Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Fromage Blanc Ice Cream w/ Blackberry Jam Swirl + #IceCreamForOXO

When I go to a restaurant, I often wonder where the chef got the idea for the meal I'm eating.  What was it that inspired him/her to use that compound of ingredients that make every bite so outrageously divine?  I wonder what experience they had that triggered the chain of thoughts and motivation to create it.  Unfortunately, it's impossible that we will have the same experiences as others, but the good news is that it is guaranteed that our interpretations of the same or similar experiences will always create unique outcomes.  Not to mention the inspiration domino effect that will come from that meal I just shared with several others in the restaurant that night. 

On a recent visit to Shake Shack, one of the city's best burger joints, a friend and I felt the New York summer heat collide hard with our love of cold summer desserts.  The Wednesday ice cream special (yes, you can literally go back every day for different flavor - dangerous...?) was a fromage blanc ice cream with raspberry swirl, and needless to say our curiosity got the best of us.  As we finished our burgers and quickly dived into the already melting ice cream, we pondered over what fromage blanc actually was - "white cheese?", "cream cheese?", "yogurt?".  I'm sure the group of French men at an adjacent table were probably rolling their eyes at us, although as it turns out we weren't too far off.  It most closely resembled a cheesecake flavor -  tangy, slightly cheesy, and a silky smooth texture.  With the taste still on my tongue and a little encouragement from my friend, though it didn't warrant much, I left with the gears in my head turning and off I was, ingredient shopping.

Commericial break...

For this blog post I was given the opportunity, nay, inspiration(!) to participate in one of OXO's blogger campaigns, #IceCreamForOXO.  I was sent a box full of handy OXO kitchen products to help me create my new ice cream recipe. 
  • The Small Silicone Spatula helped me almost every step of the way, from stirring to pot scraping, and I found it to be just the right size for scooping every bit out of small corners.  
  • The 2-Cup Angled Measuring Cup was already a favorite of mine, because of how easy it is to measure liquid while looking from above, not to mention it has a great pour spout.  
  • The Mini Chopper saved me a lot of prep time and created the bite-sized pieces of mint chocolate for the ice cream topping.    
  • I stored my ice cream in the LockTop Container.  As opposed to the pints I normally use, this container provided the artist in me a canvas for mixing in the jam swirl.  
  • My unexpected favorite product of the group was the Solid Stainless Steel Ice Cream Scoop (since I have 3 other ice cream scoops at home - clearly I don't joke around when it comes to ice cream).  It worked surprisingly well with its pointed shape that can plunge right into that ice cream, no problem.  I've used it on other, harder ice creams and it doesn't disappoint.
Disclosure: I am employed by OXO and received these products for free. The views and opinions expressed on this site are my own alone and do not represent the views of OXO and/or its affiliates.

Now back to the ice cream...

What is fromage blanc?
Simply put, it's a low-fat, or in many cases fat-free soft cheese, which looks most similar to a yogurt, sour cream, or creme fraiche.  It has only a faint hint of tanginess and is much less dense than cream cheese, yielding a lighter texture and making it a good substitute for your regular or greek yogurt fixes. When it's combined with the mascarpone cheese in this recipe, the tanginess really comes through and that's where the ice cream begins to taste "cheesy" and rich like a piece of cheesecake.

Where to find fromage blanc?
I found the one I used at Whole Foods, conveniently located next to the mascarpone cheese I needed for this recipe as well.  They also sold more specialty flavored versions, which may be something I will try in the future.
Others: Amazon, local cheese shops, or if you're ambitious enough you can make your own!

Had it not been for burger night and a little push from my sweet tooth, I probably never would have tried fromage blanc, let alone thought to put it in an ice cream.  For the base of this recipe, I worked with one of the few fromage blanc ice cream recipes I could find, and used the fruit in my refrigerator to decide the jam swirl flavor. 

So...have you been inspired yet?

(Adapted from FEAST)
Makes: 3-4 cups  

1/2 vanilla bean or 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract (*see note in instructions)
3/4 cup + 1 Tbsp. sugar
1/3 cup whole milk
2/3 cup heavy cream
3 large eggs, preferably brown
1 8oz. package (3/4 cup) fromage blanc, such as Vermont Creamery
3 Tbsp. mascarpone cheese
1/3 cup blackberry (or any other berry) jam or preserves
Mint chocolate such as Lindt's for topping, chopped (optional)
If making jam:
1 cup blackberries (I actually used a mixture of blackberries and black raspberries for this version)
1/2 cup sugar

Flavor of the Week - Change up the flavor of jam that you swirl in or the flavor of fromage blanc if you can find it.
Substitutions - Substitute a low-fat plain yogurt for the fromage blanc.
Beware - Fromage frais and fromage blanc are not the same!

Blackberry Jam (makes approximately 2/3 cup)
  1. Combine berries and sugar in a medium saucepan.  Bring to a boil over MED heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar.
  2. Continue to boil the mixture for 8-10 minutes.
  3. Cool slightly and push the mixture through a fine mesh strainer, using a spatula, to remove the seeds.
  4. Place the jam in a container and cool in the refrigerator until needed for the ice cream.
Fromage Blanc Ice Cream
  1. Add sugar to medium bowl.  Cut vanilla bean in half lengthwise and scrape the contents into the bowl with the sugar (*skip this step if using vanilla extract).  Use your fingers to break up any clumps of vanilla and mix together with sugar.
  2. Add the egg yolks to the sugar mixture and whisk until combined.
  3. In a medium saucepan, heat milk and cream, and scraped vanilla bean pod just until it begins to simmer, stirring occasionally to break up the film of the cream.
  4. Slowly add 1-2 Tbsp. of the warmed milk mixture to the sugar mixture, whisking to combine.  Continue to add the remainder of the milk mixture, slowly in a steady stream, whisking constantly to avoid cooking the egg.
  5. Rinse saucepan and pour mixture back into it.
  6. Heat on MED-LOW to MED, stirring frequently, until the custard thickens, about 10-15 minutes.  Strain into a mixing bowl and cool completely in the refrigerator.
  7. After the custard base has cooled, add the fromage blanc and mascarpone, mixing until combined completely.  A whisk works best for this.
  8. Freeze in ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions.
  1. After the ice cream has been made, scoop half into a shallow container, such as this OXO one, in an even layer.  Add several scoops of blackberry jam in lines across your canvas, then repeat with the second half of the ice cream to create two layers.  The ice cream will have the swirled look when it is scooped and served.
  2. Place in freezer for several hours to allow ice cream to harden.
*I recommend adding some dark mint chocolate bits as a final touch, but this ice cream is delicious as is too.