Let me loose in a specialty food store and I’m like a kid in an ice cream parlour — giddy and over-excited. Last week, my co-worker Leah and I squeezed in a lunch time trip to Galloway’s Specialty Foods. If you’re a food nerd and haven’t been to Galloway’s, you must. Every ingredient you could possibly need for cooking and baking can be found here. French super-blue lavender flowers? Yes. Gluten free chestnut flour? Yes. Xanthan gum? They’ve got that too. If we weren’t pinched for time, I could have spent hours combing through all the aisles, looking at all the products, and learning ohhhh, so *this* is where I can buy beet powder!
I wasn’t looking for anything particularly obscure during this shopping trip though — just unsulphured blackstrap molasses, the key ingredient in Week #40’s Gingerbread Ice Cream.
Molasses are typically made from sugar cane and come in three grades or varieties. Light molasses is made by boiling sugar cane juice and extracting the sugar. The residual syrup is mild and quite sweet, since relatively little sugar is removed from the sugar cane juice. Dark molasses is produced during a second round of boiling and sugar extraction. Blackstrap molasses is made when the syrup is boiled for a third time and most of the remaining sugar removed. Blackstrap molasses has a dark and robust flavour and is quite high in nutritional value, especially for manganese, copper, iron, and calcium. Lately, I’ve been stirring a spoonful into my coffee every morning! Many people choose light or dark molasses for cooking and baking, with the concern that the taste of blackstrap molasses can be overwhelming and bitter. Personally, I love the taste of molasses, so I used blackstrap for this ice cream recipe.
All three varieties of molasses can be sulphured or unsulphured. Sulphured molasses is made from young sugarcane and contains sulphur dioxide as a preservative. Unsulphured molasses is made from old sugarcane, which has a higher sugar content compared to the young stuff. This higher sugar content acts as a natural preservative for the molasses, so there is no need to add a chemical preservative. While sulphured and unsulphured molasses can be used interchangeably, I opt for unsulphured. No chemicals for me, thank you very much!
When cooking the custard, I noticed it started to thicken up at 160 degrees F / 71 degrees C. I tried to keep the custard on the flame a little longer to reach my standard 170 degrees F / 77 degrees C, but the custard definitely didn’t need any further heating. Take it off at 160, otherwise you might end up with gingerbread scrambled eggs!!
Gingerbread ice cream is one of my new winter favourites. As with other syrup-sweetened ice creams, it is quite scoopable even after an overnight in the freezer. The molasses gives the ice cream a rich, dark flavour and the spices… well, they make the ice cream taste like Christmas :) If you’re a fan of candied ginger, you might also want to add a 1/2 cup of finely chopped candied ginger to the custard in the final moments of churning.
Gingerbread Ice Cream (Makes about 1 L)
1/2 cup unsulphured molasses (light, dark, or blackstrap – your choice)
1/4 cup brown sugar
3 cups half-and-half cream
Pinch of sea salt
1 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves