Dessert Dreams

Ice creams and puddings are a simple and sweet addition to your holiday table
While persimmons are in season|!!| freeze some pulp for off-season use.

With the holidays almost upon us, dessert fantasies are a common occurrence — pies, cakes, cookies, candies, all manner of sweets. I love every one of them, but I have a special place in my heart for ice creams and puddings. Many have custard as the base, and some are served with a custard sauce. Custard, at its simplest, is merely egg yolks, milk, sugar and a flavoring cooked into a smooth rich concoction that can be served as a sauce or turned into an ice cream or a pudding.

In my opinion, ice cream has no season, so I’ve included recipes for two versions in this month’s column. The eggnog ice cream, gently spiked with brandy and dark rum, is particularly appropriate for the holidays, but making or enjoying it shouldn’t be limited to this time of year. I’m very fond of tiramisu, so I developed a recipe for tiramisu ice cream which incorporates most of the elements of the dessert: mascarpone, eggs, sugar, cream, coffee, brandy and chocolate. It’s not essential, but if you serve it with ladyfingers, you will have touched all the bases.

I’m also a big fan of bread pudding, which is a Louisiana staple. It frequently appears on restaurant menus, and I always order it. It’s amazing and intriguing how many variations there are on such a humble dish. This month’s recipe includes caramel in the pudding, and it’s served with a custard sauce containing bourbon.

Rice plays a large and essential role in Louisiana cuisine, but it’s seldom an ingredient in our desserts, which is puzzling. Sweet rice preparations appear often in French cookbooks, ranging from simple rice puddings to the ethereal riz à l’impératrice, and early Louisiana cookbooks included recipes for a variety of rice desserts, but the tradition hasn’t much survived to the present day. My recipe for rice pudding couldn’t be simpler, but it’s elevated by folding in whipped cream at the end. I serve it with a persimmon sauce, although other fruit or berry sauces could be substituted.


Bourbon Sauce

Heat 1 cup whole milk in a heavy saucepan to just below a boil. In a mixing bowl, beat 3 egg yolks and 2 tablespoons sugar until light and creamy. Slowly add hot milk to egg yolks, a little at a time, while whisking constantly. Return mixture to saucepan and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly with a heatproof silicone spatula (or wooden spoon) until thickened. The mixture will coat the spatula when ready. Strain mixture through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl, add 1 tablespoon bourbon and stir. When cool, refrigerate.

Makes about 1 cup.


Creamy Rice Pudding With Persimmon Sauce

RICE PUDDING

Combine 4 cups whole milk, 1 cup long grain rice, ½ cup granulated sugar and 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract in a heavy saucepan. Bring almost to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to very low. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until creamy and thickened, about 35-40 minutes. Transfer pudding to a serving dish. Whip 1 cup heavy cream just until soft peaks form and fold into pudding. Refrigerate until cold. Serve with persimmon sauce.

Makes 4 servings.

PERSIMMON SAUCE

Combine 1 cup persimmon pulp and 2 tablespoons granulated sugar in blender and process until smooth. Refrigerate.

Makes 1 cup.


Tiramisu Ice Cream

Put 8 ounces mascarpone, 1 tablespoon instant espresso powder and ¼ cup brandy in a mixing bowl. Set bowl in a larger bowl containing ice and water. Heat 2 cups whole milk in a heavy saucepan to just below a boil. In another mixing bowl, beat 6 egg yolks and 1 cup granulated sugar until light and creamy. Slowly add hot milk to egg yolks, a little at a time, while whisking constantly. Return mixture to saucepan and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly with a heatproof silicone spatula (or wooden spoon) until thickened. The mixture will coat the spatula when ready.

Strain mixture through a fine mesh strainer into bowl containing mascarpone, espresso powder and brandy. Whisk until smooth. Whisk occasionally until cool. Refrigerate, covered, until cold, then process in ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions.

Transfer to a container and freeze.

To serve: Whip 1 cup heavy cream with 2 teaspoons powdered sugar just until soft peaks form. Scoop ice cream into a bowl, cover with the cream and shave 1 ounce bittersweet chocolate over the top.

Makes about 1 quart.


Eggnog Ice Cream

There’s just enough liquor in these ice creams to flavor them without making them taste “boozy.”

3     tablespoons brandy
1     tablespoon dark rum
¼     teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, plus additional for garnish
2     cups whole milk
1     cup heavy cream
8     egg yolks
1     cup granulated sugar

1. Put brandy, rum and nutmeg in a mixing bowl. Set bowl in a larger bowl containing ice and water.

2. Heat milk and cream in a heavy saucepan to just below a boil. In another mixing bowl, beat egg yolks and sugar until light and creamy. Slowly add hot milk and cream to egg yolks, a little at a time, while whisking constantly. Return mixture to saucepan and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly with a heatproof silicone spatula (or wooden spoon) until thickened. The mixture will coat the spatula when ready.

3. Strain mixture through a fine mesh strainer into bowl containing brandy, rum and nutmeg. Whisk to combine. Whisk occasionally until cool.

4. Refrigerate, covered, until cold, then process in ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer to a container and freeze. Serve topped with a little grated nutmeg.

Makes about 1 quart.


Caramel Bread Pudding With Bourbon Sauce

Pudding can also be cooked in a loaf pan, square baking pan or muffin tins.

1     cup granulated sugar
¼     cup water
2     cups milk
4     tablespoons butter
2     eggs
2     teaspoons pure vanilla extract
4     cups French bread cut or torn into small pieces

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter 4 12-ounce heatproof ramekins and place on a rimmed baking sheet.

2. Combine water and sugar in saucepan. Cook, swirling pan, over medium heat until sugar turns a golden brown.

3. Remove from heat and carefully add milk and butter. Return to the heat and cook, while stirring, until caramel dissolves.

4. In a mixing bowl, beat eggs. Slowly add milk mixture, while whisking. Add vanilla and stir. Add bread and press into liquid to saturate.

5. Divide mixture among the 4 ramekins and bake until the custard is set and a tester comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Serve room temperature or chilled.

6. To serve, run a thin knife around the inside edge of a ramekin and invert pudding onto a plate. Spoon bourbon sauce over the top.

Makes 4 servings.


 

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