Winter Comfort

I always look forward to winter because it brings a crispness to the air, a feeling of purity and cleanliness that cannot be matched during any other season. A fresh blanket of white snow, empty branches encrusted with hoar frost and weather as cold as many freezers. There were many family Christmas dinners where the leftovers were stored outside. The temperatures more often than not are below -15C(5F) and this is conducive to keeping anything safe outside. Assuming you don’t live anywhere with a lot of raccoons or other voracious wildlife.

I’ve thought about using the cold for culinary purposes. The first that came to mind was ice cream. I think everyone has seen a YouTube video or heard from a friend about the quick ice cream method where you put milk, sugar and vanilla in a small freezer bag, place that in a larger freezer bag filled with ice and salt and shake it for 20-30 minutes. The problem with that method is more often than not the bags get a pinhole and your ice cream is cloyingly salty.

The thermodynamics behind that idea comes from the concept that the salt decreases the overall melting temperature of ice and cools the ice cream mixture at a temperature closer to -10 to -15C (5-10F). I thought if the outdoor temperature was a little colder than that you wouldn’t need the salt. So I took the following blend in a small freezer bag, placed that in a larger freezer bag to ensure it didn’t leak, then put it all in a basic shopping bag and went for a walk at -22C (-10F) for an hour:

Basic Winter Walk Ice Cream:

1 cup heavy cream

1 Tbsp Coal Lake Honey Farms mixed honey

1 Tbsp maple syrup

1/2 tsp vanilla

I walked at a normal rate, lightly swinging the bag as I walked. The agitation is necessary to add an airy element or else it would just become a frozen block. After at least an hour, the mixture should resemble a nice soft serve ice cream. It will never really get super hard. If you want it a firmer texture, come back inside from the cold, place into a resealable container and freeze in a freezer for a further 2 to 3 hours or put in a container inside of a bag and bury it in the snow in your backyard overnight.

…….But if you want a more conventional ice cream using a standard countertop ice cream maker, one of my favourite recipes is a Chocolate Chai Ice Cream.

Chocolate Chai Ice Cream

1-1/3 cups 2% milk
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp whole coriander seed
1 tsp fennel seed
1 star anise
1-2” long stick of cinnamon (I used Mexican cinnamon, sometimes called canela)
5 whole cloves
2 cardamom pods
2 green tea bags (or 2 Tbsp loose leaf green tea)
2 eggs + 2 egg yolks
1/2 cup white sugar
2 Tbsp cocoa powder
3 oz dark chocolate
1/2 tsp, each ground ginger, ground cinnamon
1 cup heavy (whipping) cream
Bring milk and brown sugar to a bare simmer over medium high heat. Remove from heat, add green tea, coriander seeds, fennel seeds, star anise, whole cloves, cinnamon stick, cardamom pods and allow to steep for 30 minutes. Strain, bring flavoured milk back up to a simmer, dissolving cocoa powder.
Meanwhile in a medium bowl, whisk eggs, egg yolks and white sugar until smooth and pale yellow. Whisk in hot spiced chocolate milk gradually. Transfer back to saucepan and stir constantly with a wooden spoon over medium low heat until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
Remove from the heat, add dark chocolate, allow to sit for 3-5 minutes. Stir until smooth, and add ground ginger and cinnamon. Refrigerate until cold.
Whisk in heavy cream until smooth and process in an ice cream maker following the manufacturerʼs directions(usually around 25-30 minutes). Place in a resealable container and freeze completely for about 2-3 hours.

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