasionally, for 30-ish minutes, or until the berries have broken down. When you can mash the berries easily into a mostly-homogenous pulp, and they're highly fragrant and in a deeply red syrup, remove from heat.
  2. Heat the milk, salt, and remaining sugar in a saucepan, stirring until steaming and the sugar is dissolved. Cover, remove from heat, and let cool slightly.
  3. Set up an ice bath by placing a 2-quart (2l) bowl in a larger bowl partially filled with ice and water. Set a mesh strainer over the top of the smaller bowl and pour the cream into the small bowl. (Or, if you're like me and never have ice, you can put the cream in the 2-quart/2L bowl and place in the freezer for an hour to chill it.)
  4. In a separate bowl, stir together the egg yolks. Rewarm the milk then gradually pour some of the milk into the yolks, whisking constantly as you pour. Scrape the warmed yolks and milk back into the saucepan.
  5. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom with a heat-resistant spatula, until the custard thickens enough to coat the spatula. Remove from heat, and add the strawberry compote, stirring well. 
  6. Strain the custard into the heavy cream, pressing down with a spoon or spatula to get as much strawberry flavor into the cream as possible, leaving only the pulp behind. Stir over the ice until cool, add the vanilla and rosewater extracts, then refrigerate to chill thoroughly, preferably overnight.
  7. Freeze the custard in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions, then transfer to an airtight container in your freezer.