Summertime is finally upon us! Even here in San Francisco — where our summer months are notoriously cold and foggy — the sun is shining high and bright, the skies are a precise shade of coastal blue, and everyone’s outside enjoying the weather. We know it’s merely a respite from the gray gloom that will descend again, without fail; Three days of sun are all San Franciscans ever expect.
Another sure sign of the season: Ice cream and sorbet stories are everywhere. Today’s food section turned up as crammed full of ice cream as an apartment freezer: Make it, buy it, stand in line for it… the Chron‘s got us covered in the frozen-confection department.
As if that’s not enough, not one but two blog events this month are dedicated to scoopable sweets: Laura picked sorbet as this month’s “Hay Hay, It’s Donna Day” theme, and Meeta’s Monthly Mingle 12 focuses on ice cream. So I was already flipping through the recipe file when I got an email from the library, telling me that my copy of David Lebovitz‘s new ice-cream book — the darling of the blogosphere — is ready to be picked up, at long last.
OK, wow. Really, I can take a hint: Time to get churning.
I won’t bore you with another gushing post describing what a treat it is to read The Perfect Scoop — I’m too late to the ice-cream social for that, and I couldn’t possibly come up with any more synonyms for “mmmmm!” than you’ve already read elsewhere. Suffice to say that I was bowled over (har har) by all the delectable-sounding options — hello, chartreuse ice cream? — and picking just one recipe proved impossible. I compromised: One ice cream, one sorbet.
Sultry summer weather at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market seduced us into buying more stone fruit than two people could possibly eat, so we opted to sacrifice a few pounds’ worth for the apricot variation on David’s peach sorbet. Not wanting to overwhelm their perfect ripe essence, we substituted St-Germain liqueur for the recipe’s standard kirsch. The color was vibrant and the flavor sublime, but the texture turned a tad bit grainy for my taste. A beautiful scoop, nonetheless, but nothing to make me abandon my old standby ice-cream book.
Our second trial, though, helped me understand what all the swooning reviews were about. A perfect coconut ice cream doesn’t just toss a cup of shreds into a vanilla custard and freeze them up. Instead, it starts by infusing warm dairy with freshly-roasted coconut, steeping to extract subtle flavors. Then we strain the solids out of the coconut-scented cream, which is used to finish a rich, not-too-sweet custard base (and which I could barely restrain myself from eating with a spoon).
After churning and freezing, the mixture emerged as a beautiful, smooth off-white velvet, redolent with coconut but minus the “pencil shavings” texture that some (including Cameron) find unappealing. We loved it equally on its own and topped with toasted almonds for added crunch. But our favorite treat of all — sure to be the hit of the summer — paired the luscious toasted coconut ice cream with the icy apricot sorbet to make a Creamsicle-style treat to brighten even the cloudiest day.
Bring it on, summer. We’re ready for you.
Toasted Coconut Ice Cream
adapted from The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz
1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
1 cup whole milk
2 cups heavy cream (not ultra-pasteurized)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
5 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon dark rum
Toast the coconut on a baking sheet in a moderate (350°) oven for 5 minutes or until golden and fragrant, stirring occasionally to toast evenly.
Warm the milk, half of the cream, and the salt and sugar in a heavy saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the toasted coconut and the vanilla seeds and pod. Cover the pan and remove from the heat to steep.
After an hour, rewarm the infused mixture. Strain through a medium-mesh strainer into another saucepan, pressing down on the solids to extract all the liquid. Discard the solids, reserving the vanilla-bean pieces for another use, if desired.
Combine the remaining cream with the rum in a large bowl. In a separate large bowl, whisk the egg yolks together. While whisking constantly, slowly add the coconut cream to the egg yolks.
Return the custard to the pan and place over medium heat, scraping the mixture to avoid scorching. Cook until the custard coats the back of the spatula. Pour the custard through the strainer into the cream-rum mixture, and cool over an ice bath.
Cover the bowl of cooled custard, and place in the refrigerator until well chilled, preferably overnight. Freeze according to your ice-cream machine’s directions for custard-based recipes.