The Soup Blog
Recipes, Culinary Insights & Humor Spooned Up Fresh Every Week…………………(Now in its Ice Cream Phase)
Revisions of Sugarplums: Gingerbread Ice Cream

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In my day, Christmas never had anything to do with gingerbread.

Gingerbread was the stuff of fairy tales and children’s poems. It was the raw material that witch’s houses were made of. It was the sugary drywall and roofing shingles that lured woebegone children away from their parents and into the stomach’s of crones.

Ho, ho, ho, indeed.

In cookie form, gingerbread took shape as the baked equivalent of a juvenile delinquent. After the baker took his gingerbread man out of the oven, the imp came to life and sprinted away from his heartbroken creator, sneering all the way. Then to add insult to injury, he flung this cruel taunt behind him. “Run, run, as fast as you can, but you can’t catch me. I’m the gingerbread man.”  Happily, the molasses-flavored rug rat quickly got his comeuppance when he asked a fox to help him get over a rushing stream. Half-way across, the fox tossed the sweet little monster into the air and ate him whole.

That, for me, was what gingerbread was all about. Not sleigh bells or holly or mistletoe.

But now, everything has changed.

Now gingerbread is the stuff of childish play and wintertime crafts sent from Grammy. It’s the seasonal coffee flavor Starbucks whips out once a year to jack up holiday sales. It’s become a saccharine shell of what it used to be.

In a word, gingerbread’s become ‘Disney-fied.’

Just like Tinkerbell, J.M.Barrie’s wonderful character from Peter Pan, gingerbread has lost all of its Grimm and become nothing more than an empty sales pitch that gets constantly revised to match the limited imagination of whoever’s buying.

Works for me.

Of course, this is all just my Andy-Rooney-esque way of introducing the third installment of the soup blog’s Ice Creams of Christmas—Gingerbread.

Like the late Rooney, it goes through plenty of grumbling, but it’s ultimately (after about 30 years) sweet. Yet the sweetness of the ice cream, the cookie and the ’60 Minutes’ commentator is of a much more unrefined nature than it is with most contemporary treats. It’s the heavy, almost acrid sweetness of molasses.  There is refined sugar as well, but this old-time sweetener overwhelms the more sanctified, mainstream white sugar taste.

It’s as if the sterility of modern childhood (and I’m talking way pre-teen, here), were being beaten back by childhood’s true nature. Perhaps it will always be that way, so long as, in Barrie’s words, “children are gay and innocent and heartless.”

The gingerbread ice cream was a huge hit in our house, with children and parents alike. So bring on the revisions of Christmas tradition and whatever abominations the market will bear.

I’ve got my ice cream maker and my family. So I’ll be just fine.

Gingerbread Ice Cream
(about 1½ quarts)
1 ½ cup milk
¾ cup sugar
2 T flour
A few grains salt
2 eggs or 3 yolks (pasteurized, if possible, see note)
1 ½ cup cream
¼ t ground ginger
1 T molasses
¼ brown sugar

  1. Heat milk to 180-190ºF with sugar, flour and salt, stirring until thick, cover for 10 minutes.
  2. Beat eggs and add ½ cup of mixture while beating, then add eggs to mixture.

    HEALTH NOTE:     
    Since you’re dealing with eggs here, you need to take care when cooking the custard. Too much cooking and the custard gets lumpy, too little and you risk salmonella.  Another alternative is to use pasteurized egg.
  3. Heat the mixture for one minute over medium heat, then cool with plastic wrap or wax paper pressed onto the top of the mixture to keep it from developing a skin. Cool for several hours or overnight.
  4. Blend the cream, ginger, molasses and brown sugar cream into the custard with an immersion blender, then freeze the mixture in an ice cream freezer for about 35 minutes.
  5. Put the now frozen ice cream into the freezer for a couple of hours to give it a chance to firm up.

When freezing ice cream, you need to use an ice cream freezer to ensure that a certain amount of air is mixed into the frozen cream. This gives it a lighter, less icy consistency. When freezing sorbet, you may also freeze it in a popsicle mold, a bowl or on a sheet pan. Be sure to stir the mixture occasionally to limit the size of the ice particles. Larger chunks of ice make for granita, miniscule chunks make for a nice smooth sorbet (an ice cream freezer is ideal).

Photo Credit: “Gingerbread Man Meets Fox,” found in an old Golden Book from my childhood. 

Okay, now I am officially out of Christmas ice cream ideas. Help! Give me some inspiration in the comment section of this blog. Thanks.


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