4-8-10

EARL GREY ICE CREAM

MAKES 1 PINT

Sweet Jesus, people. It has been godawful hot in New York these last few days. I know, I know — it’s uncool to gripe about sunshine. But in the first week of April, it does feel a little uncanny. I mean, this is get the A/C out hot. Short dresses and sweaty thighs hot. July hot.

Ice cream hot!

Yes, summer has come early — to my kitchen at least. With the tinny echo of the Mister Softee truck tinkling in my head, I broke out the ice cream maker yesterday, and prepared the year’s inaugural frozen treat. Flavor-wise, though, I stuck to the season: after all (according to the calendar, at least) it’s still early spring, and strawberries and peaches are months away yet. Tea seemed more like the thing, Earl Grey to be specific. The subtle perfume of bergamot makes such a classy partner for milk and sugar, it actually works in any number of desserts, from pound cake to truffles. But it especially shines in this simple recipe, whisked into a custard with brown sugar and sweet cream, frozen, and packed to chill in the ice box. Seriously: soft serve has never tasted so sophisticated.

1 cup whole milk
2 cups cream
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
6 Earl Grey tea bags
5 egg yolks

1. Combine the milk, cream, and sugars in a medium saucepan and heat over a moderate flame, until mixture is hot but not quite simmering. Turn off flame and place teabags in saucepan. Cover and let steep for one hour.

2. Remove the teabags from the saucepan and warm the milk and sugar mixture again. In a large, heatproof bowl, whisk egg yolks. When the milk is warm, drizzle 1/4 cup into the egg yolks, whisking vigorously. (This tempers the yolks.) Then pour the remainder of the hot milk mixture over the yolks, whisking constantly until smooth and well combined.

3. Pour the egg and milk mixture back into the saucepan and cook, stirring frequently, over a low-medium flame, until it thickens, about 6 minutes. (It’s done when it coats the back of a spoon.) Transfer custard to a bowl and place in the refrigerator to chill for at least 1 hour. Then, pour it into your ice cream maker and process according to the manufacturer’s instructions. But very likely, unless you’re going for a soft-serve style, you’ll want to freeze it for another 6-12 hours after it leaves the ice cream maker to get a nice firm scoop.

Serve sprinkled with cocoa nibs, granola, or jimmies.

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