Sunday, August 29, 2010

I can somehow write about corn ice cream

I don't know in what convoluted world I live, but cooking and blogging were nearly impossible feats while I was pregnant. However, now that I am the mother of a newborn, well, cooking remains elusive but the ability to blog has somehow reappeared. I shall not question why -- when (in retrospect) I had all the time in the world -- I couldn't update this space to save my life, but now that I can't find time to eat a peach I can somehow write about corn ice cream. Mysteries, all of it.

First, the news: I am absolutely thrilled to announce the arrival of my son, Michael, who entered this world in search of a good meal on August 18. He has a full head of dark hair, and something that the Cleveland Clinic nurses referred to as a "lusty" cry. He is a tiny peanut, and I cannot believe that he is finally here. To celebrate his arrival, I would like to share the dessert I made for his father's birthday this past July 4.

The blueberry-corn ice cream sundae seemed the perfect treat for someone born at the height of summer. Blueberries are in season, ripe and lovely, get them before the birds eat them off the bush. The corn, at least in these parts, is "knee-high by the 4th of July," with early sweet crops making their way to market at local farms. I couldn't think of a better or more unique confection with which to celebrate Husband's birthday. How I managed to make the component parts from scratch while large in girth and slow on my feet from advancing pregnancy I'll never know. Suffice it to say: the blueberry-corn ice cream sundae is love, and I love Husband.

As the warm summer days begin to wane, take advantage of the markets before they close for the season and stock up on some corn and blueberries. Then spend a day or so puttering about in the kitchen, making corn ice cream and blueberry compote. Finally, invite over some people whom you really love. Dish up this creamy yellow and purple layered gorgeousness in a tall parfait glass and toast, well, whatever. Someone's birthday. Labor Day. The imminent return of Glee. You could even toast your own awesomeness at making corn ice cream. Whatever it takes.

For us, with our corn ice cream still left in the freezer, we'll be toasting Michael.


Adapted from Nancy Olson, Gramercy Tavern

Note: the ice cream base has to chill overnight before being placed in your ice cream maker, so please plan accordingly.

For the sweet corn ice cream:

6 c. fresh sweet corn kernels (from about 6 ears), cobs reserved
4 c. milk
2 c. heavy cream
6 T. light corn syrup
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
1 1/8 c. sugar
12 large egg yolks
1 1/2 t. pure vanilla extract
1/2 t. kosher salt

For the mini cornbread muffins (optional, for garnish):

3/4 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. fine yellow cornmeal
1 1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. kosher salt
1/4 c. sugar
2 T. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 T. honey
1 T. pure maple syrup
1 large egg
1/2 c. milk
1 1/4 c. fresh sweet corn kernels (from about 1 1/2 ears)
2 t. turbinado sugar

For the blueberry-corn compote:

2 1/2 c. blueberries
1/4 c. + 2 T. sugar
1 1/4 c. fresh sweet corn kernels (from about 1 1/2 ears)

For the toffee popcorn:

1/3 c. sugar
3 T. unsalted butter, plus more for bowl
About 6 c. popped popcorn (go for an unbuttered/unsalted variety if using microwave popcorn)
2 T. light corn syrup
1/4 t. pure vanilla extract
1/4 t. kosher salt

For the black pepper whipped cream:

1/3 c. heavy cream
1 t. powdered sugar
1/8 t. freshly-ground black pepper

At least one day before you wish to serve the sundaes, make the ice cream. Set a large bowl in an ice-water bath; set aside. In a large saucepan, bring the corn kernels, corn cobs, 3 1/2 c. of the milk, heavy cream, corn syrup, vanilla bean seeds and pod and sugar to a boil over medium heat. Cook, stirring, to prevent the sugar from sticking to the bottom of the pan.

In a large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and remaining 1/2 c. milk until well combined. Remove the corn mixture from the heat; slowly add about 1/3 of the hot corn mixture to the egg yolk mixture, tempering them, whisking well to combine. Pour the egg mixture back into the saucepan with the corn cob mixture, stirring constantly. Return the saucepan to medium-high heat. Stirring constantly, cook until this custard mixture coats the back of a wooden spoon, 4 to 5 minutes. Stir in the vanilla extract and salt.

Pour the custard mixture into the bowl set over the ice-water bath; let cool completely. Transfer the custard mixture to the refrigerator and chill overnight.

The next day, remove the corn cobs from the custard mixture, squeezing them well to extract as much liquid as you can. Discard the cobs.

Transfer the custard mixture to the work bowl of a food processor; process until smooth. Strain through a fine wire mesh strainer, discarding solids.

Transfer the custard mixture to an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer's directions. Keep the ice cream frozen in an airtight container until ready to use.

If using, make the mini cornbread muffins. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter 20 1/4-cup muffin tins; set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt; set aside.

In a large bowl, mix together sugar and butter; stir in honey and maple syrup until well combined. Add egg and continue mixing until well combined. Alternately add flour mixture and milk to sugar mixture, mixing well after each addition and beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Stir in corn kernels until just combined.

Fill prepared muffin cups 3/4 full with batter; sprinkle tops with turbinado sugar. Transfer to oven and bake until tops are golden brown, about 14 minutes. Let cool slightly in pans before removing and cooling completely on wire racks. Store in an airtight container until ready to serve alongside the ice cream sundaes.

Next, make the blueberry-corn compote. Place 1 1/2 c. blueberries and sugar in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan and cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly and pressing on berries until they burst and the mixture begins to look syrupy. Add corn kernels, stir to combine and immediately remove from heat.

Stir in the remaining cup of blueberries. Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate until cool, up to 24 hours.

Make the popcorn. Line a baking sheet with a Silpat; set aside. Butter a large bowl and add popped popcorn; set aside.

Heat sugar, 3 T. butter and corn syrup in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan over low heat until butter and sugar melt. Increase heat to medium and cook, stirring, until sugar mixture becomes golden brown. Remove from heat and carefully add vanilla and salt, taking care because the mixture may splatter slightly. Pour the sugar mixture over the popcorn and stir quickly until popcorn is coated.

Turn the popcorn out onto the prepared baking sheet, working quickly to separate kernels as much as possible. Let cool completely. Transfer popcorn to an airtight container until ready to use, up to one week.

Make the whipped cream. Place all whipped cream ingredients in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whisk until soft peaks form. Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate until ready to use.

FINALLY! Assemble the ice cream sundaes. Place two spoonfuls of the blueberry-corn compote into a large parfait glass. Top with two scoops of corn ice cream. Add a handful of toffee popcorn to each glass and top with another scoop of ice cream. Top with another spoonful of compote and a dollop of whipped cream. Garnish with a little more toffee popcorn and a mini cornbread muffin; serve immediately.

Makes 6 sundaes, with some corn ice cream left over for good measure.


Previously, on A Stove With A House Around It:

One year ago: English muffins
Two years ago: homegrown tomato salad with feta and cracked black pepper