It’s summer, and that means that it’s time to bust out the good old ice cream maker. I got this machine about three years ago, and while I have had a couple of hits and misses over the years with various creations, overall this has been an investment that I am very pleased it. Frozen confections are incredibly refreshing on hot summer days, and the enjoyment is only multiplied by
twenty when the treats were made by your own hand. In fact, wherever I go in this world, I always love seeking out unique and exotic ice cream flavors made in shop by passionate individuals. Such was the case last week when I made a day trip to Grenoble, a charming little city at the foothills of the French Alps.
No, I am not kidding about this. I recently spent 11 glorious days in Nimes, an ancient city in the south of France. While I cannot exactly reveal the nature of this trip to you, I can say that it was a very busy one that involved us running around a lot to complete several business related matters. We did have a couple of free days though, so on my brother’s request, we made the two and a half hour drive, passing rolling vineyards, sweeping plains, colorful villages, and finally up into the mountains and down into the Alpine valley where Grenoble sits.
Grenoble is a small yet bustling city that is known as the capital of the Alps and home to some of France’s best architecture. It is also a booming center for the sciences and research (future study abroad anyone?). It’s got a quaint old town, a sparkling downtown promenade, and views of the Alps in every direction. Allow me to also mention the multicultural flair. I could see bits of Italy, France, and Switzerland in the
architecture, and an entire street lined with Arab, Indian, and Pakistani restaurants, meant that the cuisine is just as eclectic as well.
Even though we were up in the mountains, Grenoble was probably the hottest place we visited in the trip! Temperatures were well into the upper 80s and when we stumbled upon this ice cream place we caved in. It wasn’t just any ice cream place. It was a small stall, yet there were at least 50 different containers of homemade sorbet, and the flavors were just as diverse as the city itself. There was lychee, passionfruit, mango, peach and wine, and apricot just to name a few. I settled on a raspberry and currant sorbet. It had a vivid magenta color, a tart tang from the currants, and just the right sugar to water ratio to yield a very creamy treat. As we walked along the busy back lanes of old town it was the perfect solution to beat the heat.
I fell in love with the cone as well. It was nothing more than a simple sugar cone, but I appreciated the textural crunch it gave against the soft sorbet. Who knew that the ice cream makers were so culinarly advanced all along? Of course not all cones are good. The main reason I hated them before is because they tasted like, well cardboard. However, this cone was so much different. It was buttery, sweet, and had hints of vanilla. Upon arriving back home, I knew I had to
recreate the flavors of Grenoble back in the states.
As currants aren’t as readily available here, I decided that I would replace it with another distinctly French flavor, lavender. You may think of lavender to be only useful in perfumes and soaps, but in France, lavender is part of the popular spice blend Herbes de Provence, the flavors of which you would taste in a ratatouille. When put in this sorbet, lavender lends a sweet, herbaceous and floral flavor. I put just the right amount so that it lingers in the background and allows this sorbet to depart from the usual “fruity” feel and develop a taste of rugged grassiness. Of course there is also some lemon zest which adds its usual zing and helps cut the sweetness a bit. Supporting the major tart flavor of the red raspberries, this sorbet was pleasingly icy and would also work as a wonderful palette cleanser or a slushy granita.
Now let’s talk about the ice cream cones, shall we? Like I mentioned earlier, this trip fostered a new-found interest in ice cream’s trusty companion. The cones in France were sweet as usual, but they all had a slight buttery nature to them alongside hints of citrus or vanilla. I found a recipe for ice cream cones which essentially uses a sweet crepe batter. Once you have made the crepe, you roll it up, while it is still hot, to form the shape of the cone. Due to the high sugar content in the batter, the crepe hardens, and you get your familiar sugar cone, only this time the flavor is ten times better. You will probably have a difficult time going back to the store-bought stuff after trying this one. Furthermore, it was such an exciting feeling, for me at least, to partake in the entire process of making these. Ice cream cones are definitely one of those things which we don’t ever bother making at home because for most of us, they are nothing special. Yet after making them, I felt so accomplished, as if I could give those ice cream parlors a run for their money.
Adapted from Cuisinart
- 4 1/2 cups fresh or frozen raspberries
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 1/4 cups white cranberry juice
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoons light corn syrup
- 2 teaspoons grated lemon or lime zest
- 1 1/2 tablespoons edible lavender flowers
Place the raspberries, sugar, lavender flowers, white cranberry juice, water, and salt in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat. Then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes, till the berries have popped and the sugar has dissolved. Process the mixture through a strainer to remove the seeds and the pulp. Add the corn syrup and lemon zest to the resulting liquid. Cover and refrigerate until chilled, about 6 hours to overnight.
Pour the chilled liquid into the freezer bowl of an ice cream maker and churn till the mixture thickens, around 25 to 30 minutes. The sorbet will have a soft texture similar to Italian ice. If a firmer texture is desired, transfer the sorbet to an airtight container and place in the freezer for about 2 hours. Remove 15 minutes before serving.
Alternatively if you don’t have an ice cream maker, you can freeze the sorbet in the freezer, by placing the sorbet in an airtight container and freezing for about 6 hours, stirring every hour. Remove 15-20 minutes before serving.
Recipe: Homemade Sugar Cones
Recipe from Joy of Baking
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
- 2-3 tablespoons milk
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the eggs and the sugar until the mixture is frothy. Whisk in the melted butter, milk, and vanilla extract. Add the flour and salt and whisk until the batter is smooth. The batter should be thin and runny like a crepe batter.
Heat an 8-9 inch saute pan over medium heat, till it is hot. Spray the pan with some nonstick spray or brush with vegetable oil. Pour about 3-4 tablespoons of the batter into the pan and immediately tilt or rotate the pan till the batter forms a 5-6 inch circle. Cook until the underside of the crepe is golden brown and flip it by gently sliding a metal spatula under the crepe and then turning it over. Cook until golden brown. Then slide the crepe onto a work surface, and while it is still hot, roll it into a cone shape. Make sure you squeeze the tips of the cones to seal them, so that none of the sorbet will drip out. Place the completed cones on a wire rack to cool completely.
For Serving the Final Product