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Lemongrass-Infused Ice Cream with Coconut Milk

Lemongrass Infused Ice Cream with Coconut Milk
Lemongrass Infused Ice Cream with Coconut Milk

Summertime is ice cream season at our house. I suppose it started with a need to make myself use small appliances purchased impulsively years ago. Appliances such as the ice cream maker. Homemade ice cream is really easy, though the hard part is making sure you set the maker-bowl in the freezer at least 24 hours in advance. I just keep mine in the freezer all summer. You also need to let the custard cool down completely before putting it in the ice cream maker. Ergo, you need to work on it the day before you want it. If you don’t do either of those two steps, you will simply have ice cream soup.

Next is your ice cream base, it goes something like:

1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 cups whole milk
3 egg yolks
2/3 cups of sugar
1 vanilla bean, split, beans scraped out, bean reserved

This produces about a quart of ice cream.

There are many variations on that theme (milk vs. half-n-half, amount of sugar, number of egg yolks). This is the one I’ve memorized and stick to. Besides fresh eggs and cream, the most important ingredient is the vanilla bean. They are pricey, but if you can get them in the bulk section of Whole Foods or The Wedge, they aren’t much more than $2. I have learned that ice cream is one of those things that isn’t necessarily cheaper to make at home. Though for the quality and quantity you get, it’s more of just a fun way to be creative in the kitchen.

After this, at our house, we start jiving on flavors. Flavors that will complement a cake or pie, flavors that take advantage of a seasonally abundant ingredient, flavors that simply sound like they’ll be good. Today, I wanted to use up some scraps in the fridge. I had leftover lemongrass stalks from a peanut sauce, and a half can of coconut milk from Jamaican rice and peas, and lemongrass coconut ice cream sounded good! So away we went!

Here is what you need for lemongrass coconut ice cream:

6 stalks of lemongrass, rigid leaves removed, tender parts chopped
1 cup regular coconut milk (not light!)

Dissolve the sugar in the milk and cream, add lemongrass and vanilla bean. Place the heavy cream, milk and sugar in a heavy-bottomed saucepan and begin cooking over medium to medium-low heat. Add the chopped lemongrass. Scrape out the seeds of the vanilla bean and add the seeds and the bean to the custard. Stir until sugar is dissolved.

Temper eggs. If you added the eggs to the warmed liquid in the saucepan, it would make scrambled eggs. We want to warm them up before adding them in so they stay silky. Lightly whisk the eggs in a small bowl. Use a tablespoon or quarter-cup to add the warmed cream and sugar to the egg bowl and whisk to blend. Do this a couple times, then add the egg mixture into the saucepan and mix.

Cook until the custard thickens. Cook on medium to medium-low, stirring constantly. Do not let the mixture boil. Cook until it coats the back of a spoon, 7-10 minutes.

Add coconut milk, and chill for several hours, preferably overnight. Place the custard in a bowl. Pour in the cup of coconut milk and stir just until blended. Get a piece of cling wrap and seal so the cling wrap touches the top surface of the custard, and comes up the inside of the bowl. If you don’t do this, a skin will form on the custard. Place in the refrigerator overnight to allow the temperature to come down, and all the flavors to develop.

Make ice cream (best part!). Oh, and don’t forget to strain. Set your frozen ice cream bowl into your stand mixer or appliance, place all the gizmos in place and turn on. I inverted a mesh strainer on the inside of the bowl as I poured the custard into the mixer. When I got toward the end, I used a slotted spoon to scoop out the lemongrass bits and vanilla bean, then dumped the last couple tablespoons in the mixer (because that last part had tons of vanilla bean seeds I didn’t want clinging to the bowl). You can also strain the custard into another bowl, then dump the whole thing in the mixer. Mix for 15-20 minutes, or until you see you have nice thick, fluffy ice cream churning in the bowl.

I had actually made a lime curd I was going to swirl in at the end (again, trying to use up aging ingredients from the fridge), but it was so tangy I thought I’d save the lime curd for something else. This ice cream has a delicate flavor and would be served best by itself.