I would like to take a minute to talk about the Frenchman’s familial home. Since we just returned from a sojourn there, now seems an appropriate time.
The home is actually three small houses, which form a periphery around a bean-shaped swimming pool and a terrace. The property is bombastic with vines and flowers, their geneses and medicinal qualities neatly labeled on slate squares. A closed well is painted the baby blue of the region. In warm weather, lunch and dinner are verbose, lingering affairs set at the colorfully-laid terrace table, protected from sun and drizzle by a canopy of fanning grape leaves.
The place is suffused with a relaxed openness, both figuratively and literally. In all three small houses, the doors that face the courtyard are glass, and kept thrown open during the day, so one is free to patter between them. I am almost constantly barefooted. The home has roots, a sound foundation. The Frenchman’s parents built it slowly, piece by piece, seed by seed, over the course of thirty years.
Amongst the flowers, thimble-sized bees drift from blossom to blossom, speckled with pollen as vividly yellow as an egg yolk. There are also plants you can eat. I can report: a fig tree, fennel, artichokes, tomatoes, grapes, lavender, thyme, bay leaves, mint, and my personal favorite, a cherry tree. For about a month in June, the tree is awash in red fruit. You cannot eat them quickly enough. The cherries are warm from the sun, their juices opening in the mouth with suddenness and surprise of a kiss.
The ice cream that follows is an ode to that happy tree, to the home it sits at the center of, and the people who tend to it.
Makes 1.5 quarts
- 1/2 cup sugar, divided
- 1½ cups whole milk
- 1 ½ cups heavy cream
- 1 pinch of salt
- 5 large egg yolks
- 3 cups fresh cherries, pitted
- 1 100 gram chocolate bar (dark chocolate is best)
- 1 box butter waffle cookies, or similar (optional)
1. In a medium pot (I like ceramic, as it heats so evenly), whisk together the milk, the cream, the salt, and 1/4 cups of the sugar, until the sugar and salt are dissolved. Turn the heat to medium, and let the mixture come to a boil. When the cream/milk starts to foam and rise in the pot, turn the heat off.
2. Meanwhile, crack the 5 egg yolks into a medium bowl. Spoon in the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar, and beat the sugar into the yolks for 3-4 minutes. You are looking for the yolks to visibly lighten in color.
3. Unhurriedly pour the milk/cream into the egg yolks. This has to be done painfully slowly, especially at first, so that the warm cream doesn’t cook the eggs. Gently whisk the yolks and cream together as you go. When you’ve finished, strain the mixture through a sieve.
4. Wipe out the original cream pot, and add back your strained mixture. Turn the heat to medium-low, stirring occasionally until it starts to thicken. (You want 175F on a candy thermometer, or until it sticks to the back of a spoon.) When the custard reached 175F, turn off the heat.
5. Pit the cherries. There are devices to help you do this, but I simply pull the cherries apart with my fingers. Yes, I wind up with stained hands, but by positioning my hands over a bowl, I’m able to catch every drop of cherry juice as I go. It’s both cathartic and monotonous work; if you are easily bored, pit your cherries in front of the television.
6. Add the cherries and cherry juice to the custard base. You can leave the cherries whole, or break them up with an immersion blender. Either way, leave them alone to infuse the custard for about 30 minutes, or until the custard tastes cherry-ish.
7. Once the custard has been thusly cherry-ized, cool the ice cream base over an ice bath until it is quite cold, about 45 minutes. (You could also cover and refrigerate overnight.)
8. Add the ice cream base to an ice cream maker and let it go for about 30 minutes, or according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
9. While the ice cream is churning away, roughly chop up your chocolate bar. Use a good brand! For this batch, I used a Mast Brothers Hazelnut bar.
10. Add the chocolate pieces to the ice cream at the very last minute. You need to keep mixing just long enough to incorporate the chocolate throughout the ice cream.
11. The ice cream will have the consistency of soft-serve right out of the ice cream maker. You can eat it as is, or spread it into ice cream sandwiches. Eat the ice cream sandwiches right away, or line them on a freezer-bound baking sheet for later enjoyment. (This works well as easy, advanced party prep.) Otherwise, empty the ice cream into a shallow container, and move it to the freezer to harden for a few hours.