Tuesday, June 16, 2009

TWD: Honey Peach Ice Cream


Everyone is familiar with the old saying "if at first you don't succeed, try try again." I remember my mother cheerfully chirping that one to me as a kid if I messed up in soccer or didn't understand my math homework. I feel like old sayings with staying power get that way for a reason - they have merit, they embody wisdom, they hold some universal truth. And so, despite my multiple failures, I have continued to try to make custard, time and time again, like the good old adage-follower that I am. But this saying does not promise eventual success. It just tells you to keep trying. There is no follow up, no instructions for what to do "if at second you don't succeed." (Although I do think that the saying implies that you should try at least twice more after your first failed attempt -- "try try again" - that's two more tries.) But I have to believe that if we could ask the author of that saying what we should do if we keep try-trying and not-not succeeding, he would say "if at fifth you don't succeed, you really need to move on."

And that's where I find myself with custard. Custard is not my friend. I can't put my finger on exactly why things tend to break down for me when I make custard, but break down they do. And since custard was required for this week's TWD selection, Honey Peach Ice Cream, you can probably guess how it turned out for me.

But first, let's discuss what did work. My peach puree.


That simply required peeling and cutting up peaches, boiling them with honey, and then pureeing them with an immersion blender. Apparently some people really hate peeling peaches and will go to great lengths to avoid it. My bloggy friend Di and I have a deal that if we ever live near each other, I'll peel her peaches and she'll make my custard. I totally get the better end of that bargain.
Now let's discuss the more complicated matter of what did not work.


I know the drill by now. Whisk egg yolks & sugar in one bowl, boil milk in a different bowl, add a small amount of milk to the eggs to temper them, add the rest of the milk slowly while whisking vigorously. But this time, we had to pour the egg/sugar/milk mixture back into the pan and cook over medium heat until it hit between 170 and 180 degrees.

Kitchen thermometers mysteriously refuse to hit the desired temperature when they are taking the temperature of custard in my kitchen. When this first started happening, I thought that maybe the cheap thermometer I bought at Target or the grocery store just wasn't reliable, so I started diverting my children's college savings to fancy Williams-Sonoma thermometers in the hopes of ending my custard temperature-taking woes.


That's my fancy candy thermometer, hanging out at 155 degrees, a full 20 degrees shy of where it needed to be. It pretty much didn't budge from there, other than to drop a few degrees from time to time.

So I broke out my fancy new instant read and double teamed the custard:


Well, I can report, in true Consumer Reports fashion, that kitchen thermometers at all price points that are used to take the temperature of custard in my kitchen will reliably register readings that are a solid 20 degrees lower than required.

So my custard boiled and boiled away, never getting above 155 degrees. In addition to the temperature test for determining whether the custard is done, Dorie describes a "spoon test," in which the custard coats the back of a spoon, and if you run your finger down the bowl of the spoon, the custard won't run into the track. Well, I tried the spoon test, and it seemed to be holding the track. But then when I'd bend down to squint and read my thermometers while holding the spoon, the custard seemed to drip back into the track, so I started to doubt that it was satisfying the spoon test, especially since the custard appeared to be way short of hitting temperature.

I finally bailed after about 30+ minutes. As soon as it came off the heat, I knew that it was way overdone, probably by a good 20 minutes. I mixed the custard with the peach puree, refrigerated, and churned the ice cream the next night.

My first thought when I tasted it was "grainy." David didn't really notice the graininess, but he did think that it tasted like there was a film on it. I think that's even worse than grainy. The flavor was okay, as copious amount of peaches, honey, sugar, milk and cream have a way of keeping things from being truly awful no matter what you do to them, but I am sure the flavor was nothing like what it would have been had I not ruined the custard AGAIN.

The honey peach ice cream was chosen by Tommi of Brown Interior. Tommi, you couldn't have picked a better June recipe than this one, and I'm so bummed that I ruined it. I know that this had to be incredible for all the TWDers who cooked their custard for 5 minutes instead of 45.

42 comments:

Tracey said...

Oh no, Cathy! I'm sorry the custard is giving you such trouble. I'm sure it's incredibly frustrating. I used to have a ton of trouble with custard too but then I started using a different pan and it just seemed to click. If you ever move back to the northeast, I'll be happy to strike the same deal you have with Di :)

Di said...

Hah! I found a way to make this without even peeling the peaches! But I'll still make your custard for you. =) I'm sorry you've been having so much trouble with custards. One thing to consider--with many thermometers that look like yours (dial-face, analog) the point where the temp registers is about halfway up the stem of the thermometer, not at the tip. If that's the case with yours, it might be registering low because it's not immersed far enough. I have a dial instant read that's like that. With my digital one, it's near the tip, though. Just a thought...

