Saturday, August 7, 2010

Bespoke ice cream, attempt #1: Molasses gingersnap à la Moondog Ice Cream

In the "Bespoke ice cream" series, I will chronicle my endeavors to make the world's most delicious (to me) ice cream.  I confess that, if given the choice, I will generally err on the side of a lighter, icier ice cream - more milky than creamy, although I do love a kulfi every now and then when the occasion demands it. It may be because I drink such copious amounts of chai that I've grown accustomed to its particular mouthfeel.  My chai formula calls for part vanilla soymilk and part whole organic milk- the soymilk lets the spicy flavors come through while the whole milk gives it body.

On my first grocery store run, I came home from Whole Foods with a one-gallon jug of organic whole milk, a few pints of half-and-half, a box of vanilla soymilk, and a few cartons of heavy whipping cream.  I was going to make cookies and cream, my go-to flavor, first, so I bought some "natural" Oreo-style cookies, at which point I noticed a bag of "natural" gingersnaps on the shelf.  I flashed back to my early teens: long-boarding around Greenwich Village with my best friend Emma, cutting school to eat lobster rolls at Pearl Oyster Bar back when it only had one table and a few seats at the bar, and always, always stopping at Moondog Ice Cream on Bleecker Street for a little taste of their heaven.  One particular flavor that has never left me was the molasses gingersnap.  So simple, so...outlandishly...good.  I realized I hadn't had it in over a decade, whereas my last cookies and cream encounter was probably only hours old.  Then I waited 45 minutes to pay for my ingredients, enough time to read all the latest news as well as the most popular news with the NYT iPhone app.

I started with Christopher Kimball's basic two-quart recipe for vanilla from the Dessert Bible (I'm away at a wedding at the moment but I'll post it in full on Sunday night), but substituted one cup of soymilk for one of the cups of milk, and one cup of half-and-half for one of the cups of heavy cream.  I also upped the sugar by a tiny bit, which turned out to be a youthful error.  After refrigerating the mixture overnight, I poured half of it out into a large Pyrex, reserving the other quart for a cookies and cream adventure.

Into the Pyrex full of creamy vanilla custard base I drizzled organic blackstrap molasses, stirring and stirring til it had the same dark, coffee-colored hue I remembered from Moondog.  I also added ground ginger and cinnamon, to make it taste more like a gingersnap cookies.  As it churned, I crumbled the gingersnaps into a bowl, added some chopped crystallized ginger (to be safe) and dusted those items with more ground ginger and cinnamon.

I am happy to report that, even though my freezing canister wasn't quite cold enough, and the ice cream never quite froze to real ice cream, the taste is 100% right on, just like a delicious molasses cookie with chunks of chewy gingersnap and even more chunks of bracing candied ginger.  Each bite makes me feel 15 again.  After a day or two in the freezer, it became real hard ice cream, which I now scoop into organic sugar cones (I know, I know) or, even better, have every morning for breakfast as part of my "Ultimate Summer Cooler": iced chai, sweetened with a jaggery-honey syrup, topped with a few scoops of molasses gingersnap candied ginger ice cream.

FYI: I looked into what became of Moondog and according to a poster on Chowhound, the owner was "considering getting out of the ice cream biz" (is that like "having enough of the gang life"?).  I called a number they had listed in Brooklyn and got one of those fast busy signals that means the line is probably no longer working.  This is very sad, but I feel tremendously empowered having recreated his ice cream by myself. 
My friend Kate enjoys Bespoke ice cream, attempt #1.


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