By Chef James Distefano
Is there anything better than corn in the summertime? To me, corn is one of the highlights of the season’s produce. As a kid spending summers at the Jersey shore, the last thing I wanted to do was leave the beach early and shuck corn for dinner (but I did love eating it!). Now, it’s one of my favorite summer ingredients to work with, its subtle sweetness giving it the versatility to work in many dishes. What’s more: whether you’re using it in a soup, salad or simply grilled and buttered, corn is an ingredient that doesn’t need a lot of gussying up.
When thinking about fresh ways to eat corn, I wanted to highlight its sweetness by combining it with another summertime staple: ice cream. You may not believe corn and dessert go together, but consider this: while we commonly think of corn as a part of a savory dish, it’s also in plenty of your favorite breakfast cereals.
The inspiration for this homemade corn ice cream comes from a former boss of mine, Richard Leach. Rich has an amazing talent for creating and pairing desserts with uncommon ingredients. When I was a young kid working for him in the mid-90s, putting corn in a dessert was a mind-expanding notion. One day when we were talking about food, he calmly asked me if I’d ever had a bowl of corn cereal with peaches in it. “Of course, I have,” I said quickly—and then realized what he was getting at. My mind melted. Corn: it wasn’t just for dinner anymore!
The best part about this recipe is that you can make it without an ice cream maker. If I haven’t convinced you of corn’s delicious virtues as a dessert, you can try adding different flavors (see my tip below) or keep it easy by just adding the vanilla extract to the cream for a simple ice cream. Here are some pro tips to help you out:
- The scoop on the scoop: To get picture-perfect scoops of ice cream, dip your scoop into a tall container of warm water. The water will warm the scoop enough to enable you to dig into the ice cream and shape it into a nice round ball without the ice cream sticking to the surface. Just make sure to tap any excess water off of the scoop before digging in to avoid any messy dripping.
- Flavor-ific: If you’d like to add another flavor, such as a spice, you can whip it with your egg yolks. If you’re keen on adding something else such as chocolate chips, candy or nuts, replace the amount of roasted corn kernels with the ingredient of your choosing. If you’d like to try adding fresh herbs, mint, cilantro or tarragon would all taste delicious with the corn! Add any of the above to the batter at the end when you’re folding in the whipped cream. For this recipe, two to three tablespoons of chopped herbs should be enough.
- End results: To get the best from your eggs, let them come to room temperature because they will whip up more quickly and easily and hold more air (volume). To get the best results from your heavy cream, the cream and the bowl you will be using to whip in should be as cold as possible to whip up more quickly and easily and hold more volume. When you maximize the volume of both, your ice cream will be lighter and creamier!
- Bowled over: Since most of us only have one KitchenAid bowl to work with at home, I’d recommend whipping the cream first and storing it in your refrigerator while you whip up the egg yolks, followed by the egg whites. Whipped cream tends to hold its volume (the air trapped during the whipping process) longer than either whipped yolks or whites.
- Whip it good: To get the most out of your whipping cream, set the speed on your mixer between seven and eight or medium-high. At this speed, as the cream is whipping, the whisk will “cut” more evenly sized air bubbles into the cream. This is important because uniform air bubbles will “pop” closer to the same rate, whereas if you whip your cream on high speed, you will have irregular sized air bubbles—some large, some small—meaning your whipped cream will deflate more quickly than you want…and nobody wants to feel deflated!
Sweet Corn Ice Cream
Yield: 3 quarts
For the Roasted Corn Kernels:
3 ears corn (approximately 1 ½ cups kernels), shucked, silks and husks reserved for corn-infused heavy cream (recipe below)
1 tablespoon canola oil
2-3 tablespoon sugar
Pinch of salt
- Heat the oven to 350 F°.
- Remove kernels from the cob and set aside. Cut cobs in quarters and reserve for corn-infused heavy cream (recipe below).
- Spread kernels on a parchment paper-lined baking tray.
- Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of canola oil.
- Sprinkle with the sugar and season with a pinch of salt.
- Roast in the oven at 350 F° for 15 minutes or until the corn begins to color.
- Remove from the oven and allow it to cool to room temperature.
- Can be stored in an airtight container for up to two days.
For the Corn-Infused Heavy Cream:
3 cups heavy cream
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
2 cups reserved husks, silks and cobs
- Combine all of the ingredients in one large pot.
- Bring to a boil over medium heat.
- Turn the heat off and steep for 15 minutes, covered with a lid.
- After 15 minutes remove the lid and cool to room temperature.
- Store corn-infused heavy cream in an airtight container for at least 24 hours or up to two days in the refrigerator.
- The following day, strain the infused cream through a colander to make the corn ice cream base (recipe below). You need to make sure you wind up with three cups. Add fresh cream to make up the difference if needed.
For the Corn Ice Cream Base:
4 eggs, separated
1 ½ cups sugar
3 cups corn-infused heavy cream, strained
1 ½ cups roasted corn kernels
- Combine the egg yolks, ½ cup sugar and a pinch of salt in the bowl fitted for the electric mixer with a whisk attachment.
- Whip on high speed until pale, thick and ribbony, make sure all of the sugar has dissolved. This should take three to four minutes. Remove whipped yolk base from the bowl and set aside in a large mixing bowl. Keep cold. Wash the mixing bowl and whip for the mixer because you will need it to whip the egg whites.
- Place egg whites and a pinch of salt in the bowl fitted for the electric mixer and begin whipping on medium speed until medium peak.
- Once egg whites are at medium peak, slowly add in the remaining one cup of sugar. Once all of the sugar is in, turn the machine up to high speed and continue to whip until the meringue looks like shaving cream. It will be light, fluffy and glossy looking.
- In three separate stages, gently fold the meringue (egg white mixture) into the egg yolk base, only folding about three quarters of the way. This will help prevent over mixing. After the third addition of meringue has been folded in, place back into the refrigerator to keep cold.
- Wash the mixing bowl and whip for the mixer because you will need it to whip the corn-infused heavy cream.
- Whip the corn-infused heavy cream to medium peaks in an electric mixer with the whisk attachment.
- Fold one quarter of the whipped corn-infused heavy cream into the ice cream base and mix three quarters of the way.
- Add the last three quarters of the whipped corn-infused heavy cream along the with the roasted corn kernels to the ice cream base.
- Gently fold everything together until no visible streaks of whipped cream remain.
- Pour corn ice cream into an airtight container with a tight lid and freeze immediately.
- Allow to freeze for 24 hours before serving.
*Ice cream will last for up to four days in the freezer.
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