When you live in a small town with a limited number of recreational options, you tend to have home dinner parties. At least, that’s what my friends and I do. Invite some people over, cook something you can’t necessarily get your hands on at the corner bar and grille, have some cocktails and conversation. Guests are often assigned to bring dessert and so, for the most recent dinner foray at a friend’s house, we brought homemade ice cream. Since we knew said friend was making Thai curry (more easily available to us here than it was a few years ago but nevertheless, not standard takeout fare) I wanted something that would “go” with that. I had a box of Thai tea laying around and so, Thai iced tea ice cream became a reality.
For those who have never had Thai iced tea, believe me when I say it is a glass full of realized happiness. The tea is warmly spicy and slightly orangey and sweetened with condensed milk. When I get one I have to pace myself or I swear I will drink the whole thing in one giant, straw-sucking slurp, social propriety be damned.
It’s that good.
So, turn it into ice cream. Why not? A former co-worker once said to me, “All the positive energy in the world goes into ice cream” and who wouldn’t want to bring that to a friend’s house? I’m in. I used this recipe with, of course, a few minor modifications and some suggestions along the way. The first suggestion: make sure you get tea leaves that say they are a “Thai tea mix” or “Thai seasoning mix”. The sort I used said it was “original Thai tea”, so it was a dark Ceylon, but it wasn’t nearly as spiced or orangey as I wanted it. C’est la vie. We live and learn. And it was still delicious.
Of course, first things must be done first, and this is one of the pain-in-the-butt things about making ice cream, especially with the sort of maker we have. There’s no, “Hey, I have a great idea! Let’s make some ice cream NOW!” moments to be had. The churning sleeve has to be frozen, so you really need to put it in your freezer overnight; if you hear any sloshy sounds when you shake it, it’s not ready to use.
So, next morning: assemble your starting lineup of ingredients.
As an aside, for those of you curious about the different between evaporated milk and sweetened condensed milk, follow this link for a very good, basic explanation. Since I didn’t have loose tea leaves and lack the patience to cut open tea bags and measure the actual leaves, you’ll notice that I stuffed a bunch of bags into a 1/4-cup measuring cup. I think I used eleven bags. It was plenty strong enough.
Measure out the appropriate amounts of things and put all this–the cream, both milks, the tea, the sugar and, though it doesn’t call for it in the recipe, a goodly pinch of salt–into a sauce pan. Warm it until it’s hot and almost simmering, and then take it off the heat and let it sit. The longer it sits, the more the tea steeps into the cream. I let this go for about an hour and a half. Once you’ve decided it’s steeped long enough, squeeze the tea out of the bags and reheat the mixture to its previous temperature: hot, but not simmering. Let it rise in temperature gradually, since you’ve got some other stuff to do and it’s easier to keep an eye on a gradual rise in temperature.
Meanwhile, separate five eggs since you’re just going to need the yolks for this recipe. Here are some suggestions for what to do if you want to save the whites for future use; just remember to freeze them as independent entities and not all in one lump container, if you think you may want to use the whites for more than one purpose.
You’re going to need to create a custard for the ice cream which means, tempering your eggs. When you temper eggs, you raise their temperature slowly, so they can be incorporated into a hot mixture not as scrambled eggs but rather as a silky ambassador of body and flavor and fats. Pour the hot milk and cream mix slowly–sloooowly–in a thin stream into the eggs, whisking the entire time. Take a break from the pouring to just whisk and whisk. Once you’ve got about half the milk incorporated into the eggs, add the whole thing back into your saucepan, put it back on the heat and keep whisking. Since I lack either a third hand or a prehensile tail, I couldn’t photograph myself doing this so here’s a nice tutorial and slideshow from Serious Eats.
Stir it until it thickens; the classic test you can do to check if the custard is ready is the back-of-the-spoon test. Simply, stick a spoon into the custard. If you can draw your finger through the custard across the back of the spoon and said custard doesn’t run back together, it’s ready.
It’s like I deforested it. Anyway. Now you need to let the custard cool. Theoretically, you could let it sit out until it’s cooled naturally, and then put it in the fridge and wait for that to get it nice and chilled. But letting it sit at higher temperatures would invite a greater opportunity for things like bacteria to take hold. And let’s face it, that churning sleeve has been freezing since last night and waiting for the custard to cool on its own would add hours to the process; ain’t nobody got time for that. Solution?
It’s pretty simple. Put your smaller bowl with custard inside a larger bowl half-filled with ice and water. That will start to drop the temperature of the custard immediately. Change out the ice as often as necessary. Some recipes recommend putting the custard into the fridge to set up and chill out even more after it’s been bathed in ice but I just kept mine in as icy a bath as possible until it was time to churn and then?
No, I have no idea what caused the crack in my ice cream maker’s lid. Anyway. Twenty-five short minutes later…
We garnished the ice cream with orange milano cookies because…because orange milano cookies, that’s why. It’s also good with an drizzle of sweetened condensed milk, if you have any extra laying around. This ice cream was delicious, even if it wasn’t quite as orange-spiced as I would have wanted. It was one of the most intense black tea experiences I’ve ever had. Rich, dark, black tea, sweet with lots of cream…just like my grandmother used to make for me, only gone crazy. I think I need to get my hands on a smoky Russian tea and see what happens with that…
Enjoy, everyone! Have fun in the kitchen!