Amanda said...

was going to suggest the same as Tracey, try a different pan. I use a basic nonstick saucepan and it works great. I'm sorry it's such trouble for you :( I made mine with plums and even though my custard was perfect, the taste of my ice cream was so bitter you couldn't eat it :-(

Amanda said...

By the way, next time you attempt custard just use the spoon method. If the custard doesn't seep into the track for the first 4-5 seconds it's thick enough and done. The thermometer suggestion, I believe, is because of America's fear of contaminated eggs not getting cooked to a high enough temp. I was born in England and custard is something that was a staple, and I remember my mother always checking the custard by thickness, she never used a thermometer. :)

Barbara Bakes said...

Sorry you had such trouble! I had fun reading the post thought! I'm in the rather make custard than peel peaches category. I too think the pan makes a big difference. I try to use a heavy bottomed pan and lots of stirring.

karen said...

sorry you had some trouble. custard is actually one of my favorite things to make and dorie's spoon test does work, i didn't even measure the temp on this one. but i find myself in the same situation as you and custard like me with pie crust - doesn't work for me even though i study up on it and try over and over again. oh well, give me pre-made, store bought pie crust any day! :P

Megan said...

We all have our nemesis - bread making is mine, and custard is yours!

And you forgot the other adage: everything is easy once you know how. But you have to get to that point first!

Maria said...

Sorry you had some issues with this one!I made this ice cream last summer and loved it. I think the honey and peaches go well together.

vibi said...

Oh! NO! I'm so sorry you had trouble with this...
Now if custard is not your friend, you have to invite me over sometimes and I'll show you how easy it is to get right... in exchange you can teach me how to make bread! Deal?

I'm glad you still got ice cream... and it looks amazing too! Bravo, Cathy!

myfamousrecipe said...

I'm still laughing at your remark, 'if at fifth you don't succeed, you really need to move on.' So funny. Mine had the opposite problem of going over 180 before the spoon test showed the custard was ready. One of these days we'll perfect it!

Nancy/n.o.e said...

Never fear, Cathy! I am on the quest to try as many frozen peach desserts as possible, as you will see if I can ever get my TWD post up. I've got just the recipe or three for you, and no custard involved! Good for you giving it the old college try!

Kim said...

So sorry. I had custard problems of my own. Mine looked pretty curdled and nasty.

Sara said...

Oh no. You must have offended some custard guard in your youth :)

At least it still tasted good, this was really yummy ice cream.

pinkstripes said...

Oh, too bad! It looks wonderful. Like I mentioned before, don't use the thermometer. It lies.

spike. said...

Maybe your house is a vortex that runs 20degrees cooler no matter what. That's the explanation I'd go with

Melissa said...

That is so strange that your custard won't get to the right temperature! I mean, surely the longer you leave it on the burner the hotter it should get. It makes no sense!! Sorry you had troubles, but at least you gave it a try!

Teanna said...

Well, if at 6th you don't succeed... go out and buy Haagen Dazs? The ice cream actually looks really, really good, though! I think it will work for you yet!

chocolatechic said...

I didn't really care for it either.

Natashya said...

Well my love, there is always frozen yogurt!

Pamela said...

My apologies, Cathy! I can't believe that custard is giving you such a difficult time. Hang in there. It looks good, but I don't know if that's any consolation to you.

jillbert said...

I wonder what the deal is with the custard? There's probably an easy solution - maybe if you ask nice, Dorie would come over and give you a lesson!

Kayte said...

Just do the spoon test and don't worry about the temperature. It took less than ten minutes. Despite the adventure, your ice cream looks really really great all decked out with that piece of greenery and all. Very nice! Very pretty.

Leslie said...

I am so sorry custard is eluding you! I look up to you so much because you bake bread, which gives me fits of insecurity. I think you need to take a break from custard and come back to it with a buddy that can cook it with you. I know you can do it, there's absolutely no doubt in my mind. Hang in there!

And if you're looking for a good thermometer, I recommend the Thermapen (recommended by Cook's Illustrated), totally awesome and fast. But I agree with Amanda, I think that as Americans we are so freaked out by salmonella. I also think we're gadget crazy. So if the spoon works for you (and it sounds like it did until you doubted your judgment), go with the spoon. A low tech multi-tasker as AB would say.

Jamie said...

Ack...sorry about your custard woes! It looks delicious though!

Liz said...

Oh, tragedy strikes again! Next time you should mos def go by time--just cook it for 5-7 minutes, it really doesn't take much more than that. :) Or try Philadelphia-style ice cream, that's all cream based, no custard required!

