It hasn’t exactly turned out as I planned.
And what I planned was to make pumpkin ice cream in such a way that it would taste exactly like the same flavor I had at The Hop in Asheville. The Hop was a fantastic little ice cream place. It used to inhabit an old gas station (I think) on Merrimon Avenue near the UNCA campus. It was within walking distance of our house, and many not enough summer nights we made the walk after dinner to pick a flavor and eat in awe. They’ve now moved to a location with not nearly the charm, which I can forgive because I can no longer walk there, unless they decide to franchise (perish the thought!) and move into Five Points.
So at some point, they served me the best pumpkin ice cream I’ve ever had. Which isn’t saying a whole lot, since that flavor can be a bit hard to come by. But I feel certain that it would be up there at the top, even if pumpkin became the Chocolate Chip of the ice cream world. Anyway, that’s what I wanted to make. And why not? I’ve had many more successes than disappointments in my ice cream adventures.
I started, of course, with The Perfect Scoop. A quick scan of the P’s showed that David had not included a recipe. So, I emailed him (while I would like to imply by this that David and I are old pals, and he’s invited us to visit him in Paris next summer, the reality is that I posted to the “comments” section of his website, where he generously offers to answer ice cream questions). His quick reply said that I could substitute pumpkin for the sweet potato in his recipe for Sweet Potato Ice Cream. Of course, he did say to used roasted pumkin. I, of course, used canned. Which isn’t as bad as it sounds, I don’t think — I prefer using canned pumpkin when making Pumpkin Bread or pie. It was a simple recipe, a pumkin-flavored Philadelphia style, with no eggs.
I knew the canned-pumpkin-substituted-sweet-potato-recipe was a failure before I even churned it. I tasted the chilled mixture, and it tasted like… sweet canned pumpkin. Not exactly what I was going for. And, in a somewhat latent lightning-bulb moment, I realized I wanted a custard. I needed the eggs, needed the heavy cream. So a google search was performed, and I ended up on a recipe from the Williams-Sonoma site. Eggs? Check (five, no less). Heavy cream? Two delightful cups. Pumpkin? It called for canned. Let the show begin.
It was better. Rich beyond imagination. Almost too rich, in fact. And a bit chalky. I’m guessing that’s the pumpkin. It was like a cold, frozen piece of pumpkin pie. Which can sound good, but it really isn’t. A pumpkin pie should just be a pie, you know?
So now I’m wondering: do I just want a vanilla custard ice cream, with a touch of pumpkin pie spice? Is that what they did at The Hop?
You might have to tune in next fall to find out the answer. I’m not being coy, it’s just that I’m moving on to more yuletide ice cream cheer. Alton Brown made egg nog on one of his recent episodes (now look — Good Eats is on at a prime unwinding time of day — is it my fault that I watch his show by default?) and mentioned at the end that you could use the base for Egg Nog ice cream. He even mentioned that, with the addition of bourbon, a serving could make the most Santa-hyped five-year old quite sleepy. Sounds to me like the beginning of a Carter Family Tradition.