Thursday, March 1, 2012

Winter Peach Ice Cream on a Popcorn Cookie

Around these parts, as I'm sure you know, ice cream is pretty popular year round. Homemade peach ice cream, though, is usually reserved for those long sunny months when the fuzzy fruit is well in season, when markets are loaded down with those gorgeous rosy globes. That's the general rule, right? Whenever you can, use fresh fruit in season.

But rummaging around in our freezer the other day, I came across a bag of long forgotten, but still fully viable, peach slices and thought it might just be time to whip up a batch of the homemade stuff--winter or no winter. After all, there's no law on the books prohibiting it. May not be preferable, in ideal circumstances that is, but using frozen fruit's not even a misdemeanor. No jail time will be served. So go check your freezer, right now. Way in the back. Bet you've got a bag of frozen peaches in there somewhere, too.

But wait, enough about the ice cream . . . what is that curious disk supporting it? Why, that's made from a happily baked concoction of popped popcorn that's been pureed with sugar, a tiny pinch of salt, and melted butter. Who knew that popcorn could ever morph into such a neat little platform, crunchy as all get out, and tasty as heck? I admit I never knew popcorn even had this potential until I took pastry classes.

Pastry chefs have been known to use the wackiest components imaginable in coming up with fancy desserts, some of them so commonplace you would hardly believe it. So why not employ the most plebeian treat of all in something that can be made at home in a few minutes? If pastry chefs can do it, so can we. Don't be shy. Get out the popcorn!

About this recipe . . .

Pulling out my copy of The Perfect Scoop, by David Lebovitz, I noticed it's getting increasingly dog-eared, some of the pages lightly smeared from the residue of whatever ingredient was on my hands while using it. The book's a little masterwork, in my opinion, and it's chock full of the best ice cream recipes I've ever come across. I had to wade through some very disappointing ice cream volumes before finally being saved by The Perfect Scoop.

Yeah, I know, I'm preaching to the choir and I've sung this hymn of Perfect Scoop praise before. Needless to say, this peach ice cream is refreshing and too darn simple to be believed. No eggs in this particular formula, and nothing to heat on the stove. In other words, it's screw-up proof. You have nothing to lose.

I adapted the recipe to suit my purposes by adding in a wee dab of peach schnapps and reducing the amount of vanilla extract, omitting the water and lemon juice altogether, and using frozen uncooked fruit versus the fresh cooked fruit suggested in the book. I also reworded the instructions to reflect exactly what how I assembled everything. 

The popcorn cookie recipe was adapted from a recipe for an herb-spiked tart shell, designed for use with a cheesecake filling, that I found here, in the McCormick spice company's site. I nixed the herbs entirely and adjusted the method, rewriting it in the process.

Winter Peach Ice Cream and Popcorn Cookies
(For a printable version of this recipe, click here!)

Yield: 6 large cookies and a full quart of peach ice cream

To make the popcorn cookies:

3 generous cups of plain, freshly popped, popcorn
1/3 cup of granulated sugar
1 pinch salt 
6 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350.

Place all of the popcorn in the large bowl of your food processor. Sprinkle the sugar and salt over it. Pulse repeatedly until the mixture starts to resemble the texture of rough cornmeal.

Pour in the melted butter and pulse again, a few more times, until it's evenly mixed in.

Divide the mixture evenly into the ungreased cups of a jumbo-muffin-top pan (that's what I used, similar in size to a whoopie-pie pan) or a regular muffin pan, pressing down to form a flat cookie shape in the bottom.

Bake in a preheated 350 oven for 10-15 minutes, or until the cookies look golden around the edges.

Let the baked cookies cool on a rack, in the pan, for about 15 minutes or so, then lift each one out carefully using the pointed tip of a sharp knife for leverage to help get them out. They should not stick to the pan.

They are kind of delicate, so handle them carefully and let them cool completely. Keep them in an airtight container until you're ready to use them.

For the the ice cream:

2 lbs. of semi-frozen unsweetened sliced peaches, chopped and drained
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup sour cream (I suggest using a predictably thick brand, like Breakstone or Daisy)
1 cup heavy cream
1/8 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. peach schnapps

In a large bowl, mix together the peaches and sugar. Let it sit until the peaches are almost completely thawed.

Pour the entire mixture into the large bowl of your food processor and pulse repeatedly until there are only small lumps remaining (at this point, if you prefer an ice cream with no little visible pieces of peach, go ahead and puree the mixture until smooth).

Add in the sour cream, heavy cream, vanilla, and schnapps, and pulse just until well combined.

Pour into a clean container, cover it well, and chill in the fridge for a few hours. Process the chilled mixture in your ice cream freezer according to the manufacturer's directions (I use the ice cream maker attachment that goes with my Kitchen Aid mixer, then I put the churned ice cream into a freezer-safe container and leave it in there for almost a day or so before serving).

Let your frozen ice cream soften slightly before serving so it will scoop more neatly.

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