It’s not that I set out to confound my husband.
But when it comes to ice cream, I often can’t help it.
You see, I am married to someone who wants to eat vanilla ice cream — and only vanilla ice cream.
But who wants to live in a world of only vanilla?
Not I, for one.
So when a review copy of the new “Salt & Straw Ice Cream Cookbook” (Clarkson Potter) arrived in the mail, I couldn’t wait to tear into to make something especially fun and inventive.
After all, the ice cream company founded in 2011 in Portland, OR by cousins Tyler and Malek with locations in the Bay Area now, is famed for its zany flavors. Salt & Straw unabashedly does its best to “Keep Portland Weird.”
But that’s not to say that this ice cream maker gives precedence to wacky over excellence. Not at all. Its innovative flavors may have you scratching your head at first, but once you try them, you will marvel at their execution. Don’t just take my word for it. All it takes is to stop by a Salt & Straw ice cream shop to see the lines at all hours of legions of fans who can’t get enough of ice cream flavors you won’t find anywhere else. Best of all, Salt & Straw often incorporates specialty ingredients local to each of its stores.
The cookbook includes more than 100 recipes for signature creations, including “Dandelion Chocolate’s Roasted Cacao Bean Gelato,” “Roasted Parsnip & Banana Sorbet,” “Pear & Blue Cheese,” and its holidays flavors such as “Salted Caramel Thanksgiving Turkey.”
So, see, I could have really had done a number on my husband, had I tried making the latter. But instead, I opted to give “Imperial Stout-Milk Sorbet with Blackberry-Fig Jam” a whirl. I figured, he likes beer, so why not?
Every one of Salt & Straw’s ice cream and sorbet bases incorporate a little xanthan gum, a thickener and stabilizer, which helps inhibit those pesky ice crystals that can mar the smooth creamy texture of great ice cream. Don’t worry — xanthan gum is easily available. Bob’s Red Mill makes it, and it’s easily found on the shelves at stores such as Whole Foods.
After making the sorbet base, which is just water, sugar, xanthan gum and a little corn syrup, you combine it with skim milk and stout beer that’s been boiled. Yes, you have to boil the beer briefly to get rid of both the carbon dioxide and some of the alcohol, which would make churning the sorbet difficult.
The recipe calls for Three Weavers Imperial Stout or you favorite super-dark and malty stout. I ended up using Guinness Extra Stout.
After spinning the ice cream, transfer it to a freezer container, alternating dollops of it with a home-made blackberry-fig jam made with dried Mission figs, fresh blackberries, sugar, vanilla, and butter. After simmering the fruit mixture, it all gets blitzed in a food processor to form a thick jam that’s might tasty all on its own. In fact, you’ll have quite a bit left over. I used the remainder in these oatmeal crumble bars, subbing out the original dried cherries and raspberry jam for the blackberry-fig jam for delicious results.
The milk sorbet recipe directs to freeze the completed ice cream for at least 6 hours. I found that even after 7 hours, the texture was still much too soft to scoop, so I patiently waited until the next day to try it. By then, it had definitely firmed up, so I made that adjustment in the recipe. As you scoop it, the jam pops up here and there in ripples and splotches.
The taste of this sorbet is like root beer meets fig newton. The stout in the sorbet tastes a little malty and bitter. The taste of the fig-blackberry jam is predominantly of figs with the blackberries brightening up its concentrated dried fruit taste a bit.
Because it’s made with skim milk, and not heavy cream or eggs, this sorbet is not over-the-top rich yet it still has a gentle creaminess. You could even kid yourself that it’s a more “healthful” frozen treat.
As for my husband, he tried a spoonful, and deemed it pretty good.
But he’s now waiting for me to make the “Double-Fold Vanilla” ice cream from the book.
What a surprise.
Imperial Stout Milk Sorbet with Blackberry-Fig Jam
(Makes about 2 1/2 pints)
1 bottle (330 ml) Three Weavers Imperial Stout or your favorite super-dark and malty stout
1 cup skim milk, cold
2 cups Sorbet Base (see Recipe), very cold
1/2 cup Blackberry-Fig Jam (see recipe)
In a small pot, bring the stout to a rolling boil over medium-high heat. Then immediately remove the pot from the heat and add the milk and the sorbet base. Use a stick blender to briefly blend until well combined. Refrigerate until the mixture is cold to the touch, or up to 72 hours.
Pour the cold mixture into an ice cream maker and turn it on. (Or follow your manufacturer’s directions.) Churn just until the mixture has the texture of a pourable frozen smoothie, about 20 minutes.
Stir the jam with a fork to loosen it a bit. Alternate spooning layers of the mixture and dolloping the blackberry-jam over each spoonful in freezer-friendly containers.
Cover with parchment paper, pressing it to the surface of the sorbet so it adheres, then cover with a lid. It’s okay if the parchment hangs over the rim. Store it in the coldest part of your freezer (farthest from the door) until firm, at least 8 hours or even better, overnight. It will keep for up to 3 months.
Sorbet (Or Gelato) Base
(Makes about 2 cups)
1 cup granulated sguar
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
1/4 cup light corn syrup
Stir together the sugar and xanthan gum in a small bowl. Combine 1 1/4 cups water and the corn syrup in a small saucepan. Add the sugar mixture and immediately whisk vigorously until smooth (but don’t fret over a few lumps). Set the pan over medium heat and cook, stirring often and adjusting the heat if necessary to prevent a simmer, until the sugar has fully dissolved, about 3 minutes. Take the pan off the heat and let the mixture cool completely.
Transfer the mixture to an airtight container and store in the fridge until cold, at least 4 hours, or up to 2 weeks, or in the freezer for up to 1 year. (Just be sure to fully thaw it and stir well before using it.)
(Makes about 2 1/2 cups)
1/3 cup granulated sugar
12 ounces dried Mission figs
1/2 cup fresh blackberries
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch kosher salt
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar and 2 tablespoons water. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until the sugar dissolves completely, about 2 minutes. Then, without stirring, bring the mixture to a boil and cook, swirling the pan gently if needed, until the sugar turns a light amber color. Add 1 1/2 cups water, the dried figs, and the blackberries; the mix may sizzle and solidify. Continue to cook over medium heat until the caramel dissolves again. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and cook until the fruit is soft and the liquid has reduced slightly, about 30 minutes.
Add the vanilla, salt, and butter. Transfer the jam to a food processor or blender and blend until smooth (and very thick). Let it cool to room temperature, then store in an airtight container in the fridge until cold or up to 3 months.
Adapted from “Salt & Straw Ice Cream Cookbook” by Tyler Malek and J.J. Goode
What To Do With the Leftover Jam: Fruit and Jam Crumble Bars
More Beer Fun: Mussels in Sour Beer