Friday, December 18, 2009

Horchata Ice Cream


Horchata, a mexican rice milk flavored with cinnamon, can be the perfect beverage for putting out the fire in your mouth while you put away a spicy taco or chile relleno. Imagine those sweet, delicate flavors conveyed in a buttery soft scoop of ice cream, and you'll know what's currently taunting me in my freezer.




With the amount of mexican food that the doc and I consume, it's a shame there aren't more taquerias using local, organic ingredients. We try to do most of our cooking at home, bojon style, but in a pinch nothing beats a seven-dollar veggie taco platillo from El Metate, brimming with sauteed carrots, broccoli, cabbage, salsa, crema, queso fresco, guacamole, rice, beans, lettuce and escabeche. I've been meaning to tackle horchata for a while now, made with happy ingredients, but have yet to find a reputable recipe. I made a batch of coconut milk horchata a couple years ago, from a recipe clipped from a magazine, and found it quite satisfactory. But when I gave a sample to a mexican friend, he balked at the flavor of 'raw rice.' When I tried to wrangle a recipe from him, all he would divulge was the toasting of the rice in a skillet. I recently asked another co-worker, who knows everything about the cuisine of his culture, how to make the stuff; he only shook his head, saying it was 'muy complicado'.


So while I still have yet to make bona fide horchata, which I know little about, I decided to make something I know a lot about instead: ice cream. Contrary to what you may think, ice cream is one of the easiest desserts to make. You know how people get all crazy about making things they think are hard? Pie dough, bread, creme brulee, chocolate mousse; all of these things have their tricks, but when it comes right down to it, the processes and ingredients are all quite simple. It's like how a handful of obnoxious people travel to Paris and act like doofuses, then they come back here and spread rampant rumors about how the French are snooty and rude. Stop freaking everyone out 'cause of your own dumb mistakes, people!

For this recipe, the rice gets toasted in a skillet until golden, then steeped in milk with a cinnamon stick. The whole deal gets cooked with sugar and egg yolks, mixed with heavy cream, strained, chilled, and spun into ice cream. The whole process takes a bit of time what with all the steeping and chilling, but the active time for the whole recipe is minimal - maybe half an hour, tops.


I am fascinated by ice creams and custards which, though frozen, taste of warming flavors. The toasty rice and spicy cinnamon in this ice cream accomplish just that, making it welcome on either a hot summer day or chilly winter night. As an added bonus, the rice starch, which leaches into the custard base, works as would gums or stabilizers in commercial ice creams, or cornstarch in gelato, lending a voluptuous mouthfeel and making the cream soft and pliable right from the freezer.


This ice cream is delicious served on its own, with a bit of cinnamon grated over the top, especially after a hot and spicy meal. You could also use it to top an apple pie or tart, along with a drizzle of cajeta. Or serve with some ripe berries, sliced peaches or poached apricots in the spring or summer.


Horchata Ice Cream

Makes about 3 cups, or 6 servings

Start this recipe at least a day before you want to serve it. Ice cream base should be chilled for at least 4 hours before churning, but chilling it overnight will yield a smoother, creamier texture and improved flavor. The ice cream needs to 'cure' in the freezer for a few hours after churning, too, unless you'd rather put the ice cream maker on the table, with spoons, and let your guests eat out of it like pigs feeding from a trough.

1 cup whole milk
1/3 cup medium or long grain white rice
3" cinnamon stick, plus an extra one for grating over the finished ice cream (optional)
4 or 5 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch salt
1 cup heavy cream

In a dry, medium saucepan, toast the rice and cinnamon stick over medium heat until the rice is fragrant and barely golden, 1 - 2 minutes. Pour in the milk and heat until small bubbles appear around the sides of the pan, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat, cover and steep for 30 minutes, or whenever you are ready to get on with the rest.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the yolks, sugar, cinnamon and salt to combine. Pour the cream into a quart sized mason jar or metal bowl and set a fine mesh strainer over the top. Reheat the ricey milk until the small bubbles appear again, then slowly pour into the yolks, whisking constantly. Pour the whole deal back into the pan and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon or heatproof rubber spatula, until the mixture just starts to thicken on the bottom of the pan (170º). Immediately strain into the cold cream, stirring to combine.

Refrigerate the ice cream base for at least four hours or up to a couple days. Spin in an ice cream maker until the ice cream reaches the consistency of a very thick milk shake. 'Cure' in the freezer for an hour or two to firm to a scoopable consistency. Grate a bit of cinnamon stick over the ice cream to serve, if desired.

28 comments:

  1. Hey,

    I'm pretty interested in making this recipe (my lady friend has a horchata obsession), but being a completely neophyte in the kitched, I have a few questions.

    1) Are there any good substitutes for egg yolks in this recipe? I'm terrible at separating them.

    2) What's the function of the salt in this recipe? Does a 'pinch' add anything to the flavor?

    3) Is it necessary to chill the base in the ice bath before sticking it into the fridge?

    Thanks!

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  2. Hi Tom,

    Thanks for your questions!

    As for the yolks, there isn't really a substitute, though you could try a couple tablespoons of cornstarch (which is how traditional gelato is thickened) or omitting the yolks all together for a Philidelphia style ice cream. Nothing gives the smoothness and stability of egg yolks, though. If you decide to face your fear, eparating eggs is easier with fresher eggs, which have a firmer, less breakable yolk. If you can score some from a farmer's market (or a friend!) those are the best. Having the eggs at room temp can help too, as the whites are runnier. An easy method is to crack all the eggs into one bowl, then simply lift the yolks out with your fingers. Don't be scared, it just takes a bit of practice!

