Before I got distracted by the horrible heat and strawberry cake, I meant to tell you that we went to Italy. Noah, his family, and I spent three days in Rome where we contemplated Catholicism, empire, and the Swiss Guard and then decamped for a week in Tuscany where we ran by sheep everyday, relaxed by a pool, and visited many a walled town. Oh, and we ate and drank a lot.
As you can see, the produce was amazing (look at those tiny tomatoes!), but right now I want to talk about drinking.
In Tuscany, we went on a number of wine tours and tastings. My favorite tour was of the Avignonesi Vineyard an organic vineyard near our farm house.
On the tour, we saw their circular vineyard where they test the best density to plant vines; their ancient cellars (above) where I learned that each kind of grape gets aged separately and is only mixed together at the end of the wine-making process; and we heard a lot about their Vin Santo desert wine. After the tour, we were all offered a taste of five wines, including two of the best white wines I have ever had, but no Vin Santo.
If you wanted to taste the Vineyard’s Vin Santo desert wine you had to pay an eye-popping extra 25 Euros. Noah and I decided to splurge.
Vin Santo, I learned, is a desert wine made by pressing dried grapes (or really fancy rasins) instead of your usual fresh grape. As a result, it is sweeter and more syrupy than most wine. Avignonesi’s Vin Santo was unbelievably delicious. It tasted like creamy figs and raisins, which explains why, once I realized that a half bottle of it cost 21o Euros, and once Noah explained to me that, no, piling all of our books on top of a lot of raisins would not yield the same results, I turned to him and said, “Well, I guess we’ll have to make really good rum raisin ice cream when we get home.”
Once home, I discovered that Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream’s at Home has a recipe for cognac ice cream. Since cognac is made from grapes instead of sugar it seemed like a cognac raisin ice cream might get me closer to the flavor of Vin Santo.
In the end, this ice cream didn’t quite capture the flavor I was going for. It’s actually too boozy, which should tell you how creamy and the wine tasted. That said, it’s pretty tasty ice cream. Moreover, it holds its texture better than any ice cream I’ve ever made so I thought I would share.
Cognac Raisin Ice Cream
– 2 cups 1 % milk (Jeni calls for whole milk, but I never have it around and 1% always tastes fine)
– 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch
– 3 tablespoons cream cheese.
– 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
– 1 1/4 cups heavy cream
– 1/2 cup sugar
– 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
– 1/4 cup cognac + more for plumping raisins
– 3/4 cup raisins
- The night (or at least a few hours) before place raisins in a small saucepan and cover with cognac. Bring to boil and let simmer for 2 minutes. Turn off the heat and cover.
- Mix 2 tablespoons of the milk with the cornstarch in a small bowl until smooth.
- Whisk the cream cheese and salt together in a medium bowl.
- Combine remaining milk, cream, sugar, and corn syrup in a saucepan, bring to boil and boil for 4 more minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in cornstarch/milk mixture.
- Bring mixture back to boil and cook about 1 minute until slightly thickened. (I am terrible at telling when a mixture is slightly thickened, but for this I would say cooking a minute or two after it boils usually does the trick).
- Slowly whisk hot milk mixture into cream cheese until smooth.
- Drain raisins and save cognac.
- Add 1/4 cup of cognac (I would use the cognac from raisins and add more as needed to get to 1/4 cup).
- Chill mixture. (You can use an ice bath and be ready to make your ice cream in 30 minutes, but I usually just stick it in the refrigerator for a few hours.)
- Pour mixture into ice cream maker and follow maker instructions.
- I found that this ice cream was best after a day in the freezer. It was more liquid-y than most ice cream when I removed it from the maker, but unlike most ice creams I make at home its texture only improved with time. So I would pack it in a container and freeze for a day.