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Orange-cardamom ice cream

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When we were in San Francisco (Remember? Remember when we went to San Francisco and frolicked in its culinary pleasureland? Remember how amazing that was? Sighhh ….), we went to this place. I’d heard and read about it for a few years and had always wanted to go, but it suffers greatly by being a dessert-oriented business in close proximity (as in within 1 block) to this other place, which means my Mission-based dessert capacity is almost 100% always directed elsewhere.  But a 4-day trip to San Fran meant  daily trips to the Mission, finally a good time for Bi-Rite (as well as a stop to Pizzeria Delfina, since my Mission-based lunch capacity is also generally spent at Tartine).

Whenever I’ve heard about Bi-Rite I’ve heard the message, loud and clear: “SALTED CARAMEL ICE CREAM, GET THE SALTED CARAMEL ICE CREAM, IT WILL CHANGE YOUR LIFE AND GIVE YOU MAGICAL PROPERTIES AND IT MIGHT BE THE BEST ICE CREAM FLAVOR EVER INVENTED ON THE FACE OF THE WHOLE WIDE PLANET.” I’m not one to say no to the prevailing winds of ice cream flavors, so of course one of the two scoops we got was salted caramel.  Now, I’m also not one to diss perfectly good-tasting ice cream, especially one as good as Bi-Rite’s salted caramel ice cream, but I have to say I was a little underwhelmed. I think if I hadn’t been promised the magical properties and been told approximately 1,000 times to get the salted caramel ice cream, and if everyone and their freaking mother wasn’t now making something with salt and caramel in some sort of combination, this would have been a lot more exciting. I can imagine that if this were the first salted caramel thing I’d ever eaten, I’d be pretty darn ecstatic. But this is approximately the 2,000th time I’ve eaten salt and caramel in the last three years, including that somewhat ill-fated time I made salted caramel ice cream at home.

In any case, this isn’t even about salted caramel ice cream (also, people: please stop talking about salted caramel ice cream).  This is about orange-cardamom ice cream. We tasted almost every flavor at Bi-Rite before choosing our second scoop (thank god there was no line behind us, although the somewhat less-than-pleased scooper acted as though there might have been), and at first I was a little apprehensive when Brett suggested orange-cardamom – our little sample of the flavor had been good, but there were so many other flavors that included things like: Cookies. Caramel. Coffee. Mint. Coconut. Gooey things. Etc.  But because I am a loving, patient, welcoming wife, I let it happen. And I’m definitely glad I did.

The cardamom and orange pairing was random, I thought, but perfect – floral, sweet, spicy, like if you melted a dreamsicle in a weak mug of chai. That might not sound as appetizing as I think it does, but that’s because I worked backward from the taste to the description, and going the opposite direction just doesn’t work as well sometimes.

This story is really getting somewhat long, don’t you think? So let me cut to the chase – I somehow ended up with more than 3 dozen eggs and more than 20 pounds of lemons in my kitchen. (I say “somehow” like it was a miraculous apparition, when really it was my just my friend Chris delivering said items from his over-producing house. Also that isn’t even “the chase,” so I’ll get back to the point …) Faced with such a bounty, I came up with a list of things that include lemon and/or eggs in large quantities – lemon curd, lemonade, lemon bars, lemon meringue pie, lemon ice cream. But then I opened my ice cream book to the lemon ice cream recipe, and on the facing page was a recipe for orange-Szechuan pepper ice cream with an ever-so-slight footnote at the bottom that you could replace the pepper with cardamom. IT’S LIKE EVERYONE IN THE WORLD KNOWS ABOUT ORANGE-CARDAMOM ICE CREAM BUT ME, I sighed (heavily) to myself and immediately changed course.

p.s. It’s official: orange-cardamom is the new salted caramel. Or something like that.

Orange-cardamom ice cream
Adapted slightly from The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz

  • 2 tsp. cardamom pods (you can find these sometimes in bulk spice sections, especially at ethnic markets) or 1/4 tsp. ground cardamom
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 4 oranges
  • 6 egg yolks

– Grind the cardamom pods in a mortar and pestle to remove the pods and slightly break up the peppercorn-like insides.

– Combine the milk, 1/2 cup of the cream, the sugar, and the cardamom (pods and interiors) in a medium saucepan. Zest all 4 oranges into this mixture, squeeze in a few teaspoons of juice, and heat over medium heat until it starts to steam. Remove from the heat and let steep, covered, for at least 1 hour (and not more than 2 or 3, but I don’t know why you’d put another hour or two between you and eating this ice cream).

– Rewarm the milk mixture. Pour the remaining cream into a large bowl with a mesh strainer on top (or some configuration where you’ll strain the milk mixture into the bowl of cream, to remove the pods and any curds that form in the coming steps).

– Whisk together the egg yolks in another bowl that is big enough to hold the eggs and the milk mixture. Slowly pour in the warmed milk mixture, whisking all the time. Pour all of this back in the pan.

– Cook the milk/egg mixture to form the custard – over medium heat, whisking constantly, until mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon so you can leave a trail (the typical making ice cream routine – if you’ve never done it before, consult a cookbook or the internet for more info about this and about how to keep your custard from curdling).

– Strain the custard into the cream using the strainer, which will catch the cardamom detritus and extraneous zest (don’t worry, the flavor has seeped into the custard). Stir.

– Chill the mixture until not warm – either in an ice bath, in a stopped sink filled shallow with cold water (my preferred method), or just on the counter.  Chill overnight or as desired (I did about 7 hours), then make in your ice cream maker per manufacturer’s instructions. Freeze overnight or until desired consistency.

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6 Comments Post a comment
  1. Tawny #

    Now I really want you to go find a pint of Three Twins cardamom ice cream and tell me if you like it. Because nobody I tried to feed it to wanted it, myself included. It didn’t taste “bad” per se, just “not right.”

    April 1, 2011
    • bowenappetit #

      Huh. Well, this was delicious – cardamom is pretty intense, maybe it needs some other flavor to downplay it? I can see that. One time I put too much cardamom in a peach pie and it was really (really) unfortunate.

      April 4, 2011
  2. Hello! Do you think this might be good as a palate cleanser? Or would the cardamom be too overwhelming? It sounds delish! :)

    September 7, 2012
    • I think it would be great – I didn’t think the cardamom was incredibly strong here at all. But of course if you’re worried you could always try reducing the cardamom by half or so, and see if you like that. Let me know what you think!

      September 9, 2012

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