    The pinch of salt bumps up the flavor a bit. I put salt in everything, though I've tasted delicious salt-free ice cream, too. (At Farallon, we even put salt in our whipped cream!)

    Since the hot custard is poured into cold cream, I don't feel the need to chill the custard. I learned this technique at a restaurant I used to work at. I use super fresh eggs from happy chickens, and cook the yolks thoroughly, so I'm not worried about bacteria growing. To speed the chilling process though, you can certainly ice bath it.

    Hope this helps! Let me know how it goes. : )

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  3. Hi!

    I just wanted to say I loved this recipe--had to make a second batch for my dinner party b/c I had too many "taste tests" on the first one..oops :) I served it with a Mexican chocolate torte, so it was a nice compliment.

    I just have 1 question: why is it necessary to put the ice cream mixture in an ice bath before going in the fridge? When I strained the horchata custard into the heavy cream, it's already at about a room temp (b/c of the cold cream). I had it in the fridge for 24 hrs before churning. Does it have something to do with the chemistry, or is it OK to just stick in the fridge for future?

    Thanks!
    Caroline

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  4. Thanks for the blog props on your blog- that totally made my day! I'm so glad that you're enjoying the ice cream recipe and the blog. That Mexican chocolate torte sounds delicious - where can I find the recipe?

    Thank you for your question. I've updated the instructions to omit the ice bath. The reason to ice bath is a food safety issue - to get the custard base down to 40º as quickly as possible to avoid the possibility of growing bacteria. But since the eggs are cooked to 170º first and since the base *probably* cools down within 2 hours in the fridge, this step is *probably* not necessary. So if you want to be extra safe, you can ice bath, but if you're using fresh eggs from happy chickens, you've cooked your custard properly, and your cream is nice and cold, you're probably in the clear.

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  5. I just made this and it was excellent! Your blog is really cool and I look forward to making some of the other recipes.

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  6. I'm so glad you enjoyed the ice cream, and thank you for the kind words!

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  7. This looks delicious! Quick question though: you start with uncooked rice, correct? So we're toasting uncooked rice?
    Thanks!

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  8. This is FANTASTIC! The ice cream was a HIT at the dinner I brought it too and the recipe is written so clearly! Thanks so much for the recipe and your help!

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  9. Ha ha, except for the uncooked rice bit. ; ) I'm so glad it was enjoyed! Cheers.

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  10. my number one fan has been demanding a horchata (or something similar to ricanelas from Bi-Rite). glad to find something made from scratch!

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    1. Mmm, that ricanelas is amazing! I think this ice cream would take well to having bits of snickerdoodles folded in, too.

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  11. Oops, I accidentally bought short-grain rice (koshihikari Japanese-style rice). Will that work OK?

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    1. I've never heard of that sort of rice - I'll have to check it out. I think it'll work just fine, though. :)

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    2. It's short-grain white rice, grown in California, and used in Japanese cuisine. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Koshihikari When cooking it, before cooking, the rice needs to be rinsed multiple times until the water is clear. I'm assuming that I can just skip that step for this recipe? Google tells me that the shorter the grain the starchier the rice. Rinsing it would get rid of all the excess starch. What do you recommend--rinse or not rinse? Or if I go get some medium-grain rice, do you rinse or do you use it straight out of the bag?

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    3. Oh, cool - thanks for the link! I usually rinse rice to dispense with any dust, but in this case, since you're toasting it in a dry skillet, I think that would just make a mess, esp. with starchier short-grain rice. So I would say, don't rinse it.

      I think I specified medium or long-grain in the recipe because that's what the horchata recipes called for that I looked at for inspiration, and because jasmine and basmati rices tend to be more aromatic. But again, I think the short-grain rice should work fine, too. Let me know how it goes! :)

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    4. Thanks! I'm making it for a "south of the border"-themed work potluck. I will be sure to report back to you! It looks delicious.

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    5. Fun! I hope it goes swimmingly. :)

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    6. Hmmm, made this over the weekend. It tastes DELICIOUS but the yield was really, really small. The rice absorbed a LOT of the liquid in the process. I wonder if I heated it for too long, or if the short-grain rice had some effect.

      I'll try the recipe again with long-grain rice and see how that goes. In the meantime, my co-workers get a teeny portion--but I decided to make some Mexican wedding cookies to go along with it, and those turned out awesome. I have not baked cookies in years, and this was a new recipe for me.

      Thanks!

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    7. Hm, I don't remember my rice absorbing much liquid, so I'm guessing that the short grain would be the culprit, or, like you said, heating the rice and milk for too long. Sorry about that. :| Glad the cookies turned out well, though. (I LOVE Mexican wedding cookies!)

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    8. The ice cream was GREAT--really great! Just not enough of it :-) I will definitely try again with long-grain rice and not as much heat. Thanks for all your speedy feedback!

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    9. It's my pleasure, Amy! So glad you liked the ice cream. Thanks for being my recipe tester. :)

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    10. I'm trying this recipe again for Thanksgiving, to go with the pumpkin pie. I'll let you know how it turns out!

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    11. If there's one thing I like more than horchata it's pumpkin pie. Sounds like a winning combo! Please let me know how it goes.

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  12. That's "leaches," not "leeches" !!!!!

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    1. But Linda, I really like my ice cream filled with bloodsucking parasites. Doesn't everyone? Or perhaps you'd prefer "lech ice cream?" Changing it now and firing my editor. Gotta love the English language.

      Seriously, THANK YOU for catching that!

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  13. Be sure to put the rice into the trash, not the garbage disposal, to avoid a plumbing issue. Rice can swell in the pipes!

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Nice comments make me warm and fuzzy!