The season is getting on. I’ve been bottling Christmas spirit and hoping for a small Christmas miracle that I’ll make it through in one piece. My tree currently leans slightly to the left. I’ve already overdone it on the nog. And I wish the rest of my holiday gifts would just buy and wrap themselves already.
But hey, sugar plum. Life’s not so rough. Especially when it involves a little nip of rum blended into a custard base dotted with boozed up raisins. In this case, the finest gifts it brings.
It just so happens that I have a good friend that is a very good pastry chef. And he has some very good desserts on his menu at Harvest restaurant: some of the best that I’ve tasted in Boston over the seven years I’ve lived here. The man knows how to bake; his passion for it is beyond charming. And he was gracious enough to share his recipe for rum raisin ice cream with me. Tis. the. season.
But some of my most favorite things about him are much less conventional. He’s capable of carrying on a conversation about macarons for over an hour. He’s getting "BAKE" tattooed on his wrist. I recently witnessed him impulse buy a vintage sugar crate. He also likes buffalo-fried brussels sprouts. And he’s been endearing fatherly towards men that have approached me at bars. In short, he’s a guy you want to grab a beer—or an ice cream cone—with.
And, oh yes, I should reiterate: rum. raisin. ice cream. And if you think the ice cream looks enticing, you should have seen it paired alongside sticky toffee pudding. Alas, the sticky toffee rum raisin special has ended at Harvest. But I assure you there is much more to come. The winter dessert menu he has been planning over the past few months is the stuff of dreams. Visions of sugar plum-like dreams.
In the meantime, you might want to make this ice cream. It’s hard to feel anything but tidings of joy when it’s around.
Rum Raisin Ice Cream
Adapted from Brian Mercury of Harvest
1 cup raisins
2/3 cup dark rum plus 1/4 cup divided
2 cup milk
2 cup heavy cream
2/3 cup sugar plus 1 tbsp, divided
Pinch of salt
8 egg yolks (see note below)
Soak raisins in 2/3 cup rum for 12-24 hours in the fridge. After raisins have been soaked, combine milk, heavy cream, 2/3 cup sugar, and pinch of salt in a medium saucepan and bring to a very slow boil, being careful to stir the mixture so the milk does not burn at the bottom of the pan. Meanwhile, beat the eggs in a medium bowl. Once the milk mixture has been heated and the sugar has dissolved, slowly temper the eggs by placing a little of the hot milk mixture (about 1/4 cup or less at a time) into the bowl with the eggs. Repeat this a few times, until the eggs have been warmed. Slowly add the eggs to your milk base and cook on medium heat until the mixture thickens (and reaches 180 degrees).
Pour the custard mixture through a strainer and cool completely, ideally in an ice bath. (You can prepare an ice bath by sandwiching a smaller sized metal bowl on top of another bowl filled with ice cubes; pour your hot mixture into the smaller bowl.) Alternatively, you could cool the mixture in your fridge until it's fully chilled.
Meanwhile, strain the rum from the raisins. Set the rum aside and return the raisins to their bowl. Add another 1/4 cup of rum to the raisins and stick them back in the fridge. Meanwhile, heat the rum you set aside in a small pan with 1 tbsp sugar to create a rum syrup. Heat and reduce this liquid by about half (it should be about 1/4 cup). Place rum syrup in the fridge to cool completely.
When your custard mixture is fully chilled, freeze it according to your ice cream maker's instructions (this usually takes about 25 minutes). About 22-23 minutes in, slowly add in your chilled rum syrup and rum plumped raisins, along with the additional rum the raisins were soaked in. Let the mixture blend for a minute or two longer. Pack your ice cream in a container (with a tight-fitting lid) and cover it with parchment paper and then freeze it.
Makes about 1 quart
-You'll want to start this recipe a day in advance and also plan for the custard base to chill for at least 4-6 hours (if you are not using an ice bath).
-Brian's recipe did not call for all the rum shenanigans I've mentioned. He simply added 2/3 cup of rum straight to his milk mixture before bringing it to a boil. I've always added booze at the final few minutes of the ice cream's freezing process. So I freaked out for a hot minute and then decided to do a little of both by making a rum syrup, as well as adding in some straight rum. It froze wonderfully. (Too much booze and your ice cream won't freeze.)
-Brian's recipe called for 12 egg yolks, but this scared me. (I don't really have a good reason why.) So I was a wuss and used 8.