Every once in a while, my pessimistic nature is surprised by something that exceeds my own low expectations and is truly exceptional. Most often it’s something I watch someone else do, or read about. Today though, I was actually amazed by something that I made. To be honest, it’s something that I thought I had completely screwed up; It’s also something that will probably be gone by the time I finish this post.
I make ice cream a bunch. I’ve got some standbys- fresh mint chocolate chip, a nice rich vanilla full of egg yolks for company, an Italian stracciatella-style vanilla chocolate chip. I also make fruit sorbets, or at least I used to. Yes, my Snozzberry tastes just like Snozzberry.
I’ve always had trouble with fruit flavored ice creams. I like to try make them in a gelato-style, with a lower fat content, because they tend to taste a little fresher and more vibrant that way. The problem I’ve always had (at least I think it's the problem) is that the acid of the fruit and the heating process tends to cause the organic, lactose-free half and half I use to break, resulting in a very grainy texture. Or there's too much water in the mixture, and they freeze into rocks. The only fruit neither seems to happen with is banana, which I think is because of the lower acid content and starchiness of the fruit itself.
So anyway, we had some leftover peaches, and I had container of half and half ready to spoil next week, and I had nothing better to do, so I tried a peach gelato. A-frickin-mazing. Not that I didn't make a whole bunch of mistakes along the way, or so I thought, but when it all comes out okay, that’s kind of the fun of the whole thing.
I peeled the peaches (there were only 3, and I didn’t bother blanching because that's an extra pot to wash), squished out the stones, and threw the flesh in a saucepan. I skipped lemon juice, because I didn't want more acid to deal with. I diced up the peaches with a pastry cutter (again, no reason why, it seemed like a good idea at the time). I let them sizzle a little on medium heat, then I added a half cup of invert sugar, a quarter cup of simple syrup, and a quarter cup of cane sugar. Why that combination, I'm not sure. It seemed like a good idea! I do know that the sugar content has to be high enough so that the end result doesn't freeze solid as a rock, especially with the lower fat content and my aversion to using any alcohol in my ice creams (other than vanilla extract, which I try to boil off too). I use my own invert sugar that I make from organic cane sugar, so really it's more like a Golden Syrup than a straight liquid sugar like you'd buy in a store. (Invert sugar is awesome by the way. Google it.)
I let the peaches stew till they were soft, then strained them out, because I didn't want them turning into peach sauce, or losing their fresh flavor. I cranked up the heat on the sugar peach syrup until it hit about 220 on my digital thermometer, the point being to boil off the free water from the peaches. I had about two cups of peaches and liquid combined, so I planned to add 2 cups of half and half for a nice gelato-like fat content.
With my non-fruit ice creams, regardless of whether I include egg yolks or not, I like to cook the half and half or heavy cream with the sugar until it reaches about 180 degrees, as if it were a custard base. I feel like it helps the texture after it's frozen. So as usual with my fruit ice creams, I added the half and half either too quickly or too slowly or too cold to the syrup and the peaches, and proceeded to watch the dang stuff curdle into grainy crap. It didn't taste grainy, but I knew where it was heading. Chunks of peaches, grainy base, yuck. I stored it away in the fridge and hoped I’d be wrong.
Which I wasn’t. The next morning it was a grainy, curdled mess, just as I had assumed it would be. For the hell of it, I threw it in the blender, which one of David Leibovitz's recipes suggests at one point. I figured it wouldn't fix my disaster though, and I was annoyed that I would lose all my nice little peach chunks. But…
Damn if it didn't turn out to be silky smooth with a gorgeous peach color. It froze nicely in my Cuisinart ice cream maker and it’s delicious, with a smooth but slightly icy texture and bright, intense, peachy flavor.
I feel like when I post about food, there needs to be some point to it other than saying how great my thing-that-I-made turned out. It's not like I'm making enough for everyone, after all. Maybe I'll get over that someday, maybe not.
For now, though, I figure I need a reason when I post about stuff I make. This post is about perseverance, adaptation, and overcoming innate and unending pessimism. So what's the moral of this story? Don't give up, no matter how much of a disaster you think you created. Especially if you have a good blender. You never know, things might turn out just peachy in the end.