Rarely does a pastry chef dazzle me more than the chef.
Out sailed an enameled barge bearing five gorgeous and perfectly round scoops of cold creamy treats nestled in a row on a bed of crumbled shortbread crumbs: yogurt, basil, strawberry, butter-pecan and… coconut curry.
That last one may sound strange to some, but believe it or not, I’ve had variations of coconut curry ice cream before. But, Chef MacIsaac’s version was truly outstanding. It struck the right balance between coconut and curry – each playing and equal and distinct role. Cardamom danced to the fore along with the milky tropical perfume of the coconut. A subtle dash of heat and a slight salty prod rounded out the flavor profile.
Althought it’s a sorbet, it was the creamiest and richest of the five tastings. Ice cream, by it’s very definition, must contain cream. There are ice milks, and even sherbet, which is dairy + fruit. And, then there’s sorbet – non-dairy liquid mixed with other ingredients, most commonly fruits. Coconut “milk”, although as creamy (in fact often higher in saturated fat content than cream) as dairy cream, is plant-derived. Therefore, in frozen form, coconut “milk” cannot be ice cream, but rather “sorbet.”
I ventured to get the recipe from Chef MacIssac, and she most generously shared it with me. There were only two problems: (1) her recipe required some rather bothersome ingredients for the home cook to obtain, and (2) she made up her curry, and had only a rough guide as to what to put in it. So off I went (with helpful hints and suggestions from MacIsaac) with my imagination to my spice rack and kitchen to make something manageable for the home cook. Here’s what I ended up with:
2 cans of coconut milk
2/3 cup sugar
4 cups light corn syrup
2 tablespoon of curry powder, or to taste, recipe follows
2 teaspoons salt
1. Heat the first three ingredients in a non-reactive pot over medium heat until sugar is fully dissolved.
2. While the mixture is still warm, stir in the curry powder in increments until it reaches the desired taste. Make sure that the curry is evenly distributed. Set aside to cool to room temperature.
3. Chill the base overnight (preferably) or at least 3 to 4 hours. Freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. When the ice cream is near-frozen, add in the 2 teaspoons of salt. Transfer to a freezer-proof container and freeze for at least 1 hour before serving.
Edited: Out of respect for Ms. McIsaac, at her request, I have removed her recipe for the curry powder from this post. I was unable to make her recipe exactly, so I played around with different spices to suite my personal tastes. I can provide a rough guideline as to what I included: cardamom, cinnamon, fenugreek, allspice, cayenne pepper, white pepper, and cumin. If you can get whole seeds, toast them before grinding them. Of course, your favorite pre-mixed curry powder will do just as well. Have fun experimenting!