August 8, 2010

La Gringa's quest for the best cinnamon ice cream

We interrupt your regularly scheduled corruption reporting for a recipe break. Talk about a blog with an identity crisis, a split personality ..... well, that's me. ;-) What else can I say?

Whoopee! A new flavor ice cream recipe for you. If you like the taste of cinnamon, you'll like this recipe. Note that as I blabbed on and on below about my process, detoured to chat about plants, and ended up revising the recipe twice, I decided to post the actual, final, LG-approved recipe in a separate article, which you can jump to here, La Gringa's Cinnamon Ice Cream.

I had a craving for ice cream last Sunday, but had nothing interesting to use, except cocoa for chocolate ice cream (I prefer to use a combination of melted chocolate and cocoa) and coffee for coffee ice cream, both of which I've made the last few times.

Telling El Jefe of the limitations, I asked what kind of ice cream he would like (secretly hoping he would offer go to the store and buy a mango or papaya — heheheh!). It backfired. He said vanilla. Bor-ing! I'm sure you can tell that I'm not a plain vanilla kind of person, unless it is slathered with hot fudge and nuts or sprinkled with fresh fruit or used in a root beer float. ;-)

But, trying to please, I thought I would use the opportunity to try a custard based vanilla recipe so I went to his computer (mine still has me locked out) and searched the internet for a good recipe. Many were similar and I was still comparing recipes when I ran across All Recipes top 20 ice cream recipes. I skimmed through the first 19 (no, don't have this ingredient; no, don't have that ingredient) but number 20 was cinnamon ice cream. Yep, got cinnamon! I knew I would have no trouble getting El Jefe to change his selection to cinnamon. He loves cinnamon and I knew he would be intrigued by a cinnamon ice cream. (I know my man!)

Cinnamon Ice CreamBy the way, we have a cinnamon tree. Cinnamomum zelanicum is a very attractive tree with small glossy leaves which grows quickly in Honduras. The cinnamon spice comes from the dried inner bark of the tree. One of these days I'm going to have to research how to harvest some fresh cinnamon from it. I love to trim this tree because you can't imagine how wonderful it smells when you cut the branches. Cinnamon is called canela in Spanish.

We also have a vanilla orchid vine (Vanilla planifolia) growing in an avocado tree but as you can see in the photo most of the flowers have aborted before making the beans, apparently from not being pollinated though we have tons of bees. The relentless zompopos (leaf eater ants) could also be to blame. Vanilla is 'vainilla' in Spanish, pronounced 'vy-knee'-yah'.

Unfortunately, despite the rave recipe reviews, I didn't like the original recipe. It was a cooked base, which I was looking for, but it included whole eggs. I don't have a good track record of being able to cook or even heat raw egg yolks much less whole eggs without ending up with scrambled eggs in a sweet pudding base — yuck. The recipe also called for 1 1/2 cups half and half (which I can't get here) to 1 cup cream. I also like enough mix to fill the ice cream maker (about 5 cups).

So, I changed the ingredients as follows:

Cinnamon Ice Cream (first revision*)

4 egg yolks, beaten

1 cup sugar
2 cups milk
2 cups cream
1 tsp. vanilla
2 tsp. cinnamon

I followed the preparation instructions in the original recipe.

*Note that this recipe does not carry the La Gringa mark of approval. See the recommended changes below.


This resulted in a very, very rich ice cream — I'm going to shock you here and say, it was really too sweet and too rich. The mouth feel was greasy rather than creamy. The original recipe called for the same amount of sugar and cinnamon with only 2 1/2 cups of liquid! Even though I love cinnamon and generally use the double the amount called for in any recipe, I can't imagine how strong that would have been in the original recipe.

The failure might be partly mine as I used the yolk of one regular size egg and six yolks from my small bantam-sized eggs. Generally I use two of my bantam eggs for each egg called for in a recipe, but these eggs have a higher ratio of yolk to white than grocery store eggs, so maybe I should have used less. To my eye, it looked to be about the right amount, but who knows? Also, I noted some tiny cooked flakes in the custard, so I strained it to avoid scrambled egg ice cream. I admit that I may have overcooked the base, too.

Recommended changes

I would try the custard base again, but for this recipe, I recommend decreasing the egg yolks to two or maybe three, the sugar to 3/4 cup, and the cinnamon to 1 1/2 teaspoons. If you don't like a strong cinnamon flavor, you might even reduce that to 1 teaspoon.

Trying again

El Jefe said it was good but he didn't ask for seconds. ;-/ Not wanting him to be disappointed with cinnamon ice cream, I prepared another batch a couple of days later using the Ben and Jerry's base recipe that I normally use, reducing the sugar to 3/4 cups. We really liked it much better. It was rich and creamy without being over-the-top.

After tasting the second recipe, El Jefe admitted that he thought the first batch had too much cinnamon, even though the proportion of cinnamon was reduced from the original.

So, in the end, even though the cooked custard base ice cream is supposed to be the "best" according to dessert gurus, I think I'm going to stick with my easier and quicker Ben and Jerry base which has never failed me yet.

Other Ice Cream news

At the same time that I was drafting this article, a friend (thanks, César!) coincidentally sent me the link to a New York Times Style page which had some interesting ice cream articles. If you have a fear of using raw eggs, check out Egg-Free Ice Cream Lets Flavors Bloom. To read about the usual USA excesses (US $5 scoops of ice cream), read You Scream, I Scream ... at the Price of Ice Cream. Their review of premium store-bought ice creams was also interesting: Taste Testing Strawberry Ice Cream. You cannot fool a true ice cream aficionado with those artificial ingredients! I have never liked store bought strawberry ice cream, but my homemade strawberry ice cream is heavenly.

I read so many comments on the recipe sites from
readers horrified at the the thought of using raw eggs but I feel comfortable with my home grown, fresh organic eggs. I like easy recipes and living dangerously. After all, this is Honduras where we don't sweat the small stuff!

Find my final improved cinnamon ice cream recipe here.
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