No sooner had the ice cream churner refrozen after yesterday’s batch of fig, it was back in action. I was digging deep to think what would complement the fig with a more subtle, creamy-based ice, when I remembered I’d made a fig presse’ starter with goats cheese (Maltese: gbejniet) last year for a dinner party. An idea occurred – what about a goats’ cheese and a fig ice cream duo?
Cheese ice creams have to be among the weirdest; perhaps ideal between courses to clear the palate if it doesn’t work as a dessert, I thought. However, eschewing the goats’ cheese (difficult to get the genuinely fresh in summer months from Gozo), I opted to try ricotta ice cream. We came across it in Caffe’ Umberto in a small, nowhere-in-particular and certainly not touristy, hilltop town north of Ragusa called Chiaramonte Gulfi. Their ricotta ice cream is a delicate dreamy mouthful. With some ingenuity in working out quantities, mine is not far off the real Sicilian (I think!). For an ice cream newbie, I was quite pleased with the result.
I used a 300g chunk of the crumbliest, freshest ricotta from the local village, hole-in-the-wall grocer’s, Charlie’s. Supermarket longer-life will be just as good. If you get the crumblier, rough-cut sort, just sieve it at hot custard stage (see recipe below). It won’t all melt in but don’t whisk out all the grainy-ness. It needs a slight texture.
This is so divine an ice cream, you can eat it unadulterated. A drizzle of chilled Limoncello, very little mind, gives it dinner party style. Seductive and zesty at the same time. Or put it together with fig ice cream and you’ve the perfect mezzo tempo dessert duo; one mouthful dreamy light summer; the next, redolent of autumn’s ripe harvest.
(inspired by Caffe’ Umberto, Chiaramonte Gulfi)
300 g ricotta (crumbly better)
400 ml whole milk
120 g granulated sugar
6 large egg yolks
This is a custard-based ice cream so you just need to know a few tips to get the custard bit right, otherwise ice cream is very easy to make.
Heat milk and sugar in a non-reactive pan until steaming, but not to boiling point, and the sugar is dissolved. While the milk heats, whisk the egg yolks in a largish bowl. Very slowly, pour the warmed milk in a small stream into the eggs yolks, stirring continuously (ideally with a spatula or whisk). If you pour slowly, you will avoid the egg mixture turning to a scrambled egg consistency! Once combined, return the egg custard mix to the pan to cook on a medium-low heat, again stirring all the time so the custard doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.
Once it thickens enough to coat the back of the spatula, but is not overly thick, remove from heat and stir in the crumbled, broken-up ricotta. The heat of the custard should melt most of the ricotta. If you find it too grainy, strain the custard through a sieve. It should have a little bit of grain to it though as that’s its beauty.
Leave to cool completely (refrigerate for a minimum of 2 hours but preferably longer) and then transfer to your ice cream maker. I find custard-based ice creams take less time to freeze to the right consistency in makers. It should ‘glob’ off the machine’s stirrer in heavy clumps, not drip, when it’s churned enough. Freeze and use within a couple of weeks to enjoy it as its peak.
When serving, stand out for five mins so you can scoop it easily. Drizzle over a little Limoncello for a perfect indulgent dessert!
All images © Liz Ayling 2012