It's always more fun to DIY. Every week, we spare you a trip to the grocery store and show you how to make small batches of great foods at home.
Saison DuPont is a classic. Conceived in 1884, it’s the kind of bottle that we beer geeks consider a failsafe—it's un-mess-with-able. This farmhouse-style ale has flavors reminiscent of the Belgian countryside in which it's brewed (well, the Belgian countryside of my dreams, that is). The nose packs freshly baked brioche as well as white pepper and grass, and the palate proffers zesty, citrus-based hops, ripe melon, and plenty of spice.
Luckily, it's also wildly available, and its natural carbonation from bottle fermentation results in a beer that is highly effervescent—which makes it ideal for beer floats. This float's high carbonation makes for a lively presentation, with hefty bubbles that scrub the palate between each bite for maximum flavor impact with each cheerful mouthful.
For this update on the classic beer float, I wanted to create a flavor of ice cream that would revere the beer as much as I do. I didn’t want an ice cream that would come traipsing in and try to steal the spotlight when there are already so many wonderful flavors in the beer. Enter: peppered honey-pear ice cream.
In general, I enjoy using freeze-dried fruits to make well-integrated, continuous, and creamy swirls of fruit flavor in ice creams. Otherwise, the pieces of softened fruit would be interruptive to the overall experience within the beer. Plus, the high water content of pears means that they would need to be cooked down and concentrated considerably before being mixed in ice cream (otherwise the result is icy, coarse chunks of fruit).
More: Once you've tried putting ice cream in your beer, try putting beer in your ice cream.
While roasted pear ice cream is delicious, my goal was to maintain the juicy, bright inflection of fresh pears rather than the more caramelly, Maillard-influenced profile of cooked fruit. It’s a much better fit for the beer—the sweet honey and citrus complements and and offers contrast to the funkiness of the Saison, and the walnuts bring a lovely, balancing bitterness. This recipe calls for one bottle, but you might want to stock up on a few—once you have one, it'll be hard to resist another round.
Makes 2 to 4 floats
For the honey-pearl swirl:
10 grams freeze-dried pears, ground into a fine powder
55 grams honey
20 grams apple juice
10 grams turbinado sugar
25 grams toasted walnuts, chopped
For the ice cream base and assembly:
5 grams corn starch or tapioca starch
220 grams whole milk, divided
225 grams cream
50 grams turbinado sugar
30 grams nonfat dry milk
20 grams corn syrup or tapioca syrup
4 to 5 grinds black pepper, to taste
Zest of one small orange
1 bottle Saison DuPont
1 orange peel, for garnish
Nutmeg, for garnish (optional)
Start by making the honeyed pear swirl: Combine the freeze-dried pears, honey, apple juice, and sugar in a small sauce pan and whisk to combine. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat, stirring with a rubber spatula until the sugar and pear powder have dissolved. Simmer until it reduces to a syrup, about 10 to 15 minutes, then stir in the walnuts and set it aside to cool. Keep this in an airtight container for several days, until you are ready to combine it with the ice cream.
To make the ice cream, whisk together the starch and 20 grams of the whole milk in a small bowl until smooth to make a starch slurry. Set it aside while you make the ice cream base.
In a sauce pan, combine the remaining 200 grams of whole milk with the cream, sugar, nonfat dry milk, corn syrup, and pepper. Whisk vigorously until the dry ingredients are well-incorporated, then set it over medium heat. Prepare an ice bath for your finished mix. Bring the mixture to a boil, then lower it to a simmer for 4 to 5 minutes. Remove it from the heat and add the starch slurry. (You may need to whisk the slurry again prior to adding it to ensure the starch is still suspended in the milk and not stuck to the bottom of the bowl.) Return the pan to the heat and return it to a simmer while continuing to stir. After a few minutes, the mixture will begin to thicken.
Once it starts to thicken, remove it from the heat and pour it into a bowl over your prepared ice bath—be careful that the ice bath doesn't overflow into the cream mixture. Blend the base well with an immersion blender and allow the mix to fully cool. Age it in the refrigerator overnight, or for a minimum of four hours.
Remove the mix from the refrigerator, add orange zest, and blend it again with immersion blender. Pour it into an ice cream machine and freeze according to manufacturer’s instructions. Once frozen, alternate scooping the ice cream base with the honeyed pear swirl into an airtight container to great layers. Freeze the layered ice cream for another six hours or overnight.
To build the floats, place two generous scoops of the ice cream in a tumbler. (I prefer low, wide-rimmed tumblers as opposed to beer mugs or pint glasses. They allow for a more equitable ice cream-to-beer ratio per bite or sip.) Because this beer is highly carbonated, tilt and pour a quarter to a half of the bottle gently down the side of the glass, allowing for a thick head to settle on top of the ice cream. You’ll get a little beer volcano if you pour too aggressively. Repeat with 2 to 3 more glasses.
Garnish it with an orange peel and, if you’re feeling spicy, a little grated nutmeg. Serve with a straw and a spoon—it might get messy, but it'll be worth it!
Top photo by James Ransom; all others by Stef Ferrari