Cinnamon ice cream placates my yearning for something sweet. By the time it came to Sunday and #7 in my two-week Simple Summer Supper series, I couldn’t last another whole week without posting a dessert up. What’s supper without a dessert or two anyway?
Now to this ice cream itself. Whenever I make an ice cream I swear it’s the best so far. But, this cinnamon ice cream truly is the biz. I have made it three times in around two weeks but for guests, and so managed only a weeny spoonful each time. Even with that lip-tantilising amount, I realised that cinnamon ice cream was really special. It’s one of the creamiest, smoothest, subtlest but enriching ice creams you can ever savour. It works equally as well in summmer as winter (think of it melting into a good chunky homemade apple pie or crumble).
In Malta, so tradition has it, cinnamon ice cream has the honour of being the one served at weddings of old. I’ve attended no end of Maltese weddings and never been served cinnamon ice cream but think back fifty years or more and it would probably have been the ‘icing on the wedding cake’, so to speak.
Cinnamon Ice Cream history!
I won’t go into the history of ice creams in Malta, which date back to Arab times and saw the Knights of St John shipping ice picked from Mount Etna in Sicily; but I will say that eating an ice like this one on a hot midsummer day makes you appreciate just how rare a treat ice cream would have been in Malta in times past. Why cinnamon in particular as a wedding day special? The spice would probably have been expensive – even in a country slap bang on the Spice trading routes since ancient times – hence its use at occasions rather than every day. So make this, even if it means churning by hand if you’ve no ice cream maker. It’s now my go-to supper party dessert. This alone will be the talking point of your meal. The only slightly tricky part of making it is mastering the art of cooking up a real custard; the really difficult bit is managing to wait for it to chill between stages. I admit to leaving a lot in the bowl and licking it clean!
All images © Liz Ayling 2014
- 200ml full fat whole milk
- 500ml single cream
- 3 large or 6 small cinnamon sticks
- half a teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 80g sugar
- 6 large egg yolks (save or freeze – the whites are ideal for meringues)
- Separate the eggs. Whisk up the egg yolks til light and slightly frothy. Save (you can freeze) the egg whites. Set aside the frothed yolks in the fridge for now but remove 15 minutes before stage 3.
- Heat half the cream, broken up cinnamon sticks, ground cinnamon, the sugar and all the milk until steaming point. Turn off and leave to spice to infuse for an hour at room temperature to start with and then in the fridge.
- When you’re ready to make the custard, strain the cinnamon milk mixture through a fine sieve and then reheat to steaming point in a heavy-based saucepan.
- When steaming, very slowly and steadily pour the heated milk into the bowl with the egg yolks, whisking as you go. Don’t be tempted to dump it in all at once otherwise it will make scrambled eggs!
- Then, pour the entire mixture back into the saucepan, add the rest of the cream and heat over a medium heat. Whisk all the time to cook the custard. Use a good whisk or a rubber spatula, sweeping the bottom of the saucepan. You must keep the heat low to medium to ensure the custard cooks but does not burn. Once the custard thickens to coat the back of a spoon, switch off the heat and pour the custard into a jug. Leave to cool, then place in the fridge to really chill, preferably for a day, but 3 hours minimum.
- Now you’re ready to churn the ice cream. This takes around 10 minutes in an ice cream maker (a custard-based ice thickens very quickly). To make by hand, pour the custard into a freezer-proof container and freeze for an hour, then remove from the freezer, whisk up to break any larger ice crystals forming, and refreeze for an hour. Repeat 2 more times to ensure the ice cream creates a smooth look when frozen rather than having large crystals. In general, custard-based ice creams don’t form large crystals, unlike no-cook or more watery, fruit ices.
- Serve with wafers of choice and a sprinkling of ground cinnamon if you like.