i’m fond of twin peaks, afternoons, inexpensive wine…

Okay, so I used to make ice cream ALL the time. In fact it was my default flavour vehicle, like, if I got the notion that X might taste good with Y, I’d put them in an ice cream together. These days, my bartendering self is far more likely to envisage how flavours would work in a cocktail, and my busy life of making cocktails (and, I concede, pestering other bartenders to make them for me) plus the fact that from October to January I was essentially going through a training montage except where I get more and more useless due to my mental health while Eye of the Tiger plays: it all adds up to not a lot of ice cream making from me. Which is a pity because damn it if ice cream isn’t one of my very favourite foods, not just to eat but to create recipes for.

“Mr Cooper, how do you take it?” “Black as midnight on a moonless night”

It was in a mood of buoyant, motivated optimism that I set out to make ice cream once more. The recipe in question was one I’d invented many years ago, back when I was writing a cookbook for Penguin (if you’re new here: I am a published cookbook author, yes) and felt like revisiting. The flavour is, specifically, coffee and cherry, but the name of it is Twin Peaks Ice Cream because I came up with it in tribute to the TV show. If you haven’t seen Twin Peaks, look it up on Wikipedia or I’ll accidentally spend seventeen paragraphs talking about it instead of ice cream, but its uneasy, dreamy weirdness was exceedingly and immediately compelling to me and I got into it in a big way. I still have a framed picture of central character Laura Palmer’s prom photo on my dressing table, just to keep me lightly spooked at all times. The flavours in question, however, reference the character Special Agent Dale Cooper’s unwavering dedication to coffee and his nakedly sincere admiration of the cherry pie he is served at the town’s diner.

Coffee and cherries might not immediately sound like they want to get into an ice cream together, but I confidently assert that they work beautifully. The coffee flavour comes by heating whole roasted coffee beans up in the cream before straining them out and turning it into a custard, and the cherries (Morello, from a jar) are added right at the end. The coffee’s bitterness is muffled by the blanketing effect of the cream, providing a rich backdrop for the tart sorbet-bursts of frozen Morello cherries, and the slight nuttiness of both – from the generally roasty flavour of the coffee and the marzipan territory that cherries naturally veer into – is extremely delightful in ya mouth. Not to mention pop culture references make everything more delicious, it’s just a fact.

“my log saw something that night”

If there is one soapbox I’m always at the ready to climb upon, it’s that you truly don’t need an ice cream machine to make ice cream. All I did was make this, bung it in a container, and put it in the freezer, and it was perfect. Like, that’s it. I used to think you had to stir the ice cream at intervals as it froze but these days I’m quite convinced that if you just freeze it and then eat it that’s all you need to do. Seriously. Anyway, now that I’m off my monumentally specific soapbox I will freely admit that this particular recipe does require some effort and confidence in your cooking skills. Making custard from scratch, with egg yolks, cream, and sugar, can be a little stressful simply because you’re trying to stir it over heat that’s high enough to slowly cook the eggs and thicken the mixture, but not so high that the egg can’t resist its natural urge to rapidly scramble. It is, however, a truly satisfying challenge and makes for a satiny, lush ice cream once frozen. If it’s all too much for you though I have a ton of ludicrously simple ice cream recipes for you and I’ll list some at the end of this post.

twin peaks ice cream

a recipe by myself

  • four egg yolks
  • 150g sugar
  • 600ml cream
  • a vague handful of coffee beans
  • a jar of pitted Morello cherries

Whisk the egg yolks and sugar together in a mixing bowl. Depending on your yolks this might form a kind of disturbingly thick paste, this is nothing to be concerned about though – you just need them mixed together. Gently heat the 300ml of the cream with the coffee beans together in a large saucepan until the cream is juuust wobblingly about to start bubbling, then remove it from the heat. Either strain the beans out or scoop them out with a small sieve, whichever is less stressful (for me: the latter.)  Briskly whisk a half-cupful or so of the coffee-infused hot cream into the egg yolks and sugar – you want to do it fast so that the yolks don’t seize up and cook in the heat. Whisk in another half cupful, and then finally just tip the lot in and stir to combine.  

