When Jeni Britton Bauer, of Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams in Columbus, Ohio, agreed to come up with a flavor for The Washington Post, she said: "This seems fairly obvious, I guess, but when I think of Washington, D.C., I think of George Washington and then I think of cherry trees. Since cherry trees are in bloom now, and since I'm always thinking about ice cream, I think first of cherry ice cream, not cherry pie.
"As for the pits, I can't remember where or when I first learned about almond extract coming from cherry pits. But at some point, I learned about it. . . . You can use vanilla extract as a substitute, if you don't want to hammer pits and make your own extract from pits."
You'll need a candy thermometer or instant-read thermometer and an ice cream maker.
RECIPE UPDATE 7/20: Be advised that there is a risk of toxicity involved in using the cherry pits. Experts from the Poison Control Center of Washington agree that the risk is related to the breaking up of the pits, which may release the amygdalin within. So the recipe directions no longer recommend smashing the pits, but using them whole to infuse the sauce. Then they are strained out and discarded.
Make Ahead: The sauce can be refrigerated for up to 3 weeks. After the ice cream has been processed in an ice cream maker and combined with the sauce, it needs to be frozen for at least 4 hours before serving.
Servings: 6 - 8
Yield: Makes about 1 quart
- For the sauce
- 1 pound tart or sour red cherries (see headnote)
- 1 to 1 1/2 cups sugar (see NOTE)
- For the ice cream base
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch
- 3 tablespoons cream cheese, at room temperature
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 1/4 cups heavy cream
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
For the sauce: Stem and wash the cherries. Pit them, reserving the pits.
Place the pitted cherries in a large (4-quart) saucepan. Sprinkle the sugar over them and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Once they have come to a boil, reduce the heat to a medium-low; cook until the cherries register 220 degrees on a candy thermometer or instant-read digital thermometer; this may take as long as 2 hours. Remove from the heat and let cool.
Press the cooled cherries through a sieve for a smooth sauce, if desired; discard the solids. Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks. (If you use the sauce after it has been refrigerated, microwave in a microwave-safe bowl in 30-second intervals just until pliable enough to spread.)
For the ice cream base: Combine about 2 tablespoons of the milk with the cornstarch in a small bowl to form a smooth slurry.
Whisk together the cream cheese and salt in a medium bowl until smooth. Fill a large bowl with ice and water.
Combine the remaining milk, the cream, sugar, corn syrup and cherry pits in a large (4-quart) saucepan, bring to a rolling boil over medium-high heat, reducing the heat as needed to make sure the mixture does not boil over; cook for 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and gradually whisk in the cornstarch slurry. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat and cook, stirring with a heatproof spatula, until slightly thickened, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat. Pass the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer to remove the pits. Discard them.
Gradually whisk the hot milk mixture into the cream cheese until smooth. Pour the mixture into a 1-gallon resealable plastic food storage bag and seal. Submerge the sealed bag in the ice bath. Let stand, adding more ice as necessary, until cold, about 30 minutes.
Freeze: Pour the ice cream base into the frozen canister and spin until thick and creamy. Pack the ice cream into a storage container, alternating it with layers of the cherry sauce and ending with a spoonful of sauce; do not stir. Press a sheet of parchment directly against the surface, and seal with an airtight lid. Freeze in the coldest part of your freezer until firm, at least 4 hours.
NOTE: Early-season sour cherries may be less juicy than ones at the height of the season; if they have less moisture, they will need the lesser amount of sugar. Otherwise, the sauce may become too thick.
From Bauer, of Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams in Columbus, Ohio.
Tested by Kris Coronado and Bonnie S. Benwick.
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