Debinhawaii said...

It looks good at least! That is a bummer. I can do custard but I prefer to be lazy with my ice cream base and do without it. ;-)

The Blonde Duck said...

If it makes you feel any better, I ruined scrambled eggs and toast the other day.

Seriously.

Mary Ann said...

Truthfully the thermometer always freaks me out. I don't know if I don't leave it in long enough or too long or what. I am always second guessing myself.
I love your two thermometers in the pot at the same time. That made me laugh.
Sorry it wasn't the best!

lasinthekitchen said...

Your Honey Peach Ice Cream looks so velvety, I'm sorry it didn't taste good to you.
I have the same relationship with custard that you do and had pretty much the same experience. I didn't time myself, but I whisked that custard forever and my thermometer didn't budge over 150 degrees. (I didn't have an instant read so I had to use my remote one which is suppose to be pretty good. HAH!)
I'm going to try try again, hoping that I'll have success one of these days.

The Food Librarian said...

Oh that sucks! But such a trooper. I'm afraid to try an Italian meringue. My stuff goes to caramel in a flash.

Karyl said...

It's not you! It's that awful W-S thermometer. I had the same one and couldn't get a good custard base for an ice cream to save my life because it would never get "hot" enough. I finally switched to the Pyrex one I used for the T-Day turkey (it was a pain to stand there and hold the thermometer), but-- voila -- it worked like a charm.

bakingwiththeboys said...

It's like your pots live in the twilight zone. I would go with your gut and trust the spoon. Failing that, there is always Ben and Jerry's. I am partial to the Brownie Batter myself.

Now, if I could find someone to make my pie crust for me...

Audrey said...

I never got to temp either...not even close, so I just risked death by salmonella instead...and I was glad Wendy said it didn't matter! I have to say yours is the most delicious looking failed attempt I've ever seen!

(btw. I was just flipping through the new issue of BH&Gs and there's an article about making classic vanilla ice cream -- and tips on making the custard -- towards the back. Email me if you want me to pdf it for you!)

Katherine Aucoin said...

I admire you so much. You go to all means to make it work and have such a great attitude.

My downfall is rice. I can't cook it to save my life. I use a rice cooker, I had to. My husband and children are serious rice fiends.

Good luck with your custard making. I'll say a prayer to St. Jude for you! = )

Jacque said...

LOL, you poor thing! I totally rebelled and skipped the thermometer part this week, just because I was afraid of exactly what happened to you. At some point we have to say "enough technology, already!"

So, anyway, sorry about your grainy, filmy ice cream. How disapointing :( Here's to a better week next week.

TeaLady said...

Try an old fashioned candy thermometer. Mine is great for stuff like custards rather than my digital, etc. Sorry your custard didn't work. Mine did and I was way surprised.

Keep trying. It sure does look good.

Katrina said...

I do know what you mean about custard. If it's any consolation prize, your picture of ice cream with the mint on top looks great!
I was on the opposite extreme, I only cooked mine about 5 minutes, afraid of what might happen. It passed the spoon test. I think it turned out well, but I also thought it seemed a little grainy. I've made some of Dorie's chocolate ganache ice cream this morning, it's chilling. It was the same except chocolate instead of peaches. We'll see how it turns out. This time I actually used my thermometer and right at 175 degrees I took it off the heat and it was a bit curdled looking. I know others said they had that problem this week, but that the ice cream turned out great. We'll see about that. I'm partial to the chocolate. I left the peaches out of this one and made honey almond ice cream and we had it over peach crisp. All your other goodies this week look great, too!

nick said...

I agree that "try try" again does imply giving at least 3 attempts in total. I think if you still fail after that, it is OK to find something else to do (why do I still play poker online and try to convince Sara that she is more fun when she drinks - I don't have a reasonable answer for these).

Also, in an attempt to get you over your custard problems let me cut to the chase here:

SCREW SALMONELLA, I WANT SOME EFFING CUSTARD.

The fact of the matter is that most people eat their eggs horribly undercooked at breakfast, raw or undercooked in salads (Caesar) and plenty of other places. But as soon as it comes to baking: "Make sure the temp hits ~180 blah blah" - just don't - it won't be any more dangerous than any other time you've ever consumed any not completely ruined egg dish. Granted, if you are feeding children, elderly or sick people, it is more of a concern - but generally don't worry.

Jennifer said...

Hmm.. we were supposed to check it with a thermometer? Somehow I missed that!

I wonder if it's your altitude? I think at higher altitudes liquids boil at a lower temp.

Karen said...

At least you got a pretty photo out of it! I agree totally with everyone else who said trust the spoon test. Don't let custard get the best of you!

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