Sunday, April 11, 2010

Tropical Sugar Ice Cream

Unless you live in the San Francisco area you may not know who Alice Medrich is. She opened a chocolate-dessert shop in Berkeley in the 70s called Cocolat--it was quite near Chez Panisse. Her shop made the most amazing chocolate treats, and people from all over the Bay Area would make the trip to Berkeley to sample them. Her shop closed awhile ago, but Alice still thrills by writing amazing cookbooks. My favorite of her books is Pure Dessert, with recipes featuring the pure flavors of the best ingredients. I've made several things from this book, most recently, Tropical Sugar Ice Cream.

There are only four ingredients in this recipe--milk, cream, sugar (muscovado or piloncillo), and salt. Alice has a whole chapter of recipes using unusual sugars and honeys in this book. She did a taste test with a dozen raw and specialty sugars, and here's a quote from her book:

"My samples varied in color and consistency from coarse crunchy grains with a light caramel hue and flavor to match to amber and russet sugars with the moist consistency of familiar supermarket brown sugar. Most compelling were the softer, darker sugars. At the top of the color and flavor spectrum, dark muscovado is deep mahogany brown, almost black, with dark flavors of molasses, ripe tropical fruits, and smoke. A whiff took me back to a night drive through a sugarcane field in Martinique more than twenty years ago. In color and relative sweetness and intensity, piloncillo is similar to ordinary dark brown sugar, but the flavor is brighter and more interesting with caramel and molasses notes and a slight flavor and aroma or smoke--familiar to anyone who has wandered the markets of Mexico. Palm sugar has notes of maple and coffee and nuances of coconut."

"After very little experimentation, I realized that raw sugars are flavoring ingredients as much as they are sweeteners. To treat them as mere sugar is to miss their essence; indeed, if they are used only when a sweetener is needed, their rich and compelling flavors can actually get in the way."

I made the ice cream using piloncillo sugar--very easy to find in local grocery stores and super inexpensive. You find it here in small cones that need to be grated, and since the sugar is so hard and dense, grating it is no small feat. Still, the effort is justified as this ice cream is amazing--creamy, and not overly sweet, and tasting a bit like caramel. If you can't find piloncillo in your regular supermarket, you should be able to get it at any Hispanic grocer.
I almost forgot to mention--no cooking at all. Without any eggs there is no custard to make. How fabulous is that!!

Tropical Sugar Ice Cream

1 1/2 cups whole milk

1 1/2 cups heavy cream

1/2 cup firmly packed light muscovado or grated piloncillo sugar

1/8 teaspoon salt

Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl, stirring well to dissolve the sugar. For an extra-cold start, put the mixture in the freezer for 20 minutes, stirring once or twice to prevent freezing. Freeze according the instructions for your ice cream maker. Serve soft, or freeze until hard enough to scoop.


  1. O lovely! I am off to put my icecream maker bowl in the freezer right now!

  2. How interesting! I've never heard of that sugar, but I probably could find it if I looked. I love no-cook ice cream!

  3. lovely icecream recipe.. so simple.. thanks for sharing!

  4. Dear,
    My first time to your space and what a fabulous space! Nice to know you are a vegetarian. I was raised as one but had to become a carnivore about a decade ago.
    This ice cream looks fabulous! I know people in the UK use this Muscovado sugar to make desserts but never used it myself. Splendid treat and with just 4 ingredients too!

  5. I have this cookbook but have never noticed this recipe. Now I can't wait to try it. Thanks, Michele!

  6. Thank you so much for commenting!