Mandarin Orange Ice Cream

橘子冰淇淋

This is an unusual ice cream with a satiny texture and a strong citrus-sweet flavor, made from the juice and skin of fresh tangerines. Garnished with a pretty tangle of glacéed peel, it makes a festive dessert, in keeping with our Western association of tangerines and Christmas (when a full half of the tangerine crop reaches the market), and the Chinese association of the whole orange family with good fortune and prosperity. The recipe comes from Mary Jane Drinkwater, who went through about 30 pounds of tangerines to get it just right.

  • Though the nomenclature gets pretty confusing, tangerines, mandarin oranges, tangelos and Clementines generally refer to the same thing—a loose-skinned orange native to China (hence the name mandarins), first introduced to Europe in the eighteenth century, and marketed through the Moroccan seaport of Tangiers (where they acquired the name tangerines). Ideal for this recipe is the especially sweet variety called the Honey Tangerine (once called the Murcott orange!). Whatever variety you use, it is the flavor of the juice that is most important, and, if it doesn’t taste intense, then begin with 1½ cups of juice and simmer it down to a more potent 1 cup and do not worry if the juice separates upon simmering.
  • If you wish to work in advance, the ice-cream mixture may be made 1–2 days in advance of freezing. Once frozen, it stays flavorful for up to 1 week.

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Ingredients

For the infusion

  • 1 cup half-and-half
  • cup sugar
  • ¼ cup finely chopped fresh tangerine peel, all traces of white pith removed

For the ice cream custard

  • 3 large egg yolks
  • cup sugar
  • ¾ cup heavy (whipping) cream

Flavorings

  • 1 cup very flavorful, freshly squeezed, strained tangerine juice
  • 1½–2 tablespoons Mandarine Napoleon liqueur
  • about ¼ teaspoon freshly squeezed, strained lemon juice

Optional garnish

Method

To make the infusion

Wash the tangerines, then remove the skin with a vegetable peeler in as broad pieces as possible. Spread the strips of skin orange side down, slice or scrape away all traces of white pith, then chop the peel. You will need ¼ cup.

Combine the chopped peel, half-and-half, and ⅜ cup sugar in a small, non-aluminum saucepan. Bring to scalding over medium-high heat, stirring gently to dissolve the sugar, until there is a thick rim of tiny bubbles all around the edge of the pot. Turn off the heat, cover the pot, and let the mixture steep for 20–30 minutes, or until cool. Don’t worry if the mixture appears to have curdled.

Making the custard

Put the heavy cream into a medium-size bowl, then set the bowl into a larger bowl lined with ice. Put a fine-mesh strainer alongside.

Using a wire whisk or a mixer, beat the yolks with ⅜ cup sugar until the mixture is pale yellow, fluffy, and falls in broad ribbons from the beater.

Stir the half-and-half mixture, then bring to scalding again over medium heat. When scalding, add ¼ of the half-and-half mixture to the yolk mixture, whisking constantly to prevent the eggs from scrambling. Then, immediately pour the tempered yolk mixture back into the pot, whisking all the while. Cook over medium heat, whisking, until the mixture coats the back of a spoon, 180° on an instant-reading thermometer.

Pour the custard through the strainer and into the cream, pressing down on the peel to extract all the liquid. Scrape the underside of the strainer clean and discard the peel. Stir to combine the custard with the cream.

Flavoring the ice cream

Add the tangerine juice to the cream mixture, stirring to blend. Add liqueur to taste (no more than 2 tablespoons, lest the alcohol prevent the ice cream from freezing), and stir. Add the lemon juice several dropfuls at a time, stirring and tasting after each addition just until the tangerine flavor is perceptibly heightened.

At this point the mixture may be refrigerated before freezing, up to 2 days if you like, sealed airtight. Don’t worry if the mixture separates; just stir to recombine before freezing.

Freezing the ice cream

Freeze in an ice-cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions, or in a tray with the aid of a food processor.

Remove the soft ice cream to a clean plastic container, pack it down, and press a sheet of plastic wrap directly over the surface to prevent the formation of ice crystals. Return it to the freezer for several hours to “ripen” and develop its flavors.

Transfer the ice cream to the refrigerator 15–30 minutes before serving if it is very firm, so that it will be slightly soft and full-flavored when eaten. Scoop onto chilled plates or into small chilled bowls, then decorate if you like with a bit of glacéed peel.

This ice cream keeps well for a week, with only a slight diminishing of flavor. Store with plastic wrap pressed directly on the surface.

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