Saturday, August 4, 2012

Rhubarb Ice Cream

It's probably due to the hormonal soup that pregnancy produces but recently I started waxing nostalgic about Paris and my francophile tendencies kicked into overdrive. I stopped short of buying Ruby one of those obnoxious baby berets but I did buy far too many children's books with French themes or characters.  

While pining for Paris, in my usual fashion, my most evocative longings were related to food. Some people might remember their first glimpse of La Tour Eiffel (o.k., I do too) or their first walk along the Seine. Me, I remember the first scoop of ice cream that I ate in Paris. It was a cone of Berthillon's rhubarb ice cream and it was truly glorious. When I passed a pretty bunch of rhubarb in the grocery store, I decided I needed to attempt re-creating it at home. 

Rhubarb Ice Cream
adapted from The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz

Berthillon is often called the grande dame of French glace- the flavors and colors of the ice creams are so vivid, it's hard to believe they only use all natural ingredients. The flavors offered rotate seasonally so the fruits used in the ice creams are at their peak. Their rhubarb ice cream was the most rich, drop dead gorgeous shade of perfectly rhubarby red with the most perfectly puckerish flavor. The ice cream I made was neither. Even if it was nothing like the Berthillon ice cream I so loved, it was pretty good all the same. I think I'll keep at it, though. A few notes: I substituted a small amount of strawberries in the original quantity of rhubarb called for to enhance the sweetness of the ice cream but in hindsight, I don't think I would do so next time. I really like the tartness of rhubarb and an ice cream custard is so rich, it already cuts down on the tart factor and the addition of strawberries only caused further dilution. So, lesson learned.  Also, I think I'll look for a gelato recipe to tweak as the texture and intense flavor of Berthillon's ice creams are more similar to a gelato than a traditional American ice cream. (Although I suspect the French would protest my comparing their beloved glace to its Italian cousin.)

12 ounces rhubarb, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
4 ounces strawberries, cored and diced
3/4 cup sugar + 2 tablespoons
1 3/4 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup whole milk
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
5 large egg yolks

1. In a medium sauce pan, combine rhubarb, strawberries, 2 tablespoons sugar, and 1/4 cup water. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
2. Puree mixture in a blender and then place in the refrigerator to cool until chilled.
3. In a medium sauce pan, combine 1 cup heavy cream, milk, ¾ cup of sugar, vanilla, and a pinch of salt. Place over a medium heat and stir until the sugar is dissolved and temperature reaches 175 - 185º Fahrenheit.
4. Place a 2 quart mixing bowl in a larger bowl and add ice to larger bowl to make an ice bath.
5. In a medium sized mixing bowl, beat the egg yolks then slowly pour half of the cream mixture into the yolks while whisking vigorously to avoid curdling eggs. Then whisk the egg mixture back into sauce pan and return to heat to thicken until it becomes a custard.
6. Cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon. At this point, you have a custard.
7. Pour remaining ¾ cup of heavy cream and rhubarb mixture into the inner bowl of the ice bath.
8. Strain the custard through a fine mesh sieve into the inner bowl containing the rhubarb/cream mixture then stir to mix thoroughly. Add cold water to outer bowl and allow mixture to cool. Once it has cooled down enough to cover with plastic, transfer to the refrigerator for three to four hours until well chilled.
9. Pour the chilled mixture into an ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer's directions.
10. Transfer the ice cream into a container and freeze for at least two hours before serving.

I went back through all my crappy iPhone 2 pics taken during my time in Paris and picked out a few favorites to share. (I ran them through Instagram filters to try to mask some of the crapiness but they're still pretty poor quality- mea culpa!) The first photo on the top left is of the entry way to the building that housed the tiny studio apartment I called home. The top right and middle left pics are of Oscar Wilde's grave at Père Lachaise. In the middle right is a snap shot of my first glimpse of the Eiffel Tower that I took from the top floor of the Centre Pompidou. The bottom left is this little church you might have heard of- Notre Dame Cathedral. On the bottom right is a picture of the Seine taken on Île Saint-Louis not far from the original outpost of Berthillon the day I had that magical cone of rhubarb ice cream.


  1. When I see posts like this I wish a) I had an ice cream maker already! and b) I NEED to go to Paris. Love the pics, especially of Le Eiffel. And your ice cream looks perfect. Go rhubarb!

  2. You just made my Sunday morning so much better. It's strange as I was seriously just thinking of you and Ruby this morning. I was wondering how you were doing and then this popped up. Thank you for taking me away for a bit with your lovely story and pictures. I have never had Rhubarb ice cream but that looks divine. Love you hope all is well.

  3. It amy be cold here, but I could still happily eat some of this pretty pink icecream - preferably by the Seine.

  4. I wish I could have a couple of scoops of this right now. All I want lately is ice cream. Although, that happens every year at this time. The pink color is great, and what a great way to reminisce about Paris!

  5. Oh Shelley, this ice cream looks and so creamy...I wish I could have a big scoop of it :)
    Thanks for sharing the pictures and the recipe. I hope you are having a great week!

  6. Love the Paris pictures! I was there many many years back for two days and did not take any pictures back then. How stupid I feel now.
    This looks delicious. I think I will wait for your gelato version, since I like that taste better than heavy, creamy icecreams.

    How are you holding up? Not much left until Ruby comes along!

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