Saffron Vanilla Buttermilk Ice Cream
I’ve been asked what my favorite dessert is before and I had to think about it for a while, but I think my wife, like any great woman, would have known the answer even before I did. Ice cream is really something special, seriously. It’s really such a simple thing, but how many desserts can make a group of kids lose their minds so quickly, compliment a warm slice of pie so perfectly, complete a day on the beach or actually get better as it melts? I can’t think of any and I bet you can’t either, so hands down my favorite dessert is ice cream. Now if I want a normal flavor of ice cream, for about $3.00 I can get almost any decent chocolate, vanilla, butter pecan (magical) or whatever flavor I want from any number of manufacturers. So when I am going to put forth the effort to make my own ice cream, it’s going to be outside the realm of what I can get anywhere.
My original intention with this ice cream was just to try using buttermilk as part of the base and make a vanilla buttermilk flavor. This was way too simple for me though, so I wanted to spice it up and what better spice to use than the world’s most expensive spice, saffron. Saffron is wonderful and I think people are a bit intimidated by it also, mostly because it’s high price. I say this because I know I was when I was first introduced to it years ago. Luckily I’ve found that Trader Joe’s sells a small amount of saffron for only $6.00, which is great and the thing with saffron is that a little bit goes a long way. The saffron imparted its unique flavor and brilliant color and combined with the mellow vanilla and tanginess of the buttermilk, this ice cream is sure to be a crowd pleaser.
1 Vanilla Bean
1 Tspn Saffron
4 Egg Yolks
1 cups Heavy Cream
1 cups Buttermilk
1/2 cup Sugar
First of all, please read your ice cream maker’s instructions. There is probably a bowl that needs to be in the freezer for 24 hours first. This recipe can easily be doubled, which you may want to do if you have more than 2 people in your house or an ice cream addiction. A thermometer is good to have also, but not necessary if you’re confident in your custard making skills.
Mix the egg yolks with the sugar and whisk them together right away. Sugar that sits on top of egg yolks can “burn” them after some time, causing little lumps that usually will not come out. This is also one of those things that I know can happen, but cannot tell you why it happens. If someone out there knows the scientific answer, I’m all about finding out. Next split the vanilla bean, scrape the seeds out and add them along with the saffron, whisking both in as well.
Combine the buttermilk, cream and vanilla bean pod in a pot and heat until scalding. Begin whisking the egg yolk mixture with one hand and very slowly pour about a third of the hot buttermilk mixture in. This is called tempering. It’s a process that raises the temperature of the egg yolks without immediately making scrambled eggs. Once everything is well incorporated, pour the egg yolk mixture into the buttermilk also whisking as you go. Turn the heat to low. At this point I like to switch to a rubber spatula for stirring, since a whisk can miss the corners of the pot and overcook the egg in those spots.
This is where a thermometer can come in handy. You want to get this mixture to 170º to cook the eggs enough, but also not overcook them. If you use a wooden spoon for stirring you can also check it by consistency. If the custard coats your spoon where you can draw a line though it with your finger and the line holds for a few seconds, then it’s ready. This consistency is known as nappe, a fancy French term.
Once your custard is done, place it in a bowl, cover it in plastic and let the mixture chill for a few hours in the fridge. Once cold, strain the mixture for the vanilla bean, saffron threads and any bits of egg that may have been overcooked. Churn in the ice cream maker and let freeze for at least 8 hours.