If you haven’t realised it yet, I love cheese. Since I was a child and I used to press my nose against the cheese counter at the local delicatessen (often asking to try a little piece of the smelliest kinds, cheeky one I was), I loved the luscious creaminess of the fat melting in the mouth, the slight tingle you get from the more aged varieties and the aroma climbing up the nose, sometimes reminiscent of straw, other times nutty or earnestly earthy.
A couple of friends of mine in Italy, both food lovers and religious observer of trends (be them in the realm of fashion or in that of the palate) told me how during a recent trip to Florence they had a cup of gelato al formaggio. Yes, you got it, cheese ice cream. I was captivated since the start, so much so I could almost already taste it. All the silkiness of cheese, in smooth frozen form. Perfect.
The only problem in freezing cheese is to avoid ending up with a hard block of frozen savoury custard. Normally sugar lowers the freezing temperature guaranteeing a degree of smoothness but since I was determined to create a savoury concoction, this was not possible.
So after in depth research looking at the few recipes available online (and banking on the tips I got last year from the Blu Top Ice Cream workshop), I came up with my own version. It uses a tiny bit of brown rice syrup and honey, but will still be decidedly savoury.
I made it twice, the first time as a dessert on New Years Eve, paired with pears poached in wine. The second time I served instead as an appetiser, along with crushed toasted hazelnuts, celery and a balsamic vinegar reduction. It was great in both occasions. I leave you the choice.
300ml whole milk
150g Parmesan cheese, grated
300g Torta Montebianco (a layered gorgonzola and mascarpone)
3 egg yolks
20g brown rice syrup
1 tbsp honey
Place all the milk in a medium saucepan on medium heat. When it starts warming up, stir in spoonful after spoonful of the parmesan until well blended. Then gradually add the Torta Montebianco. Turn off if it starts boiling.
Beat your egg yolks with a whisk in a large bowl until lemon colour. Stir into the bowl about half of the milk mixture, make sure the beaten yolks have blended, then return the mix to the saucepan and add the brown rice syrup and honey while heating up. Turn off when it starts boiling and cool quickly in an ice bath or simply by placing your saucepan outside (if in winter).
When at room temperature, pour into an ice cream machine. This way, your ice cream should be ready in a hour or less. And if you don’t have an ice cream machine, don’t panic. Because of the high fat content, this mixture will work well in the freezer too. Just pour in a glass bowl and once cooled down place it in the freezer for about 8 hours, stirring from time to time.
Then it’s up to you how you combine it. I love the idea of using black grapes and walnuts too, or pomegranate seeds and dried apricots. Be creative, experiment and most of all, enjoy!