Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Brandy Snap Ice-cream

One of my favourite things to make is ice-cream - it lasts for ages (or at least, the compulsion to eat it all straight away is lessened by the preservation provided by the freezer, as compared with, say, cookies), tastes sooo much better than bought, isn't very costly, complicated, or time consuming to make (though it does require a period of waiting - no instant gratification here) and the world is your oyster as far as flavour is concerned (though oyster ice-cream would be perhaps an acquired taste...). It does generally fall off my radar altogether over winter, though. I've been thinking for the last couple of weeks it must be about time to dust off Snowy and fill my freezer - and last night I finally got around to making the custard for my favourite - brandy snap ice-cream. Of course, with custard ready to churn into a delicious, chilled dessert, the weather promptly reverted to mid-winter, with lashing rain and hail keeping us awake all night, and icy winds fairly much propelling the good folk of Wellington about the streets. Suddenly it doesn't seem quite as appealing anymore...

Anyway, I have to confess that I stole the idea for brandy snap ice-cream from the super awesome Gourmet Ice-Cream Company, but due to being a poor student and developing an addiction I quickly figured out how to make my own. Which I now, somewhat precociously, think is far better than theirs (theirs is still pretty awesome).

It's really just a basic ice-cream recipe - make a custard, but with spices added, and then right at the end, the magic touch - golden syrup. I also like to smush up lots of bits of brandy snap and mix them through (the stuff you buy has this too) - or pipe the ice-cream into brandy snaps. In fact, this is one of my best-ever diet desserts - I have such a die-hard sweet tooth I have absolutely no chance of eliminating dessert from my life, and while sometimes it's completely okay to have a generous serving, it doesn't tend to work out so well in the long run if you do that every night. Homemade ice-cream is so rich that having a little bit actually works - and having it pre-packaged in brandy-snap-sized servings is a great help. You can, of course, still override your willpower and eat a second and third and fourth brandy snap - but of course we all have iron willpower here, right? ;-)

How's that photo montage for breaking it down, step by step? That was Mr Cake's handiwork. I love when he helps me by taking photos, but I do tend to find I have a lot more photos to sort through when he does it! ;-)

The hardest part is cooking the eggs without letting them curdle - it's not that hard but does require patience, and impatience will result in tears! First you temper the eggs - warm the milk mixture, gradually pour into the beaten eggs, whisking all the while - and then you return it all to the heat.

Then you just have to stir, stir, stir. It usually takes me 10-15 minutes - you want a low-to medium heat, and whatever you do don't stop stirring! It only takes a couple of seconds for a skin to form on the bottom of the pan and burn, and heat too high will result in the whole mixture curdling - the egg will cook in lumpy little bits and the milk part will never thicken.

The test to tell when it's done is the traditional but somewhat vague 'coats the back of a spoon' criteria, commonly applied to custard. Basically, if the mixture is viscous enough to form a layer on the spoon, instead of running off, and if you can then run your finger (or another spoon) through it, and the edges hold the custard rather than letting it flood back over the surface, you're good. The photo on the right above shows what I mean (albeit poorly); you can (hopefully) see a strip in the middle of the spoon where there's no custard. 

When the custard is cooked you strain it into the remaining cream (this will weed out any stray lumpy bits), and then add the warmed golden syrup. And then you chill the lot overnight. Now. This is important. Don't be tempted to cheat. 6 hours is my minimum chilling time - even when the mixture feels completely cold to you sometimes it's not cold enough. Similarly, if you have an ice-cream machine like ours, where you freeze the cannister for 24 hours before using, chill it for 24 hours (or longer). We actually just keep ours in the freezer, unless we need the space (mostly we don't).

If you have trouble churning up your ice-cream in one of these, check your freezer temperature. When we first got Snowy we couldn't get our ice-cream to thicken; turned out the fan in our freezer was frozen up and the cold air wasn't circulating, so it never got cold enough. You can also turn down the temperature on most freezers by adjusting the fridge temperature (you have to make the trade off for yourself as to whether perfect ice-cream is worth the odd slightly frozen tomato in the fridge!).

Using this method, the ice-cream takes about 40 minutes to churn (which may vary depending on how cold your cannister is). It's done when it's thick and creamy - like soft serve. It'll firm up in the freezer. I didn't get any photos of piping the brandy snaps because I had to move quickly - I didn't want the ice-cream to melt! - so you'll have to imagine. Just fill a piping bag (or sandwich/snaplock bag with the corner snipped off) with ice-cream, and pipe into the brandy snaps. Holding the bag with a teatowel will a) stop your hands getting cold and b) slow down the ice-cream melting. Then just pop them in a container and into the freezer.

You can vigorously stir the mixture every so often as it freezes, if you don't have an ice-cream maker (which is about as single-use as space consuming kitchen appliances come!) - it won't be quite as creamy but it will definitely still taste good!

As well as filling 16 brandy snaps (which, incidentally, I bought, due to laziness and not being very good at shaping them) I got almost a litre of ice-cream, which I then mixed broken brandy snap bits into.

Brandy Snap Ice-cream
125ml full-fat milk
625ml cream
130g / 2/3 cup sugar
2 tsp ground ginger
4 egg yolks
3 Tbsp golden syrup
2-3 packets of brandy snaps (or your own homemade ones!)

Warm the milk, 125ml of the cream, sugar and ginger in a medium saucepan. Pour the remaining cream into a large bowl, set a strainer/sieve over the top, and set aside. Whisk the egg yolks in another bowl. When the milk is warm, gradually pour over the yolks, whisking constantly (this is to gradually warm the yolks and prevent them going lumpy).

Pour the  egg mixture back into the saucepan, and stir constantly over a medium heat, scraping the bottom as you go, until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon. Strain the mixture into the cream, then warm the golden syrup and stir it in. Chill the mixture overnight, then churn in your ice-cream maker. When thick and creamy pipe into brandy snaps, or break them into small pieces and mix through.

If you don’t have an ice cream maker, put the ice-cream in the freezer in a bowl and stir vigorously with a fork every half hour until it starts to firm up.


  1. Oh, how wonderful. Gourmet Ice-Cream Co's Brandy Snap is my very favourite ice cream...closely followed by their Lemon Curd one

    I might have to give this a try for my very first ice-cream attempt.

  2. Mmm, lemon curd... Maybe that's the next project! I remember having a lemon meringue pie ice-cream in the UK, with little bits of meringue through it. Soooo yummy! Let me know how you go if you make it - how you think it compares. :-)


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