Ice Creams & Sorbets

Belle Helene

For my next caramel challenge, I attempt Pierre Hermé’s version of the classic Belle Hélène.

The traditional Belle Hélène includes poached pears served with vanilla ice cream and a chocolate sauce.  Pierre Hermé’s version includes a few substitutes, bien sûr.  Most notably, the ice cream choice is chocolate and the sauce, caramel.  He also includes pear halves instead of whole pears.  Because of this, I originally started plating the dessert instead of serving it up ‘sundae’ style.  I was afraid the pears would be lost and wanted to display them more prominently.

So I carefully cut and fanned a pear on a plate.  Then drizzled with caramel sauce.  Setting that aside, I made a spun sugar ball as final decoration.  Next, the-clock-is-now-ticking part.  I made a perfect quenelle of ice-cream and delicately added to the plate.  I was shocked and then horrified to see it immediately starting to melt practically as soon as it made contact with the plate – and before I could even pick up the camera.

I am not sure if it was because the spoon I used to quenelle the ice cream needed to be warm so it already started the ‘melting process’, or if the plate should have been chilled, or if the eggless ice cream is more difficult to work with?  Any thoughts?

So Plan B it was.  The original sundae serving suggestion.

I quickly made some more sugar threads to top the sundae. I flattened them out slightly to achieve a little contrast with the shape of the pear.  (I should point out that this caramel decoration is not part of Pierre Hermé’s recipe, but when reading through it, I wanted to inject a little more caramel into the dessert.)  The rest of the sundae came together quickly.  And with just enough time to take a photograph, or two.

In terms of flavours, it was a delicious combination.  I already have plans to make additional caramel sauce to keep in the fridge – as back-up.  The chocolate ice cream was a refreshingly light version of the more popular creamy variety.  And the pears?  A simple lemon-vanilla syrup certainly infused its way throughout this fruit.  I am not typically a big fruit dessert fan, but the delicate flavour of these pears will certainly have me coming back for more.

My next caramel challenge will absolutely be something with a little more ‘shelf life’ – for my sanity, if nothing else!  And as soon as I receive the wedding photographs (pending!), I will do a little update on the wedding macarons favours and a few snaps from the big day.

{ Belle Hélène } recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé and Dorie Greenspan
* Ingredients *
29 oz (825g) can of pear halves in syrup
1 cup water
½ cup sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Pulp from half a vanilla bean
* Directions *
Drain the pears.  Bring water, sugar, lemon and vanilla to the boil.  Remove and pour over pears.  Cover with wax paper and refrigerate overnight.
Caramel Sauce
* Ingredients *
½ cup heavy cream
½ cup sugar
3 tablespoons salted butter
* Directions *
Bring cream to a boil and then set aside.  In clean saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons of sugar over the bottom of the pan.  A soon as the sugar starts to melt and colour, stir with a wooden spoon until it caramelises.  Sprinkle over half the remaining sugar, and repeat.  Add the remaining sugar and cook until the colour is deep brown colour.  Take the pan off the heat and add the butter carefully (may splatter) and then add the cream.  Continue to cook until the sauce just starts to boil again. Remove from the heat and cool to room temperature.
Chocolate Ice Cream
* Ingredients *
½ cup powdered milk
3 cups whole milk
1/3 cup sugar
8 oz (230g) bittersweet chocolate, chopped
* Directions *
Set up an ice water bath with a small and large bowl and set aside.  Place powdered milk in sauepan and gradually whisk in whole milk.  When powdered milk dissolved, whish in sugar.  Bring mixtgure to the boil, then stir in the chopped chocolate and bring to the boil again.  Pull pan from the heat and pour the hot choolate mixture into the reserved small bowl.  Set the bowl into the ice water bath until cool.  Churn the ice cream in an ice cream maker following the manufacturer’s dictions.  Pack the ice cream into a freezer container and store in freezer for at least 2 hours.
Spun Sugar (recipe by Sherry Yard)
* Ingredients *
¼ cup water
1 cup sugar
* Directions *
Prepare an area for spinning the sugar.  Position two medium saucepans with metal handles at the edge of the kitchen counter/bench.  Let the handles extend out over the floor.  Place some newspaper on the floor to cach drips.  Combine the water and sugar in a saucepan.  Cook the sugar until the temperature reaches 300F or 150C.  Watch closely until the temperature edges up to 325F or 165C.  Take the caramel off the heat and let cool to about 275F or 130C.  Dip a fork into the caramel and carefully scoop out. Position the fork about 12 inches or 30cm above the handles and let the caramel flow off the fork, quickly wiggling the fork and draping the caramel back and forth over the handles.  After two or three forkfuls, stop and gather up the sugar threads and set aside and begin again.  Spun sugar needs to be used immediately.
Put two scoops of chocolate ice cream into the bottom of a long stemmed balloon shaped wineglass or other cocktail glass.  Top with a few pear halves and drizzle over some caramel sauce.  Top with spun sugar, if using.