Now! Throw all of this back into the pan, and stir over a low heat till it thickens. It will already be fairly thick, because there’s not a lot of cream, but persevere patiently and continue to stir, ideally with a silicone spatula, until it thickens somewhat. This should take about five minutes. It won’t really look noticeably different to when it started but don’t you dare overheat it and let it curdle: this is the bit of custard-based ice cream that’s a bit terrifying, and I freely admit it. Generally you’re looking for something that’s got the vibe of a good quality thickshake, and remove it from the heat immediately as soon as you suspect it’s at this point.

Immediately spatula this custard into a bowl or container and refrigerate it till chilled. From here it’s all easy stuff: whisk the remaining cream until thickened but not whipped, fold it into the chilled custard, and then stir in as many drained morello cherries as you like until it feels like it’s suitably cherried. Like seriously, it’s up to you, it just depends on how many cherries you want in your damn ice cream.

Freeze it. Don’t even worry about stirring it, unless you suspect all the cherries have fallen to the bottom and you want to redistribute them a bit. Eat it when it’s frozen.  

“every day, once a day, give yourself a present”

I believe it is particularly delicious if you eat it while swaying around dreamily like Audrey Horne, but maybe that’s just me.

Unfortunately, the story does not end there with me simply making ice cream and then happily eating it. After photographing this small coffee cup full of ice cream that you see here (and, thank you to my brother and his partner for sending them to me for Christmas!) I ate it, returned the rest of the ice cream to the freezer and carried on with my day, merry with the knowledge that when I returned home there would be gloriously smooth, creamy, cherry-studded ice cream waiting for me. Alas, like Twin Peaks, there was a tragic twist: the freezer immediately decided to break down and stop doing the one thing it is tasked with doing in its simple life. The ice cream turned to room temperature soup and had to be unceremoniously discarded. Leaving me with only the memory of that one damn fine coffee cup of ice cream.

Anyway I got over it pretty quickly, with the rueful acceptance that comes from years and years of regularly accidentally ruining things, but like, what a bummer, huh. At least I got to eat a little of it: just enough to enthusiastically recommend you try making it too.

“Laura had a lot of secrets”

It was disheartening that after all that momentum the ice cream was lost, but I’m not going to let it get me down and will indeed be making more ice cream sooner rather than later. In fact the only thing really holding me back is the fact that the freezer still isn’t working. On Monday night I was fortunate enough to attend a Chartreuse/Fernet-Branca tasting and (having recovered, more or less) my brain has gone full circle to the point where I’m pondering a kind of riff on mint choc chip ice cream using Fernet as an ingredient. Watch this space. Speaking of fortunate I was also given a Fernet Coin by the brand’s representative, a rare and elusive trinket that bartenders really care about and which is met with resounding shrugs from everyone else, and now I feel deliciously legit.

Speaking of deliciously legit and apropos of nothing I’d just like to add that I went to the Pride event Out in the Park on Saturday and looking around seeing happy young teens with rainbows painted on their faces and really old women walking around holding hands and every kind of person inbetween made my heart expand to the point where I was just a human-shaped heart. Plus there were so many dogs: our most important allies.

Anyway if you aren’t entirely put off the idea of making ice cream by my tale of woe, some other ice cream recipes I’ve come up with which are wayyyy easier than this one to make include Gin and Tonic Ice Cream, White Chocolate and Burnt Butter Ice Cream, and, just in time for the season: Feijoa Ice Cream.

title from: Make Out Kids, by Motion City Soundtrack. Whiny and full of feelings, like me.

music lately:

I went to Pixies a couple of weeks ago and while they’re like, not the same line-up that they used to be, it was euphoric. With extreme predictability we collectively lost it when they played Where Is My Mind but for me an unhinged and shouty rendition of Debaser was the highlight. 

Althea and Donna, Uptown Top Ranking. There is NEVER a bad time for this song.

Also, Lana Del Rey released a new song called Love and so nothing else matters or exists.

next time: nothing that involves refrigeration, I guess.

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