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Author Notes: This dessert, which builds on a rich base of ingredients from a David Lebovitz recipe for vanilla ice cream, is both delicate and assertive. With each bite, I taste the rhubarb first, then the vanilla, and then the subtle floral element at the finish. Do use food-grade rose water such as Carlo and real vanilla extract. —mwb
Makes a little more than 2 pints
Rhubarb and rose-water compote
- 1 pound fresh rhubarb stalks
- 3/4 cup granulated cane sugar
- 1/2 cup water
- 2 tablespoons rose water
- Wash the rhubarb stalks, trim off ends, cut in half length-wise, and cut into pieces the size of a thumbnail.
- Add the rhubarb pieces, the sugar and the water to a medium-size pot (I use a 2 3/4 dutch oven) and cook on the stovetop over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the rhubarb compote has a soft, sticky, jammy consistency. Watch the pot; do not overcook.
- Remove the compote from the heat and stir in the rose water. Allow the compote to cool to room temperature.
Vanilla ice-cream base
- 2 cups whipping (heavy) cream
- 1 cup whole milk
- 3/4 cup granulated cane sugar
- 1 generous pinch of flaky sea salt (such as Maldon)
- 1/2 vanilla bean, split in half length-wise, with seeds scraped out
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 6 egg yolks from large eggs
- Add one cup of the cream, the milk, the sugar, the salt, the vanilla extract, and the vanilla pod and seeds to a non-reactive medium-size pot (I use a 4-quart stainless steel soup pot), and heat on the stovetop over a low flame, stirring frequently until the sugar dissolves. Once the sugar is dissolved, remove the mixture from the heat to cool for 20 minutes.
- While the milk-and-cream mixture is warming, beat the egg yolks until they are pale yellow and foamy. (I put a stand mixer with whisk attachment to use for this step and step 7.)
- While the milk-and-cream mixture is cooling, set up an ice bath for the custard you are about to finish. Pour the other half of the cream into the medium-size bowl, and set this bowl inside a larger bowl filled with (mostly) ice and some cold water. (I use stainless steel bowls, which won't shatter when the hot custard hits the cool cream.)
- Return to the whisked egg yolks. Remove the vanilla bean (reserve for another use or discard) and slowly add the cooled milk-and-cream mixture to them while whisking continuously.
- When the custard is little bit foamy and all of its ingredients are incorporated (this should take a couple of minutes only), stop whisking it and add it back to the pot that you used to warm the milk-and-cream mixture. Stir the custard frequently with a whisk or a heat-resistant spoon over medium-low to medium heat on the stovetop until the custard thickens and reaches 170 degrees Fahrenheit on a candy or a meat thermometer. (Make sure the probe is testing the heat of the custard, not the bottom of the pot.)
- Once the custard reaches the requisite temperature, take it off the heat immediately and strain it into the cream that's waiting in the bowl in the ice bath. Mix the custard and the cream, and then add the rhubarb and rose-water compote and stir until thoroughly incorporated.
- Chill the fruited custard until it is refrigerator-cold, then churn it in your ice-cream maker pursuant to the manufacturer's instructions.