hibiscus and hazelnuts


About a week or so ago, I had my first adventure in the ice cream making world, and let me tell you — I am never looking back on store-bought ice cream. The Cuisinart Ice Cream maker (which works just as well for frozen yogurt, sorbet, etc etc) had been sitting in the kitchen for months unused — I suppose simply because no one really wanted to put in the effort (or time) to figure it out. But recently, I hauled it out (and legitimately had to dust it off) with the intention of making some ice cream/gelato to accompany my favorite chocolate cake for a dinner party. (And just for the record: I swear by this chocolate cake — it’s absolutely to die for. It’s incredibly easy to make and the leftovers in the fridge 3 days later — if there are any, of course — still taste delicious.)

I chose two recipes from  Sweet Scoops by Shelly Kaldunski, a book that has been lying around the kitchen for approximately the same amount of time as the ice cream maker. First up: lavender ice cream with honeyed pine nuts (page 58 in the book … I haven’t reproduced it here due to copyright issues but you can always email me if you want it). I didn’t have any lavender (or so I’d thought — I found some after I’d finished making the ice cream) so I decided to use dried hibiscus instead and nix the pine nuts for a more citrusy ice cream. The result was a very smooth and creamy ice cream. The texture and consistency was perfect. The flavor itself was a little too sweet for my liking, and I think the hibiscus got lost a little in the 1/4 cup of wildflower honey in the recipe, so next time I’ll be cutting back on the sweetness factor. But overall — a definite success.

I did not have as much luck with my second recipe: mascarpone-hazelnut gelato (page 46 in the book), which was somewhat disappointing considering hazelnut gelato is one of my favorite foods of all time. Instead of the traditional egg yolks, this recipe called for 3/4 pounds mascarpone cheese. The process was simply enough: throw all the ingredients in a blender for prep, chill them, and then put them through the ice cream maker. However, the author neglected to mention that “mascarpone can become grainy if overwhipped” until the paragraph after the blender was used. I suppose I should have read through the recipe more carefully before I started or perhaps somehow known mascarpone was liable to revert to grain-like tendencies? But I’m not even an amateur chef; what do I know?

Because I had destroyed my recipe with a mere 20 seconds in the blender, I was extremely careful the second time around and probably didn’t end up mixing the ingredients enough. But the “gelato” tasted delicious enough, even though it wasn’t nearly as smooth or creamy as the hibiscus ice cream — in fact, it tasted more like “ice cream” than the first recipe did. It was very nutty and a little coarse (the hazelnuts in the gelato weren’t fully ground), but that was fine with me — I ADORE hazelnuts. However, I think I might have been the only one at the table who actually consumed all their hazelnut gelato despite the small size of the scoops on each plate … maybe this is a taste only I am partial to? Perhaps a re-make is in order.

Have you ever made ice cream at home? How did it churn (ha!) out?

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