The Ladies' Tea Guild

Monday, June 22, 2009

How about some tea ice cream?

Since summer just officially started, cool and refreshing beverages – like iced tea – and foods are looking more and more appetizing. Did you know that tea and chai can be used to make some really delicious frozen desserts? Many of us have enjoyed green tea ice cream at a favorite Chinese restaurant, and some small ice cream companies are beginning to manufacture it, but green tea seems to be the only flavor available. Black, white, oolong tea and chai can be made into all sorts of delicious ice creams, varied by the type and flavor of tea used, as well as a range of other flavorings.

Ice cream and tea have been around for a long time, and it may be a surprise to you, but tea-flavored ice cream has been around for a long time, too! Here is a 19th century recipe for it:

Tea Ice Cream
2 tbs. tea
Boiling water, about 1/2 to 1 c.
1 qt. cream
Yolks of 8 eggs, beaten

Put two tablespoonfuls of good tea in a tea pot, pour on enough boiling water to cover it, and let it stand for half an hour to infuse. Stir into a quart of sweet cream the beaten yolks of eight eggs, and simmer it slowly till it becomes thick. Having strained the tea, stir it into the cream, and cool and freeze it as directed. [see below for Mrs. Bryan's freezing directions.]
From The Kentucky Housewife by Lettice Bryan, 1839

Now, despite what Mrs. Bryan recommends, I would not steep the tea for half an hour! That would tend to make the brewed tea very bitter, and I imagine that the bitterness would translate to the finished ice cream. It is interesting to me that the recipe doesn’t call for any sugar; the mention of “sweet cream” refers to fresh cream that has not yet soured, which raw milk and cream does naturally before it goes rancid and becomes inedible. For a more modern ice cream that will appeal to the 21st century sweet tooth, here is my adaptation of a recipe for Scented Geranium Ice Cream:

Modern Tea Ice Cream
2 teaspoons loose tea leaves
1 ¼ cups half and half
1/2 cup granulated sugar
4 egg yolks
1 cup heavy cream

Combine loose tea and half and half in saucepan and bring to a boil, then remove from the heat and let it stand and cool for at least 20 minutes. Meanwhile, in a small stainless steel saucepan, whisk the sugar and egg yolks until they are light and frothy. Whisk the tea mixture into the egg mixture and cook the custard over low heat, stirring continually with a wooden spoon until the mixture coats the back of the spoon. Next, strain the custard into a bowl and set the bowl in an ice bath to cool. Beat the heavy cream until it forms stiff peaks, and gently fold it into the cooled custard. Freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. If you don’t have an ice cream maker, pour the chilled custard into an 8-inch square baking dish and freeze it solid; then, break it up and process it in a food processor when frozen. Remove and place the ice cream in an airtight container in the freezer, and let it set overnight before serving. Makes about 2 cups of ice cream.

Electric ice cream machines and freezers make the process a whole lot easier, but if you want to serve your ice cream in a more formal manner, why not try the method that was used before the invention of even hand-cranked ice cream makers? The earlier method of making ice cream was to prepare the custard, pour it into a metal mould, which could be a simple bowl or a fancy fruit basket shape (similar to chocolate molds, fancy Jello molds, or even specialty Bundt cake pans), which was covered tightly, and set in a bucket filled with ice and salt to freeze solid. The mould would have been dipped in hot water and inverted onto a platter for presentation and serving. You can omit the bucket of ice and salt by placing your ice cream mould in the freezer, and invert your fancy ice cream shape onto a chilled serving platter for your next party!

Whether frozen in a fancy mould, or scooped into sherbet glasses and garnished with fruit, edible flowers or sprigs of mint or other herbs, what could be more refreshing and elegant than homemade tea ice cream? It makes me wish I had room inside my freezer ...

Overview of how to make ice cream
Green tea ice cream recipe
Epicurious.com green tea ice cream recipe
How to make green tea ice cream without an ice cream maker
Chai ice cream recipe
Chai ice cream recipe from Simply Recipes
Vanilla Caramel black tea ice cream recipe
Another Vanilla Caramel tea ice cream recipe
Spiced tea ice cream recipe
Apricot Earl Grey tea ice cream recipe

1 comment:

Beth said...

Very interesting. I may have to try it some time. Come over to my blog and link up your tea post at time for tea Tuesday.

Now stir the fire, and close the shutters fast,
Let fall the curtains, wheel the sofa round,
And, while the bubbling and loud-hissing urn
Throws up a steamy column, and the cups
That cheer but not inebriate, wait on each,
So let us welcome peaceful evening in.
-- William Cowper (1731-1800)
"The Winter Evening" (Book Four), _The Task_ (1784)