Monday, October 10, 2011

When a Cookie Just Isn't Enough

I went on an oatmeal raisin cookie kick earlier this summer, so it's no surprise that one of the ice cream flavors I've been most excited to try my hand at is Oatmeal Raisin Cookie. I finally got the chance last weekend, and I have to admit - it tastes almost exactly like the real thing! Brown sugar-cinnamon ice cream base with oatmeal praline and rum-soaked raisins mixed in. I followed the recipe exactly and was completely happy with the results. The only real advice I have is to watch your caramel carefully when you're making the pralines - overcooking it gives the praline a strong flavor that overwhelms the other elements of the ice cream. The rest of my notes for the recipe are in italics, below.

Oatmeal Raisin Ice Cream
Recipe by David Lebovitz, via Dinner and Dessert.


¼ cup water
2 tablespoons sugar
½ cup raisins
2 teaspoons whiskey (I used rum)

Ice Cream:
1 cup whole milk
½ cup granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
2 cups heavy cream
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
5 large egg yolks
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Oatmeal Praline:
¾ cup rolled oats (not instant)
½ cup sugar
Pinch of coarse salt (I used kosher)

To prepare the raisins, heat the water and sugar in a small saucepan.  Add the raisins and cook over low heat, stirring frequently, until all but about 2 tablespoons of the syrup has been absorbed, about 5 minutes.  Remove from the heat and add the whiskey (or rum). Set aside until ready to mix into ice cream. (Most of the rest of the liquid will be absorbed. I let mine sit for 4 hours or so, then strained off what wasn't absorbed before adding the raisins to the ice cream.)

To prepare the praline, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil, spread the oats evenly on the sheet, and bake for 10 minutes, stirring once or twice while baking, until the oats are fragrant and nicely toasted.  Remove from the oven. 

Spread the sugar in a medium, heavy-bottomed skillet and cook over medium heat, watching it carefully.  When it begins to liquify and darken at the edges, use a heatproof spatula to stir it very gently, encouraging the heat of the liquefied sugar around the edges to moisten and melt the sugar crystals in the center. Tilt the pan and stir gently until all the sugar is melted and the caramel begins to smoke. (Watch this carefully. Overcooking it makes the praline flavor overwhelming to the other flavors in the ice cream.) Once the mixture is deep golden, remove it from the heat and immediately add the oats to the skillet (lift the foil to guide them in quickly).  Return the foil to the baking sheet.

Stir the oats gently but quickly, coating them with the caramel.  Scrape the oats onto the foil-lined baking sheet and spread them as well as possible (and quickly, as they set up fast).  Sprinkle with the salt and let cool completely.  Once firm, break the praline oats into small pieces by pulsing them in a food processor or placing the pieces in a heavy-duty plastic bag and smacking them with a mallet or rolling pin. Set aside until ready to mix into ice cream.

To make the ice cream, warm the milk, granulated sugar, and salt in a medium saucepan.  Whisk the cream, brown sugar, and cinnamon together into a large bowl and set a mesh strainer on top.

In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks.  Slowly pour the warm milk mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly, then scrape the warmed egg yolks back into the saucepan.

Stir the mixture constantly over medium heat with a heatproof spatula, scraping the bottom as you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula.  Be careful not to cook over too high heat, or the eggs will scramble and ruin the custard. Pour the custard through the strainer and stir it into the cream.  Mix in the vanilla and stir until cool over an ice bath.
Chill the mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator, then freeze it in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.  During the last few minutes of churning, add the raisins and oatmeal praline.

For best flavor, let sit overnight for all the flavors to mellow and meld.

And, voila! 

It really does taste like an oatmeal raisin cookie, with all the brown sugar and cinnamon and plump raisins and toasted oats. I devoured this batch in a week, and no, I don't care what you think of that.

We're finally getting some cooler, fall-like weather here, and this flavor's spices and toasty flavor made a nice bridge between the seasons. But now I'm looking for something a little more traditionally "fall," in the hopes that it will finally encourage the season to arrive and stick around for a while. I think I've hit on the right flavor, so stay tuned....


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