Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Snow Based Desserts (Ice Cream, Sorbet, or Granita)

Did you know that you can make desserts with snow?   It is a fun novelty, but also extremely fast and easy - another way to enjoy the season's bountiful precipitation even indoors.  What a great activity with children of all ages.

After a fresh snowfall, I scoop up several cups worth and leave the bowl outside on the porch while I rummage around my kitchen assembling metal bowls and spoons (which conduct the cold, and thus buy you time in what has to be a fast job) and  ingredients, which include a liquid, a sweetener, and some flavoring agent.

I've flavored various bowls of snow with chocolate, birch syrup, honey, last summer's raspberries, canned peaches, and the morning's fruit juice.

The density of the snow will determine how much liquid the snow can absorb, and that, along with the liquid used, will determine the texture.  I have found that cream and condensed milk confer a silky mouth feel, like ice cream, and can be eaten right away. Milk snow is flakier, like ice milk.   Bowls flavored with fruit juice or other water based liquids tend to be more granular, like a granita or a sorbet, and benefit from refreezing time, unless you purposely want a hard popsicle-like texture.

Sample recipe:
Over four cups of snow, drip a tablespoon of extract or liqueur, sprinkle 1/2 cup of white sugar, and slowly pour about a cup of milk, juice, or other liquid, while gently folding the snow to incorporate all ingredients.  Taste and adjust.  Most people will want more sugar.  Total labor time: 2 minutes.

As an alternative to the sugar, I prefer  honey (we raise honey bees), which freezes into brittle ribbons as it touches the snow, and then cracks into little candy-like pieces, when incorporated.  I found the flavor richer than sugar, and the frozen bits provided textural interest, with a burst of flavor as they thawed in the mouth.  Yum.

Cream, milk, coffee, syrup, or fruit juice - you have lots of liquid options.  The easiest is syrup, because with it you can make a dessert with just two ingredients: snow and syrup.  Dessert syrups, like chocolate, caramel or fruit, or breakfast syrups, such as maple or birch or even the syrup in canned fruit are all tasty, and how easy for kids! Sweetened condensed milk provides the same ease for a creamy consistency.  By contrast, the first versions I made by pouring in some of  our morning's fruit juice were too watery to be of any  interest.  I recommend much less dilution - maybe just scoop some of the concentrate directly out of a frozen can and add a limited amount of water, juice, or milk to mix in.  Whichever liquid you choose,  drizzle the liquid slowly over the mound of snow, folding as you go to incorporate.  Assess texture, and then add more if needed.

Made with milk or cream, the dessert is ready to eat right away or can be frozen for an hour or two.  Too long, though, and it will be hard as a rock. My husband's hard chocolate snow cream reminded him of a fudgesicle as he sucked it off a spoon. Recipes made with a water-based liquid will benefit from refreezing if you want a sorbet or granita texture.  Just stick the bowl outside (or in the freezer) for 30 minutes, scratch it up with a fork, check the texture, and possibly repeat another time or two.  These desserts can also be formed into the shape of popsicles, for example, by filling a small paper cup and sticking in a wooden food stick.    

Extracts, like vanilla, mint, or almond are kitchen staples and a little goes a long way. Liqueurs would be delicious, too.  Kahlua or Fra Angelica, anyone?  Soft fruits, chopped small, are pretty and flavorful additions.  For example, to two cups of snow, I  mixed in 4 oz of wild raspberries that I canned last summer.  If the fruit pieces are too large, like whole strawberries,  the snow won't bind together; texturally, it will be like a soft, drippy popsicle around frozen fruit.  However, the taste is just fine.  My husband said my recipe with canned peaches, their syrup, and vanilla tasted like a grown up version of his beloved childhood creamsicles.

Depending on your liquid and flavorings,  most people will choose to add more sugar than I have mentioned.  Dry sugar works fine.  A purist will prefer a cold sugar syrup (1/2 water 1/2 sugar) or any other syrup (such as chocolate or maple) to avoid any graininess.  Sweetened condensed milk is a smooth sweetener, too.  I made a delectable chocolate "ice cream" with powdered, unsweetened cocoa, vanilla, and condensed milk.  My husband's favorite!

For me, winter is a great time to try out new recipes.  On the one hand, I'd much rather have ice cream on a hot summer day!  But with his extravagant sweet tooth, my husband is game for ice cream, granitas and sorbets in winter, too, especially when made with snow.  How about a hot chocolate brownie with a dollop of snowy ice cream on the side?  Come on over!

1 comment:

  1. I do a cream, yoghurt, condensed milk variation, but then it's 40 degrees centigrade over here. And this is why we're all getting so fat.