When I was at the brilliant noodle and tea tasting at The Noodle House with Whittington’s Tea Emporium, we had a wonderful tea ice cream at the end of the meal. I immediately decided I’d just have to try this at home but it’s taken me three weeks to get my act together. A large part encouraged by the fact that my freezer is completely out of homemade ice cream – and that’s a very sad state of affairs in the midst of summer!
I wanted to keep it all very simple and try to capture the essence of the tea flavour in my ice cream: thus I made my basic ice cream but without any vanilla as that’s quite a strong flavour. I decided to use the Citron Green tea I bought on the night of the noodle and tea pairing for the infusion. Kyle Whittington explained at the tasting that green teas are ‘dry’ dried in China but ‘wet’ (steam) dried in Japan. He had a wonderful photo to show us of this particular tea from China being dried by hand in a wok – a huge wok in which the tea was constantly turned and tossed until dry. It has natural delicate flavours of lemon and lime.
However, the ‘Citron Green’ also has added flavours of orange peel, natural orange flavour, natural lemon flavour and sunflower petals. You can see the wonderful quality of the tea and the added bits of peel here:
I therefore decided to harness some of those extra flavours by adding some strips of orange and lemon peel to my infusion.
There was quite a bit of guesswork going on as I started to make the ice cream. If you were supposed to use 1 teaspoon of the tea per cup, then how many teaspoons for 300ml milk plus 300ml cream? It’s always sensible to take things slowly. I started with 2 heaped teaspoons and 2 large strips each of orange and lemon; it’s always easier to add more than take out too much. Later on – after tasting the custard – I infused a further teaspoon and strip of each fruit in a little extra warm milk to add more flavour – so 3 heaped teaspoons and 3 strips each of lemon and orange was my final decision. Another guess was how long to infuse the tea and peel in warm milk. Instructions for making the tea said brew for 2-3 minutes but I didn’t think that would be enough time for the ice cream so I infused it for about 10 minutes, tasting to check there was a good flavour. Another thing you have to remember is that the flavour changes again when the mix is frozen and I knew from experience you wanted quite a strong flavour before freezing.
I heated 300ml milk until I could just see some bubbles at the edge, then poured it over the tea and peel in a jug, stirred and left to infuse.
Meanwhile, I started making the custard. I put 6 egg yolks, 120g caster sugar and 1 teaspoon custard powder (or cornflour) into a bowl and whisked until thick and pale. Then I strained in the tea-infused milk (you don’t want the tea leaves or peel in the ice cream), mixed well together, then poured into a clean saucepan.
Stir over a medium heat until thick. (You can only cook the custard over a fairly hot heat if you add the custard powder or cornflour; if you don’t, the custard will easily separate and you need to cook it slowly over a very low heat.)
Transfer back to a bowl and leave to cool. When completely cool, whip 300ml double cream until just starting to thicken; don’t over-whip – you don’t want it solid, just a little extra air. Now fold into the custard and then it’s ready to go into the ice-cream maker. Churn until nice and thick then transfer to a freezer container. If you make this ahead of eating the ice cream, you’ll need to take it out of the freezer for a few minutes to soften before serving.
I couldn’t resist tasting straight away. There was a definite, lovely tea flavour; quite delicate and not overpowering. It added a nice edge to the ice cream; a kind of freshness that comes from tea, and in this case from the added citrus too; a hint of tannin on the tongue. There was that wonderful fragrancy that comes with green tea that seemed to grow in strength as I ate, adding a lovely depth to the flavour of the ice cream.
I served it in a pretty little old teacup and saucer I bought in France last summer – it seemed a perfect way to serve tea ice cream. I decorated it with a little orange and lemon peel that I’d candied in a sugar syrup. I thought the Citron Green Tea made a gorgeous ice cream and I feel quite inspired to try more tea variations another day!