While I like to say I came up with recipe for Rhubarb-Rose Ice Cream, as with all things, it’s a synthesis of other inspirations. I only just recently discovered how beautifully the flavors of rhubarb and rose meld after making the Rhubarb-Rose Upside-Down Cake from Jody and Ken at the Garum Factory, and I’ve been in love with the Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream recipe since reading about it on Mariannika’s blog (and subsequently, just about everywhere else).
Rose water has an ancient pedigree–and it’s so easy to imagine it’s flavor being liberally enjoyed in opulent, courtly settings–so it can only be with a sense of irony that I declare that it tastes new and (for lack of a better word) exotic to me. Parenting books tell me I should offer a picky toddler something 30 times before I can conclude that they don’t like it. (Good luck with that). For me it has never been a question of “acquiring the taste” but more of acclimating myself–my confused tastebuds being sure that I wasn’t biting into a leafy bouquet, a waxy bar of soap, or worse, accidentally downing a vial of Chanel No. 5.
I made this compote with two stalks of rhubarb I had left over after making Jody and Ken’s cake. Rhubarb is one of my absolute favorite fruits (or “fruit-like” foods, maybe I should say) and I couldn’t let it go to waste. Lacking in too much ambition, however, I decided to chop it up and toss in the remainder of a bag of frozen strawberries, pour in some sugar, and set over low heat. That’s what’s nice about compotes. They are as easy to make as they are to eat, and the word compote is fun: it’s very 19th century British period drama, no? Being old-timey then it just begs for that rose water flavor. After streaking this chunky sauce into my yogurt the next morning, I looked at my cup of berry reds swirling into creamy white and thought: ice cream!
And of course I turned to Jeni, the famed Ohio ice cream maker: what I love about the Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream recipe is that it uses corn starch to thicken the base rather than egg yolks. I’m not afraid of making the custard sauce, but as I’ve said before, I certainly suffer from guilt at the fate of all those cast-off whites. (Incidentally, here are some ideas). And Jeni has a few more interesting moves at play: a bit of corn syrup and cream cheese to enhance scoopability, (yes, I just coined that word!), boiling the milk for a few minutes to evaporate out water and thicken the base even more. Jeni’s “base recipe” is what I used as my starting point, but if you get your hands on her book you’ll see that the recipes are anything but basic–from the wild flavor combinations of coriander raspberry ice cream to elegant riesling-poached pear sorbet. And the book is organized by seasons, including winter recipes (such an influenza cure sorbet). It sounds a bit funny, but then again, ice cream knows no season!
Rhubarb Rose Ice Cream (ice cream recipe based on Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home)
A few notes: you’ll have extra compote to swirl into your yogurt or bump up your ice cream as a sauce. If you’re like me and don’t always have whole milk around, you’ll be glad to know that my low-fat ice cream has always proved delicious. And if you’re scatterbrained like me, and neglect to put in the cream cheese, that’s OK as well: I was asked, the next day, if there was a reason I had butter (or “at least I think it’s butter?”) sitting in a liquid measure cup in the microwave. Yes, that would be me trying to quickly soften the cream cheese and then completely forgetting it.
Really, this is two recipes in one, so use it and have fun!
- 2 stalks of rhubarb, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces (about 2 cups)
- 1 cup or so frozen or fresh strawberries (why not use frozen and save the fresh for something else?)
- 3/4c sugar
- 1t rose water
- 2 c milk
- 4 t cornstarch
- 1 1/4 c heavy cream
- 2/3 c sugar
- 2 T light corn syrup
- 1/4 t kosher salt
- 3 T cream cheese, softened
- 2t rose water
For the compote: combine the rhubarb, sugar, and strawberries in a small saucepan and cook over low heat until the fruit has broken down, about a half hour to 45 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the rose water. Chill before using in the recipe.
For the ice cream: In a bowl, stir together 1/4 cup milk and the cornstarch; set this slurry aside. In a 4-quart saucepan–you don’t want to worry about the milk boiling over–whisk together remaining milk and the cream, sugar, syrup, and salt; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook for 4 minutes; stir in the slurry. Return to a boil and cook, stirring, until thickened, about 2 minutes. Place the cream cheese in a bowl and pour in 1/4 cup hot milk mixture; whisk until smooth. Then whisk in the remaining milk mixture. Stir in the rose water. Pour the mixture into a plastic bag; seal, and submerge in a bowl of ice water until chilled–at least 20 minutes. Pour the mixture into an ice cream maker; process according to manufacturer’s instructions.
Transfer ice cream to a storage container and drizzle a very generous cup of compote over the surface. Freeze until set (about 4 hours).
Now, that should keep you busy for a while!