Pear Caramel Ice Cream
I know it’s not exactly ice cream season any more, at least not here in Philadelphia. Unfortunately this is yet another recipe that slipped to the bottom of the drafts pool and just now is resurfacing since the weather is cold enough to keep me inside and at my computer with greater frequency. To make up for the untimely fashion in which I’m getting around to posting this decadent Pear Caramel Ice Cream, I’ll throw in another cookbook review with today’s recipe.
Falling Cloudberries, written by globetrotting Tessa Kiros, stopped me in my tracks when I saw its beautiful tapestry cover and the striking photos of both the food and places of Tessa’s travels inside its pages. I was thrilled to have a such a lovely book to have tucked on my bedside table to read a little bit each night. Tessa has written the book in a style that melds memoir with making delicious dishes out of local ingredients. Perfect, right?
Well, while the book is a real stunner and the stories within its pages heartfelt and poetic, I always judge a cookbook not by its cover, but by the recipes in its collection that I test. I have to be blunt: the recipes in Falling Cloudberries are not really worthy of the price on the dust jacket. While I love the cultural context in which Tessa chose her recipes, the reality is that the ingredients in many of them are quite hard to find and I couldn’t really think of any substitutes to try for the ones that did get me itching to make them. In the end, I tried the recipe for her potato salad and for this ice cream. The potato salad was such a disappointment I’m not even going to post that one. The original recipe from the book’s pages for this Pear Caramel Ice Cream was also a huge disappointment with the first batch I made, mostly because the caramel process Tessa presents is, in my humble opinion, misguided and resulted in a grainy consistency and not very sweet flavor.
I decided to make a second batch using my own caramel technique and, lo and behold, the flavor of this ice cream proved to be outstanding! The pear is soft and smoky from being steeped in the hot caramel and the caramel itself adds an unmistakable yet subtle golden richness to the cream while also adding a little chewy texture and a punch of flavor when drizzled in at the end of the churning to create little veins of gold in each scoop.
So with the right tweaking, I’m sure there are several recipes worth a look between the gorgeous covers of Falling Cloudberries. But you must be an adventurous cook willing to make the effort in order to use this book for its recipes. That being said, if you enjoy food more in spirit than in process, as many a foodie does, this is a book well worth having for its graceful storytelling and poignant photography. It would make a wonderful gift here at the holidays for the foodie traveler on your list or as a luxury purchase for yourself. Falling Cloudberries may not be a workhorse in the kitchen, but it certainly is a worthy piece of eye candy in the world of culinary reads.
Pear Caramel Ice Cream
Loosely adapted from Falling Cloudberries
1 C. sugar
1 1/2 C. heavy whipping cream
2 large very ripe pears, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 C. sugar
1/2 C. milk
1 vanilla bean, scraped
Begin by making the caramel. Put 1 cup of sugar in a heavy saucepan over very low heat. Swirl it around every minute or so until it turns light brown. Begin stirring as the sugar starts liquefying. Once the lumps are gone, stir vigorously (do not leave it or it will boil over and burn!) for another two minutes. The color should be a rich brown.
Remove the pan from the heat and carefully add 1/3 cup of warm water. The caramel will sputter and steam as it hardens. Return the pan to very low heat, stirring constantly, until caramel is liquid again. Add the pears to the pan and stir constantly, cooking until soft, about 3-4 minutes. Take off the stove and use a slotted spoon to remove the pears, allowing the caramel to drip back off into the pan. Puree the pears in a food processor or blender until relatively smooth. Set aside.
Put the half cup of sugar, cream, milk and vanilla scrapings/pod in a medium saucepan and heat over medium until sugar is dissolved and the mixture is warm. Fish out the vanilla pod and discard. Using an electric mixer, whip the cream mixture for several minutes until the mixture thickens and you notice an increase in volume.
Fold in the pureed pears and half of the slightly cooled caramel. Pour the mixture into your ice cream machine and freeze according to manufacturer’s directions. Just before removing the ice cream from the machine, drizzle in the remaining caramel and allow it to mix in slightly for about 30 seconds. Put ice cream in an air-tight container and place in your refrigerator freezer until firm.
(makes 1 quart)