Although the calendar says it's only May, it feels more like July this week. My kids are begging to go to the pool every day and I'm craving ice cream. Strawberry ice cream to be specific. Strawberries are in full season in all their sweet glory and what better way to stave off the heat than to indulge in icy cream and fresh berries.
I have often made strawberry ice cream using heavy cream, berries, sugar and not much else. Although these desserts have been creamy and sweet, they were a bit lacking. Without eggs, ice cream just doesn't have the full body and character I'm looking for in my dessert. I have hunted for years for the perfect strawberry ice cream recipe, but most use between 6 and 9 egg yolks. Now I love egg custards (and ice cream made with eggs is essentially just frozen custard), but the more eggs included in a custard, the richer the flavor. Although this can often be a very good thing -- such as with vanilla, pecan or chocolate ice creams -- the richness of too many eggs in custard can detract from the natural sweetness of any fruit you add to it, flattening the flavors. Plus eggs are high in cholesterol and fat, so if I can, I try to avoid them in abundance. What I wanted was a lighter strawberry ice cream with the depth of flavor eggs provide, without overshadowing the strawberries and casting them out of the limelight (or raising my LDL levels).
I recently read a NY Times article that used a pudding recipe for ice cream. The problem is that it uses 8 egg yolks (yes, 8!). I remembered that my pudding recipe is thick and creamy and only uses a couple of eggs, which seemed much more reasonable. I decided to tweak it a little, however, using strawberries instead of chocolate. I also added one extra egg yolk to help bind the ice cream as I was worried the strawberries -- which naturally have a lot of water in them -- would make the custard runny. Heavy cream also seemed a better choice than the whole milk I use in my pudding as this is ice cream we're making, not ice milk. My final alteration was to include some lemon juice and zest to help brighten the strawberry flavors. Finally I plopped everything into the beautiful ice cream maker my husband's aunt bought us a few years ago (thank you Aunt Susie!) with excellent results. The final product had a deep strawberry taste, a rich and creamy texture, and a more complex flavor than the plain cream strawberry ice cream I've made for years. It also allowed the strawberries to star, unlike some custard ice creams I've tried. And best of all, it helped cool us off during this heat wave.