Well, this was one strange baking ride. I originally wanted to make ice cream sandwiches – gingersnaps with pumpkin ice cream sounded like an amazing pairing – but I guess we’ll never know, because the ice cream went way south.
First, I decided to make the Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream recipe from Sweet Cream and Sugar Cones, one of my ice cream cookbooks (one of two, to be exact). It looked exactly how I expected pumpkin ice cream to be made, based on prior knowledge, and I made the custard with no problem – except for the fact that I had no working thermometer.
Yeah, not only did our instant-read thermometer break, but our meat thermometer (which I sometimes use in severe emergencies) requires two hands and several minutes to work. Since I had neither time nor two hands, as I had to stir the custard constantly after tempering the eggs and putting them back on the heat, I did it by eye.
This, in theory, should have worked: I’ve made custard before, I know what cooked custard looks like, and I did the line test (where you drag your finger through the liquid coating the back of the spoon, and if the line holds it’s done). Moreover, the custard did indeed coat the back of the spoon. I still felt a little nervous, though, so I cooked it for another two minutes (which, at the time, I thought was risky) before straining it and putting it into an ice water bath.
Then I read the instructions, because this was when (drawing on having read the beginning of the recipe and having read many ice cream recipes) I thought I should add the pumpkin puree.
Nowhere in the instructions did it tell me to add the puree.
I’m serious. The ingredients called for puree, and there was even a little blue bubble note telling me that I could use my own homemade pumpkin puree (who even has time for that?), but nowhere in the actual instructions did it tell me to add the pumpkin. I think I stared at the page for a full five minutes, wondering whether or not I was somehow too tired to read properly before realizing, after reading it for the hundredth time, that I wasn’t crazy. The instructions just didn’t mention the pumpkin. At all.
So I just said “Why not?” and added the pumpkin to the finished base. I beat it in with a whisk until smooth and then chilled the custard.
Next, I made the gingersnaps, which was way more soothing. The recipe, from How to Bake Everything, was easy to make and used all of the ingredients (never thought I’d have to add that qualifier). I made the dough, shaped it into two logs, and chilled it in the freezer (I think “refrigerate” is really a recommendation) before cleaning the ice cream maker and preparing to churn the ice cream base.
I churned the base! It didn’t go well (predictably).
Basically, it didn’t “inflate” or become aerated, and I don’t know if this is because my ice cream bowl wasn’t cold enough or if the base wasn’t cold enough, but my guess at the time was that my custard was under-cooked and needed to be put back on the heat.
(My “why not?” philosophy was really the guiding force once I had reached this part of the bake, so since the idea sounded semi-reasonable, I just did it.)
At this point, I had already started shaping the gingersnaps into rounds and baking them.
So once all of cookies had come out of the oven I dumped the custard into the saucepan and reheated it, and then I cooked it again until it really coated the back of the spoon and I was sure that it couldn’t be not cooked.
Then I strained and chilled and went through the whole process again, all the while cursing the dead thermometer with its strange batteries and the recipe’s lack of pumpkin instruction.
At long last, I re-churned the base, and…it was still not aerated. In fact, it was even soupier this time. I gave up and pushed the bowl into the back corner of my freezer.
The gingersnaps, on the other hand, were delicious. Absolutely fantastic – they had a great snap, a wonderful sweet flavor, and a nice kick from the ginger. I will definitely make those cookies again.
The ice cream, on the other hand…
Well, it tasted AWESOME! I mean, it was really frozen custard by the time I tried it, but it tasted fantastic. The spices blended beautifully and the pumpkin really shone through. However, the stress totally wasn’t worth it and I really don’t think I’ll make pumpkin ice cream again any time soon.
If anyone has any theories on why the ice cream failed, please let me know!