Funnily enough, the best Christmas present I got this year wasn’t actually something I was given, instead it was something I gave to someone else. This present was a long time in the making, for some years my father has wanted an ice cream maker.  Now my father is a good man, a good man who loves food and is a very adventurous, exciting person to eat with. He’s also someone who loves to collect kitchen gadgets, if it’s shiny and goes in the kitchen he thinks it would be a good thing to have. What he is not however, is a man who cooks. So whenever he brought it up this desire to acquire an ice cream maker we would have the following conversation:

“I’d love an ice cream machine”

“But you’ll never use it. I’ll use it. You will never use it.”

“Yes I will; I’d love to make my own ice cream.”

This is a conversation that had been going on for years. So finally this year, my sisters and I got together to make his dream a reality. Purchased in secret and hidden away until Christmas, when he finally opened it we made him promise that he would use it, and that it wouldn’t sit undisturbed in the box for years like his pasta machine. So it was dutifully unpacked, and recipes were researched, and shining and happy, our brand new Cuisineart Ice Cream maker joined the bench along with our other gadgets.

Guess what?

It’s nearly March now and as anticipated, he hasn’t used it. I’ve used it. He has never used it.

But I don’t care because oh how I have used it. I had no idea that these babies were so much fun. I started out small, making strawberry and framboise ice cream, but soon after that things started getting weird. I have a list of flavours waiting to be made that includes but isn’t limited to:

  • Chocolate and rosemary
  • Lavender shortbread
  • Brown butter
  • Gin and tonic sorbet

I’ve limited myself to making two batches a month maximum because honestly, otherwise I would be eating ice cream for every meal and pretty soon things would spiral out of control. Out of my experiments so far, I’ve had two particularly successful flavours.

The first has been my hazelnut caramel ice cream (you might remember it from my five things teaser). This is the ultimate in rich indulgence. Thick, vanilla ice cream with ground hazelnuts blended in with a swirl of hazelnut caramel that is just the right combination of sweet, nutty and savoury to stop things from being too overwhelming. If there is any ice cream that is perfect for winter after a meal of slow braised oxtail, this is the ice cream. Yes, the recipe is a little complicated – but in all honesty it’s not that complex. It’s more just a matter of following step by step instructions that are all by themselves quite simple.

The other is the polar opposite. Matcha ice cream is just barely sweet with a strong green tea flavour that resonates throughout the palate. It’s a lot lighter than the hazelnut caramel and is a great dessert to eat on a hot day when the idea of anything too cloyingly sweet seems like too much to handle.  It has a very complex flavour that really tastes of the matcha powder, so if you don’t like matcha you might not like this much. On the other hand, if you do then you will love this. Plus it has an added bonus of being the much simpler of the two recipes.

Hazelnut Caramel Ice Cream

1 cup full cream milk
2 cups  cream
3/4 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
5 large egg yolks
1/2 cup ground, roasted hazelnuts

1/2 cup ground hazelnuts
3/4 cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons butter or margarine, cut into chunks
1/2 cup cream
1/4 cup hazelnut-flavor liqueur (eg frangellico)

First heat the milk, cream, and sugar in a large saucepan until just barely boiling. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the milk and  then add the bean pod to the milk as well. Bring the temperature down to just simering and leave for five minutes. Remove from the heat, and let the flavours infuse for one hour.

In a separate bowl, stir together the egg yolks. Rewarm the cream mixture and gradually pour 1/2 cup of the milk into the yolks, whisking constantly as you pour. Pour the warmed yolks and milk back into the saucepan. Cook over the custard over a low heat, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom to bring up the vanilla seeds, until the custard thickens enough to coat the spatula. If you have a food thermometer you want to be aiming for about 170 degrees c. If your mixture gets too hot it will begin to scramble, but don’t panic! Just quickly take it off the heat and strain it a few times through a sieve before you put it in the ice bath.

Strain the custard into your ice bath. Stir over the ice until cool and then refrigerate to chill thoroughly. Once completely cool, mix in the ground hazelnuts, freeze the custard in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. The ground hazelnuts will give the ice cream a slightly grainy texture, so don’t worry if you find your ice cream isn’t completely smooth as that’s to be expected.

To make the hazelnut caramel, in a medium sized saucepan combine the sugar and the butter. Shake the pan frequently to mix the sugar and butter, but do not stir it as this might cause it to sieze. When the sugar and butter are melted together completely and have turned a dark amber colour remove from the heat. Make sure you watch carefully because sugar can go from not dark enough to completely burnt in seconds.

Once off the heat add the cream, ground hazelnuts and liqeur and mix until the caramel is smooth. Return it to the heat and stir until it boils vigorously and then bring back off the hook. Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate until it has cooled and thickened.

Once the ice cream has churned and the hazelnut caramel has cooled, swirl the caramel through the churned ice cream and transfer into a container and freeze for at least three hours. Check occasionally to make sure the caramel hasn’t sunk to the bottom, if it has – mix with a spoon.

Matcha Ice Cream
This recipe is adapted from Manu’s Menu

2 cups of cream
½ cup sugar
3 tbsp Matcha (100% natural green tea powder)
1 pinch of salt

Put the cream, sugar and salt into a medium sized sauce pot until it comes to a full boil. Keep whisking until it starts to bubble, then remove it from the heat and whisk in the matcha powder.

Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and let it cool down until completely chilled over an ice bath.

Churn for 20-25 minutes in an ice cream maker, according to the manufacturer’s instructions and then transfer into a container and freeze for at least 3 hours before serving.