Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Mission: Maple Ice Cream with Maple Cotton Candy

This week we continue Jacob's maple education with a dessert that was redonkulously easy on one hand, and redonkulously frustrating on the other. We're going to make some ice cream (easy!) and cotton candy (frustrating!) and put it all together in a bowl. Let's see how that works out.

First, the ice cream - or, more properly, custard - meez:

Meezing the cream

Simple, eh? The first thing we do is put the maple syrup on heat and start to reduce it. While we've done a little bit of this kind of thing before, this was the first time we realized that Maple Syrup is essentially sugar, and heating it is essentially candy making - an action that both of us have been alternately fascinated by (ain't it cool that small differences in heating can have such an impact on the cooled product! That's super awesome chemistry!) and terrified of (ain't it scary that small differences in heating can have such an impact on the cooled product? I'm scared now!) for some time now. Anyway, here's the syrup coming up to temperature:


Once we got it to the right temp, we took it straight off the heat and started mixing the rest of the custard ingredients into it, stirring vigorously the entire time. We added the eggs last:


From here we did some more stirring to combine everything, and then we took the whole thing and put it in the fridge overnight.

The next day, we invited two of our favorite test subjects friends over and they JUST HAPPENED to bring their ice cream maker along with them. So we poured the custard into it:


And then we set it and forget it for 45 minutes or so. What could be simpler? This recipe has everything going for it: chemistry! Sweetness! Eggs! Sugar! Simplicity! Our expectations were soaring! We couldn't wait to try it! All we had to do now was make cotton candy - and how difficult could that be?


Yeah... about that.

The cotton candy aspect did not turn out quite the way we hoped it would.

So for this dish we bought a cotton candy machine. We're usually not into unitaskers - in principal at least, we agree with Alton that the only unitasker one should have in the kitchen is the fire extinguisher - but we thought that in the spirit of the project! We should! Make our own! Cotton Candy! We MUST!

(And where would we find maple cotton candy, anyway? It's hard enough to find maple sugar around here! Clearly, we HAD to make it ourselves! That is what Chef Picard would want us to do!)

We did research and found a very cute (and pink! hello!) cotton candy machine on Amazon. It seemed reasonably priced, and seemed to promise a certain... level of performance, lets say. It came in the mail the day before we were going to use it, and we read through the instructions, which made still more promises regarding a certain level of performance:

What our cotton candy should look like

I mean, look at Figure G!! What a massive quantity of cotton candy! I'm getting a stomach ache just looking at it! Not that I won't eat it up and ask for more! Gimme!

And here's where the wheels, as it were, started to come of the wagon. Maybe we should have expected that, considering this warning label:

Important instructions

We had read that the machine's performance gets better the longer it was on - that is, the first batch was kinda sucky, but the second would be great. So the first thing we did was add just pure granulated sugar to the machine. Just to warm things up, you see. Just to make sure it worked, you know. So we added a tablespoon of sugar to the machine, and then another, and then another, and after about 20 minutes we had this much cotton candy:

Plain cotton candy

Okay. Well, the second batch will be better, right? So now we added the maple sugar to the machine. And then we added more. And a little more. And got no candy. NONE. So we went back to the computer for more research. It seems that the machine likes granulated sugar the best. The maple sugar we had was very finely granulated, so at this point - as a last gasp - we mixed up a batch of half maple and half plain sugar, like so:

1/2 maple, 1/2 regular sugar

And after three scoops (tablespoons) of that we took what we had and compared it to the plain cotton candy we had made earlier:

What it actually looked like

Epic, huh? Well, we did have enough for one dish, and so here is the final product:

Mission: Maple Ice Cream and Maple Cotton Candy

Then we split up the candy into four teensy little bits and ate up our portions.

And holy cow. This was good. The cotton candy added a nice dryness to the ice cream. The ice cream was very sweet, but not cloying, and we all enjoyed it. So maple ice cream? Great! Maple cotton candy? Super, thanks for asking! However...

Note to selves: Cotton candy machine? EPIC FAIL. Seriously. We're returning it. If we ever make cotton candy again we'll just rent an industrial version.

Time, mis to eat:
Not including the overnight chill on the custard, about 90 minutes for the ice cream. The cotton candy took about 45 minutes or so.

Next up: We're going to throw together a little thing called Foie Gras Pizza!

Blast from the past: We've loved foie for a long time... and this was truly two great tastes that went great together.

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