When something goes wrong in the kitchen, what’s your default solution? Are you the inquisitive person who keeps consuming what they’ve made until over half is gone, trying to ascertain exactly what it is that doesn’t taste quite right? Do you shower everything in icing sugar and hope that no one notices? Do you calmly set the failure to one side and start the whole process from scratch? Or do scrape whatever it is into the bin in a fit of fury, never to be spoken of again?
I’ll be honest and admit to having done all of the above. Experimenting in the kitchen inevitably leads to the occasional failure, but every so often something inexplicable goes wrong with a seemingly straightforward recipe and it can be, depending on the mood you’re in and who you’re baking for, frustrating, infuriating or incredibly funny.
This weekend just gone we decorated our flat for Christmas. I couldn’t have been happier or more relaxed and wasn’t really paying a huge amount of attention to the gingerbread I threw together in between stringing up lights and dusting down baubles. Gingerbread – the sticky, spongy kind as opposed to the biscuits – isn’t something I’ve made before, but it sounded pretty simple. And although the batter looked a little thin as I popped it in the oven, I assumed the ingredients would work their magic as they baked and left it there to do its thing.
The spicy scent wafting round the kitchen as it baked was incredible, but my gingerbread emerged from the oven in an embarrassingly flat little layer. Flavour? Fabulous. Looks? A little deflated. Edible – and enjoyed that evening in sticky slabs served with scoops of vanilla ice cream – yes, but unfortunately not a recipe beautiful enough to photograph or reliable enough to share with you here. This ice cream, however, is. That’s a fifth option that I forgot to include at the start of this post: turn the recipe fail into something different and utterly delicious.
Crumbled up anything tastes pretty good in ice cream – digestive biscuits, brownies, treacle tart, even caramelized brown bread – so I knew this gingerbread would be no exception. After toying with the idea of a spiced custard base, I decided to go with something simpler as the gingerbread was already so rich in flavour. Lime and ginger might initially sound more like something you’d find in a savoury thai stir fry, but think of a thick layer of sharp lime icing on top of spicy carrot cake and you can begin to imagine where I’m going.
This ice cream is an explosion of flavour and texture: cool custard contrasting with warm spice, sticky cake melting into smooth cream, sharp citrus and plenty of sweetness. It’s a great way to use up any baking mishaps, cake trimmings or slices that have started to go a little dry and you could easily adapt it to incorporate different flavours: clementine custard with chocolate brownie pieces is something I’m already dreaming of.
One day I promise to post the perfect gingerbread recipe. Until then, I’ll keep experimenting in the kitchen, hopefully with a few more fortuitous mishaps along the way.
Gingerbread Lime Ice Cream
(makes about 3/4 of a litre)
Zest of two unwaxed limes
75g caster sugar
200ml full fat milk
350ml double cream
3 large free range egg yolks
150g gingerbread (the spongy variety, not the biscuits, although those could work well too)
Put the lime zest and sugar in a food processor and blitz.
Combine the lime sugar, milk, 200ml double cream and salt in a saucepan and warm gently. Remove from the heat cover and set aside to infuse for one hour.
Pour the remaining 150ml double cream into a large bowl and set it over an ice bath with a mesh sieve on top. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks together.
Rewarm the lime infused mixture then slowly pour it over the egg yolks, whisking constantly until combined. Return the mixture to your saucepan and stir constantly over a medium heat until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a heatproof spatula.
Remove the custard from the heat and pour through the sieve into the cold cream. Discard any lime zest left behind then whisk the ice cream mixture over the ice bath until cool.
Chill in the fridge overnight then churn according to your manufacturer’s instructions. As you remove it from the machine, fold in the crumbled gingerbread then freeze until ready to eat.