Salted Butter Caramel Ice Cream

I remember the first time I saw snow.  I was in my twenties, but I felt (and acted!), like a five year old. I am almost certain I screeched with sheer excitement upon seeing inches of fluffy, white magic not only forming a soft blanket on the ground around me, but delicately falling from the sky flaunting its unique snowflake shape.

This snow spectacular was in Boston – my former residence for quite a number of years.  Winter in Boston certainly can be cold and long.  The snow can start before Thanksgiving and continue all the way through to Memorial Day.  During these months of chilly temperatures, apart from the typical memories of constant driveway shovelling, car windshield scraping, and leather boots waterproofing, there is one memory that has me shaking my head until this day.  Ice cream consumption.

It has been mentioned here, here, here and here, that New Englanders consume the greatest proportion of ice cream in the USA.  And after witnessing the hoards of lines outside fine purveyors such as JP Licks, Emack & Bolio’s, Herrell’s, and the former Steve’s (inventor of the mix-in!) throughout the city and surrounding towns, I do not question this fact at all.

I have recently been reminded of my years in Boston during my recent honeymoon.  Mr Mélanger and I took a relaxing and tranquil holiday to Tasmania.  For those unfamiliar with Tasmania, it is our most southerly state in Australia.  During our travels, we reached the magnificent World Heritage-listed wilderness of Cradle Mountain.  (Some photos from the trip below.)  As we were approaching the rugged alpine peaks of the mountain we could see they were still peppered in snow – which was a thrill to see given it is spring here in Australia.  Along the windy drive to the Lodge, it actually started to snow, too.

I had not seen snow since Boston.  I was that five year old kid again.  Moreover, after the thoughts of hoping there may be enough snow on the ground for a little snowball fight action, I thought of ice cream.  As you do.  With my ice cream food memory top of mind, I knew I would have to make some deliciously, rich ice cream as part of caramel month.

So back in sub-tropical Brisbane, I turn my attention to some refreshing ice cream.  For this task, I look to none other than the undisputed ice cream authority, David Lebovitz.  David showcases a mouth-watering double caramel ice creamon his blog.  The custard for the ice cream not only has been caramelised, but David incorporates crunchy caramel throughout the churning process at the end.  After the triple caramel feast, I elected to keep things simple, enjoying the single caramel overtones of the ice cream custard in its most pure form.

I followed the directions to the letter.  For this exercise, no point tweaking a recipe which had been expertly created.  Having made considerable quantities of homemade ice cream in the past (all due to the abundance of egg yolks I have on hand after all my macaron efforts!), I was not anxious at all by the directions.  The only area of watchfulness I noted was cooking the sugar.  If there is only one trick to making caramel, this is it.  The heating of the sugar to the right colour and temperature makes or breaks the caramel.  In this recipe, you want it to be a strong flavour, but certainly not bitter.

I have never enjoyed a caramel ice cream like this one.  Because of the caramel, it remains deliciously creamy even after freezing.  It would also be sensational with the addition of praline per David’s original recipe to add some further crunch.  I think this will be a firm favourite even after caramel month is over.

{ Salted Butter Caramel Ice Cream } adapted from David Lebovitz

* Ingredients *
2 cups (500 ml) whole milk, divided
1½ cups (300g) sugar
4 tablespoons (60g) salted butter
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 cups (250 ml) heavy cream
5 large egg yolks
¾ teaspoon vanilla extract

* Directions *
Make an ice bath by filling a large bowl about a third full with ice cubes and adding a cup or so of water so they’re floating. Nest a smaller metal bowl (at least 2 quarts/litres) over the ice, pour 1 cup (250 ml) of the milk into the inner bowl, and rest a mesh strainer on top of it.  Spread 1½ cups (300 gr) sugar in the saucepan in an even layer. Heat the sugar over low to medium heat until the edges begin to melt. Stir the liquefied sugar towards the centre until all the sugar is dissolved. Continue to cook stirring infrequently until the caramel starts smoking and begins to smell like it is just about to burn. Once caramelised, remove from heat and stir in the butter and salt, until butter is melted, then gradually whisk in the cream, stirring as you go. The caramel may harden and seize, but return it to the heat and continue to stir over low heat until any hard caramel is melted. Stir in 1 cup (250 ml) of the milk.  Whisk the yolks in a small bowl and gradually pour some of the warm caramel mixture over the yolks, stirring constantly. Scrape the warmed yolks back into the saucepan and cook the custard using a heatproof utensil, stirring constantly (scraping the bottom as you stir) until the mixture thickens. If using an instant-read thermometer, it should read 160-170 F (71-77 C).  Pour the custard through the strainer into the milk set over the ice bath, add the vanilla, then stir frequently until the mixture is cooled down. Refrigerate at least 8 hours or until thoroughly chilled.  Freeze the mixture in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Makes one litre

Cradle Mountain 1

 { Images } Distinctive alpine vegetation and temperate rainforest waterfalls of Cradle Mountain

Cradle Mountain 2

 { Images } Forest flora and local wildlife of Cradle Mountain

Cradle Mountain 3

 { Images } Abandoned Dove Lake boat shed at Cradle Mountain

Cradle Mountain 4

{ Images } Reflections and Cradle Mountain Lodge at Cradle Mountain