As the temperature drops and New York's skies take on a dignified gray, we've put our window fans away and taken out our fall jackets. Summer may be on the way out, but making ice cream isn't. A new season brings a new set of flavors to play with, and favorites of ours are rich, dark ales and moist, spicy gingerbread. It allows us to do more work with alcohol and lots of spices, which, in retrospect, is turning into something of a hallmark of ours.
The key to a solid gingerbread, be it in cookie, cake, or ice cream form, is an intensive but considered use of spices and seasonings. Molasses is a must for a base flavor, but it needs to be balanced by another sweetener lest its dark twang overwhelm everything else. Too often gingerbreads taste nothing like ginger, usually the fault of old, low-quality powdered stuff, so we made sure to steep a generous amount of fresh ginger in our base, and stirred in some candied ginger as well.
A gingerbread lives or dies by its spices, and while our use of them here is both ample and aggressive, the end result is quite approachable. Yes, this recipe has a longer-than-average ingredient list, but our blend of autumnal spices becomes far more than the sum of its parts. Some unusual flavors are also present, but they each lend a special touch: the tiniest bit of chocolate for complexity, a hint of lemon for lightness, and a bit of black pepper that lingers in the throat.
To both add to the gingerbread flavor and make this a bit more exotic, we made this ice cream with Chimay, a Trappist ale. It comes in fancy bottles and is made by monks, but more importantly, tastes like a holiday in a bottle: sweet, rich, and spicy, with hints of dried fruit and chocolate. It lends this ice cream a bittersweet bread-like flavor and texture, not unlike gingerbread batter. Either the red- or blue-labeled bottles will serve you well.
A brief note about making ice cream with beer: all that extra water can turn an ice cream icy, so take out some texture insurance with extra sugar, egg yolks, or cream. Letting the custard cook till quite thick also does wonders, as does serving the ice cream slightly warmer than you would others. What with? Gingerbread, of course! Add some apples or pears browned in butter and you've got the perfect autumn-celebration dessert.
Ethan Frisch is the chef and co-mastermind behind Guerrilla Ice Cream, the only ice cream company that looks to international political movements for inspiration and donates all of its profits. He's traveled around the world (30 countries, 5 continents) and worked as a pastry chef and line cook in some of NYC's great (and not so great) restaurants. He lives above a tofu factory in Manhattan's Chinatown.
Max Falkowitz writes Serious Eats' weekly Spice Hunting column. He's a proud native of Queens, New York, will do just about anything for a good cup of tea, and enjoys long walks down the aisles of Chinese groceries.
- Yield:8-10 (makes about 5 cups)
- Active time: 45 minutes
- Total time:1 1/2 hours, plus overnight chilling
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1 cup whole fat milk
- 1 2/3 cups of Trappist ale, such as Chimay red or blue label, divided
- 5 tablespoons molasses
- 1-inch nub of ginger, peeled and sliced thin
- 4 three-inch long cinnamon sticks
- 5 whole cloves
- 3 star anise petals
- 4 allspice berries
- 2 cardamom pods
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 6 large egg yolks
- 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
- 1/2 ounce dark chocolate, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Zest of half a large lemon
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1/2 cup candied ginger, minced
In a 3-quart saucepan, combine cream, milk, 1 1/3 cups ale, and molasses. Add ginger, cinnamon, cloves, star anise, allspice, cardamom, nutmeg, and black pepper. Heat over medium-low heat until just below simmering, stirring often, about 15 minutes.
In a bowl, whisk together the yolks and brown sugar until thoroughly combined. Add one ladle of the cream mixture to the yolks while whisking constantly. Repeat once or twice until the yolks are warmed, then return everything to the pot. Readjust the heat source so liquid remains at just below a simmer.
Cook, stirring frequently until thickened (custard should coat back of spoon), 5 to 7 minutes. Add the chocolate, lemon zest, and the last 1/3 cup of ale. To test for doneness, stick in a spoon, then run your finger along the back. If the custard coats the spoon in a thick layer and leaves a clear line, the custard is ready.
Strain the custard into a heat-proof bowl and stir in the vanilla. Chill in refrigerator overnight. Churn the next day according to ice cream maker manufacturer's instructions. During last minute of churning, add the candied ginger.