Before living in China, I would have found it almost impossible to imagine what corn flavored ice cream would be like. While corn most definitely has a characteristic flavor, it isn't very striking. It's a sweet, mellow taste that is so familiar that it's often taken for granted. That is, it's taken for granted by the American pallat. In Beijing, corn is worshipped with a passion that is usually reserved for deities or movie legends.
There are corn statues, corn paintings, and corn paintings scattered about the city, almost invisible to the not-so-careful observer. Beijingers eat corn on the go, cob and all. It's not at all strange to see someone gnawing on a cob on the subway, or popping kernels on a busy street. Corn flavor is used in instant ramen, hard candy, and yes, even ice cream. One of my favorite treats while living there were corn ice cream pops. They were corn-shaped, of course, with a sweet creamy center encased in a crispy corn shell. Here's a photo, if you are curious.
So what does corn ice cream taste like? Imagine eating a bowl of corn pops on a lazy Saturday morning. You take your time, distracted by cartoons, in no hurry at all being off from school that day. By the time you finish your pops the remaining milk has been totally saturated by the sweet, grainy flavor of corn. That's what corn ice cream taste like, cereal milk.
Jeni Britton, my personal ice cream hero, published a recipe for sweet corn and black raspberry ice cream in her book, Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams. She also sells this flavor at her ice cream shops. I started with her base, but changed the raspberry sauce to an extra gooey strawberry sauce of my own design.
Jeni's corn ice cream recipe can be found here, on Saveur.com. Follow its instructions exactly, but swap the sauce for the following recipe. It will make far more than you need for this purpose, but you can freeze the extra for your next batch, or use it as a sweet topping for sundaes or angel food cakes.
(Pro tip: Jeni infuses the corn into the milk in whole kernels. I prefer pureeing the corn about half-way through the infusion portion of the recipe. The chunks are still strained out, but I find this gives the ice cream an even stronger corn flavors than it would have otherwise. By the way, if fresh corn is unavailable, try using frozen organic sweet corn instead. I find that it works quite well.)
Makes about 1 1/2 pints
- 4 cups fresh strawberries, chopped with tops removed
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 1/2 lemons, juiced
- 2 teaspoons tapioca starch mixed with 2 teaspoons cold water
- Toss the strawberries with the lemon juice and sugar. Let them sit in the refrigerator for an hour or so. This will give them time to break down and macerate into the sugar.
- Blend the strawberry mixture until it becomes smooth. You can use a stick blender, a regular blender, or a food processor for this step. At this point, you can decide to either strain the seeds out, or leave them in. Either way is fine, which you choose is really just up to personal preference. Some folks can't tolerate the itty bitty seeds for digestive reasons, but most people enjoy the tiny bit of added crunch.
- Transfer the gooey strawberry mixture to a sauce pan. Turn the heat up to medium.
- Mix the tapioca starch and water together to form a slurry.
- After the sauce comes to a simmer, mix in the starch slurry. Mix well, and then simmer for about five minutes.
- Allow the sauce to cool completely before putting it in the fridge, and let it chill in there for at least an hour before adding it to your ice cream.