Nothing gets me back in gear like a little friendly competition. Food52 was having another one of its contests, a London Olympics “pub food” theme, and though the timing didn’t work out, it did get me thinking about dipping my toes back into the blogging pool. What finally brought me back, strangely enough, was a thought inspired by a mash-up of inspirational (to me) coincidences—a recent Food52 ice cream competition and an old-is-new all over again television series reintroducing Sherlock Holmes (Elementary). The preview for the show got me excited about the possibilities of modern twists on good old standbys. And I’m very happy with how this ice cream came out.
By the way, if you’re a coffee ice cream lover, you will probably love this, too. And if you’re tired of the same old flavors? This is definitely an ice cream you will not find in your supermarket freezer, so it’s worth making.
For this recipe, I used Rishi’s loose earl grey tea leaves because I love the flavor and quality of their teas. So, how do you create a modern twist on a classic flavor such as Earl Grey? If you were to have a cookie, it would still be on the delicate side, but what about an ice cream? I’m all for subtle, but some days you need pow and zow. With a toddler who won’t say no to whole milk, my fridge is constantly stocked. A few weeks ago, Olive sprung for a jar of seedless blackberry jam (easier for Z to enjoy without those hard seeds), and I liked the flavor when I made these peanut butter cookies. A limited pantry is a place full of new ideas. I thought the earthy sweetess of blackberries would blend well with the tea, so lacy swirls of blackberry jam it was. By the way, if you were averse to adding in the blackberry swirls, you could try Lady Gray, which includes lemon peel in its flavoring; or if you want to go très chic, Rishi also makes an earl grey lavender tea.
I’ve used Jeni Britton’s ice cream base before to make my sour cherry gelato. Three years later with many accolades, Jeni has become a sensation and a known name all over the web. It’s not surprising that she soon followed with a book and even more recognition. I’m dying to get her book and try her other amazing flavor combinations. Although I use Jeni’s basic ice cream base principles, I’ve changed the butterfat and sugar quantity so that the sweetness is tamer and the Earl Grey flavor shines through.
Earl Grey Ice Cream with Blackberry Swirl
1 1/2 oz. cream cheese
1/8 tsp salt
1 tbsp + 1 tsp cornstarch
2 cups 2% milk
1 1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 tbsp light corn syrup
4 tbsp loose earl grey tea leaves (Rishi or similar quality)
1 tbsp plain vodka
2 tsp seedless blackberry jam
Prep three bowls, a small, medium and a large one. Place cream cheese and salt into the medium bowl, mash with a fork, and set aside. In the small bowl, mix the cornstarch and 2 tbsp of the milk. Set this slightly thickened paste aside.
In a large pot, add the rest of the milk and cream with the corn syrup and sugar. Bring to a boil over a medium heat. On a simmer, continue stirring for about 4 minutes and no more. Remove the pot from heat, stir in the cornstarch mixture and bring this back to a boil for an additional minute, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens slightly. Add in your loose tea leaves to the hot mixture and let steep for 5 minutes. You might be tempted to place the leaves in a cheesecloth, but placing them in directly will infuse the ice cream really well (you’ll be straining this later anyway).
Add a small amount of the boiled milk to the cream cheese, whisking well to incorporate and break up any cream cheese lumps. Once the cream cheese has smoothed out, add the rest of the boiled milk.
Cool the ice cream completely over an ice bath set in the large bowl. Refrigerate the covered cooled mixture for at least 4 hours or overnight. While you might be impatient to just put the ice cream into the machine right away, chilling it completely will keep the ice cream from crystallizing (that weird chalky texture) while it’s churning in the machine.
Using a fine mesh strainer, pour the liquid through the strainer, pressing on the tea leaves to get all the ice cream out. Any cream cheese or solids that haven’t been blended well will remain out and help make your ice cream smooth and creamy. Stir in the vodka to the liquid ice cream before pouring into your ice cream maker. Follow your ice cream manufacturer’s instructions for the length of time, but it usually will take 20-30 minutes for the ice cream to start coming together.
Line a glass container (eg: Pyrex) that comes with its own lid using saran wrap (long enough to cover, too) and place a layer of ice cream, drizzle some of the blackberry jam in thin streaks. Put in more ice cream and continue layering in the blackberry swirls. Cover the ice cream with the hanging saran again before placing the top on. Once you’re ready to serve the ice cream, let it soften at room temperature for about 2 minutes. You’ll know “it’s ready” when you can scoop easily. Scoop the ice cream from the perpendicular direction of your blackberry streaks, to create a swirly effect in your scoop.
If you don’t want to get Rishi, I’ve also made this ice cream using Twinnings Earl Gray. I used 8 bags (that’s a little less than 1 full teaspoon per bag). Cut off the paper tags and place the teabags into the ice cream base after you cook the cornstarch slurry and cream base for 1 minute. Leave them to steep for 5 minutes before pouring ice cream into the ziplock bag to cool over the ice bowl. When you’re ready to churn the ice cream, strain and squeeze as much of the teabags as you can, before pouring the ice cream into your machine.