My 33rd birthday is coming up. A few weeks ago my mother, a salt & pepper-haired woman fast approaching her 60s, looked at my hair and said, “You have as much white hair as I do.”
“In the back there, I see a lot of white hairs.”
“NO YOU DON’T.”
“YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO TELL YOUR DARLING DAUGHTER THAT HER HAIR IS AS DARK AS MIDNIGHT.”
After checking my hair with one handstand, two mirrors, three lights, and four back flips, I can firmly state that my mother is a dirty rotten liar. She just loves to get my goat, but goat meat is a future post. For now, let’s talk about ice cream.
Weather bad? Life in the toilet? Dirty rotten lying parents got you down? Ice cream will soothe the pain. You never outgrow ice cream, especially this one. Unlike most frozen desserts that melt into a chilling puddle, velvety azuki bean ice cream coats your tongue in an insulating blanket of sweetness that practically inoculates your body against the cold. If there’s an ideal ice cream to eat on a cold winter day made even colder by your mother stabbing you in the back with the cruel icicles of filthy lies, this would be it.
Sweetened azuki beans, known as pat in Korean and misleadingly called red beans, is used to fill tteok or mochi, stuff steamed buns, and top shave ice and ice cream throughout Asia and Hawaii. Koreans enjoy shave ice topped with pat in a treat they call pat bing su. If the idea of cold sweet beans doesn’t appeal to you, try a pat ice cream bar from an Asian grocer. It may take more than one try before the grainy texture and earthy sweetness grow on you. Soon, however, you’ll try another one, crave another one, and eventually buy a whole box because you’ll be hopelessly, happily addicted. Then you’ll come back here, make this ice cream, and thank me and my lustrous ebony hair for posting this recipe.
FOUNTAIN OF RAVEN-HAIRED YOUTH AZUKI BEAN ICE CREAM
Adapted from The Ultimate Ice Cream Book by Bruce Weinstein
Makes about 1 1/4 quarts
The original recipe calls for two cups of red bean paste. To make life easier, I use the whole container, whether it’s a 14-ounce can or a 17-ounce packet (I slightly prefer the flavor of the beans in the packets). I noticed no texture difference either way.
· 2 1/2 cups half and half
· 3 large egg yolks
· 1/2 cup white sugar
· 1/4 teaspoon salt
· 1 14-oz can or 1 17-oz packet of smooth sweetened azuki (red) bean paste
· 1/4 teaspoon almond extract, optional but strongly recommended
· 1/2 cup sliced toasted almonds, optional
Bring half and half to a simmer over medium heat. In the meantime, beat egg yolks in a heavy medium bowl with the sugar and salt until the mixture is thick and lemon-colored. Slowly, whisking the whole time, pour the hot half and half into the yolk mixture to temper it. Once most of the half and half is beaten into the yolks, pour the contents of the bowl into the pot with the remaining half and half and whisk continuously over low heat until the mixture thickens slightly or reaches 170 degrees. Don’t let this mixture boil or it may curdle. Remove from heat and stir in red bean paste and almond extract. Stir well until beans are dissolved. Strain the mixture through a medium-mesh sieve into a container. Cover and chill at least four hours or, better yet, overnight.
Freeze the ice cream in your ice cream maker until ice cream is thick and increased in volume. Add the sliced almonds in the last few minutes of mixing. Thoroughly incorporate. Eat fresh or freeze.