A while back, I was gifted a copy of the Voltaggio brother’s cookbook VOLT ink. This book came from my friend Adam, The Amateur Gourmet. I had previously cooked an interesting dinner for him and he thought I should have this book and that it would inspire and inform my cooking.
It’s true, I’ve really enjoyed reading this cookbook. However, it’s filled with advanced molecular gastronomy type techniques that I find somewhat intimidating and frivolous. One recipe stood out though as achievable yet still intriguing: Bay Leaf Ice Cream. The recipe makes uses fresh bay leaves (laurel) which happens to be in the same family as cinnamon. Bryan Voltaggio pairs this ice cream with a cinnamon coffee cake, which makes sense in a really smart way.
To be honest, I wasn’t even sure what pure bay leaf tastes like. Its typical application is being lost in a soup or stock. So the idea of discovering the pure flavor of bay leaf in a base of milk seemed really exciting.
Bryan’s recipe as written puts all the ingredients for your typical ice cream in a bag and cooks sous vide. I can’t decide if that is a smart or lazy way to make an ice cream custard. And seeing how I don’t have a sous vide machine, I won’t be finding out.
I did end up making the ice cream, but simply in your typical custard technique. Fresh bay leaves are really easy to get at the Hollywood Farmer’s market.
So what does bay leaf taste like? Very herbal, slightly “medicinal” and somewhat like bubblegum. And I mean all of these words in good way. Great way, in fact! The ice cream is simple and comforting like vanilla, yet complex and challenging. Every bite I’m intrigued and also craving more.
I decided to skip the coffee cake and make what I think of as “organic sprinkles.” Popped quinoa was another thing on my list of things to try making. That’s right, quinoa popped like popcorn.
Since quinoa is not nearly as starchy as corn, you don’t get so much white and fluffy business, but it does expand, get crunchy and toastier in flavor. I paired it with browned butter and a touch of cinnamon to make a topping that paired really well with the bay leaf ice cream.
I’d say this would be a great dessert all on it’s own, but I’d really like to see it topping some kind of French toast. I gotta work on making that happen next!
Bay Leaf Ice Cream With Cinnamon Brown Butter Popped Quinoa Topping
- 2 3/4 Cup Whole Milk
- 3/4 Cup Heavy Cream
- 3/4 Cup Organic Evaporated Cane Sugar
- 4 Egg Yolks
- 8 Fresh Bay Leaves, sliced
- 1 Allspice Berry, smashed
- pinch of salt
- 1/2 Cup Quinoa
- 2 tbs butter
- 1/2 tsp Cinnamon
Adapted from VOLT ink.
- In a small saucepan, whisk together the milk and 1/2 cup of sugar. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then add the bay leaves and allspice. Remove from heat, cover and let steep for 30 minutes.
- Strain the mixture through a fine mesh to remove the bay leaves and allspice. Bring back to a low simmer under medium low heat.
- Meanwhile, in a bowl whisk together the egg yolks, salt, and remaining 1/4 cup of sugar. In a slow steady stream, whisk in the hot milk mixture a little at a time. Pour the mixture back into the sauce pan and cook for a few minutes, stirring constantly, until it coats the back of a wooden spoon and you can draw a line through it.
- Strain the mixture through a fine mesh into a storage container. Mix in the heavy cream. Chill in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight until completely cooled.
- Freeze the ice cream in an ice cream machine to the manufacturer’s directions. Transfer to a container and freeze.
- Rinse the quinoa in cool water 3–5 times. Spread out onto a plate and let dry completely.
- Heat a heavy bottom saucepan over medium high heat. Once it is very hot, add the quinoa. Shake the pan lightly to avoid burning. The quinoa will start popping. Once the quinoa popping slows down, pour all the quinoa out into a bowl and let cool.
- In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Once the solids start to brown, add the popped quinoa and cinnamon. Stir and cook for several seconds, then remove to a plate. Let cool and store in the refrigerator.
- To serve, scoop out the ice cream in bowls and top with a couple spoonfuls of the quinoa topping. Garnish with a small bay leaf if desired.