Plentiful spring snow the key ingredient to homemade ice cream, sorbet
Did you know that you can make desserts with snow? It is a fun novelty, but also extremely fast and easy – another way to enjoy the season’s bountiful precipitation even indoors.
After a fresh snowfall, I scoop up several cups worth and leave the bowl outside on the porch while I rummage around my kitchen assembling metal bowls and spoons (which conduct the cold, and thus buy you time in what has to be a fast job) and ingredients, which include a liquid, a sweetener and some flavoring agent.
The first batch I made was vanilla, but I’ve also flavored various bowls of snow with chocolate, birch syrup, honey, last summer’s raspberries, canned peaches and the morning’s fruit juice.
The density of the snow will determine how much liquid the snow can absorb, and that, along with the liquid used, will determine the texture. I have found that cream and condensed milk confer a silky mouth feel, like ice cream, and can be eaten right away. Milk snow is flakier, like ice milk. Bowls flavored with fruit juice or other water-based liquids tend to be more granular, like a granita or a sorbet, and benefit from refreezing time.
Here’s a sample recipe, but experimentation is half the fun:
Over four cups of snow, drip a tablespoon of extract or liqueur, sprinkle a half cup of white sugar, and slowly pour about a cup of milk, juice, or other liquid, while gently folding the snow to incorporate all ingredients. Taste and adjust. Most people will want more sugar. Total labor time: Two minutes.
With milk, the result is a soft and flavorful variation on ice milk. As an alternative to the sugar, I prefer honey, which freezes into brittle ribbons as it touches the snow, and then cracks into little candy-like pieces, when incorporated. I found the flavor richer than sugar and the frozen bits provided textural interest, with a burst of flavor as they thawed in the mouth. Yum.
Cream, milk, coffee, syrup and fruit juice are some of the many liquid options for your snow-treat creations. The first versions I made with our morning’s fruit juice were too watery to be of any interest. I recommend much less dilution – maybe just scoop some of the concentrate directly out of a frozen can and add some water or juice to mix well. The category of “syrup” includes that found in canned fruit, maple or birch, or chocolate/caramel/fruit syrups. These liquids have the advantage of combining all necessary ingredients (liquid, sweetener, flavor) in one product. In all cases, drizzle the liquid slowly over the mound of snow, folding as you go to assess texture, and then add more if needed.
With milk or cream, the dessert is ready to eat right away or can be frozen for an hour or two. Store it too long, though, and it will be hard as a rock. Recipes made with a water-based liquid will benefit from refreezing. Just stick the bowl outside (or in the freezer) for 30 minutes, scratch it up with a fork, check the texture, and possibly repeat another time or two. Or use small paper cups with a stick inserted in the middle to create Popsicles.
Extracts, like vanilla, mint or almond are kitchen staples and a little goes a long way. Liqueurs would be delicious, too. Kahlua or Fra Angelica, anyone? Soft fruits, chopped small, are pretty and flavorful additions. In one batch, I mixed in wild raspberries that I canned last summer. If the pieces are too large, the snow won’t bind together, but the flavor is great, like a soft Popsicle. My husband loved the recipe that combined canned peaches, their syrup and vanilla.
Depending on your liquid and flavorings, most people will choose to add more sugar than you may expect to achieve a dessert-like sweetness. Dry sugar works fine. A purist will prefer a cold sugar syrup (half water and half sugar) or any other syrup (such as chocolate or maple) to avoid any graininess.
For me, winter is a great time to try out new recipes. On the one hand, I’d much rather have ice cream in the summer! But with his extravagant sweet tooth, my husband is game for ice cream, granitas and sorbets in winter, too, especially when made with snow.