Strawberry-Swirl Ice Cream with Candied Jalapeños

It’s been quite a busy winter, and my ice-cream making has definitely suffered. But this week, I finally put my foot down and got creative in the kitchen. Ever since the surprising success of my Jalapeño-Chocolate Sorbet, K and I have been envisioning other ways to incorporate the pepper into desserts.

Have you ever tried candied jalapeños? I’ve had plenty of pickled jalapeños, but never candied ones. I spotted a recipe for Meyer lemon ice cream with candied jalapeños on Pinterest and decided to play around with idea. My mom makes an easy and delicious strawberry sauce for shortcakes, and that sounded like a good compliment to jalapeños.

IMG_6896The night before I wanted to serve the ice cream, I got to making the candied jalapeños. The process is pretty simple: let chopped jalapeños simmer in sugar water for a bit, and then pop the pieces of pepper onto parchment paper to cool overnight. Because I was making this for K, I tried to preserve as many seeds as possible. So much of the heat of jalapeños is trapped in those little white seeds.

IMG_6898As soon as I got home from work the next day, I quickly whipped up the strawberry sauce for a fruity swirl in the ice cream. Just sugar and slightly defrosted strawberries puréed in the blender. My mom usually mashes the strawberries by hand to preserve some pieces of strawberries, making for a rustic and comforting texture. But since I was freezing this, I figured a purée was better.

The ice-cream base is just a simple sweet cream recipe; no egg yolks or cornstarch. It does freeze a bit harder than recipes with yolk or cornstarch, but I knew I’d be letting this ice cream soften a bit before scooping to allow the strawberries and frozen bits of jalapeños to soften slightly.

Look at that snow-white color of the cream base offset with deep red strawberry swirls and festive green candied jalapeños! This is definitely one of the prettier ice creams I’ve made.

IMG_6938Strawberry-Swirl Ice Cream with Candied Jalapeños
{Makes 1 quart}
Inspired by this and this recipe

For Candied Jalapeños
• 3 jalapeños, de-seeded and chopped (for more heat, keep in some seeds)
• 1 cup sugar
• 1 cup water

For Strawberry Swirl
• 1.5 cups strawberries, fresh or frozen
• 1/3 – 1/4 cup sugar (I recommend using 1/4)

For Ice-Cream Base
• 2 cups heavy cream
• 1 cup milk (whole or 2%)
• 3/4 cup granulated sugar
• Pinch of salt (I used this, a gift from my mom)

To make candied jalapeños:
• Combine sugar and water in small saucepan and heat to a boil. Lower heat to medium-low, whisking until sugar has dissolved completely.
• Add jalapeños and simmer for about 10 minutes. Turn of heat and drain liquid.
• Spread jalapeños out on wax paper and cool completely (preferably overnight)

For strawberry swirl:
• If you’re using frozen strawberries, let them thaw a bit. Place strawberries and sugar in a blender or food processor and blend until puréed.
• Keep purée in fridge until you need it.

For ice-cream base:
• Combine the heavy cream, milk, sugar and salt in a medium saucepan and cook over medium heat, whisking from time to time until the sugar has dissolved completely and has barely reached a simmer.
• Turn off heat and pour mixture into a metal or glass bowl. Let it cool a bit and then place then refrigerate until cold, at least an hour. While you’re waiting, start the strawberry swirl.

Bringing it all together:
• Pour chilled ice-cream mixture into your ice cream maker and freeze per your mixer’s instructions. For my Cuisinart ice-cream maker, this means 1) turn on machine, 2) slowly pour mixture in, and 3) leave the thing alone for at least 15 minutes.
• When the ice cream is done, scoop out enough to fill the bottom of an airtight container about an inch high. Then, sprinkle some candied jalapeños and drizzle some strawberry sauce onto the ice cream. Add another layer of ice cream. Repeat the process until you’re all out of ice cream. I had some leftover candied jalapeños and strawberry sauce, which I used later for serving!
• While you can serve the ice cream immediately, my preference is to pop the container into the freezer until firm. When frozen to your liking (2 hours for me), simply scoop into a dish and garnish with some of the reserved candied jalapenos.

IMG_6895The verdict? Those candied jalapeños have a kick to them! Of course, leaving the seeds in definitely cranked up the heat. Regardless, I wouldn’t serve this ice cream to those with sensitive taste buds. But spice lovers will rejoice. The contrast between the sweet, milky ice cream and the hot bits of candied jalapeño kept my taste buds. The jalapeños were nice and soft even straight from the freezer, thanks to the candying. The smooth and refreshing strawberry swirl was a bit icy and hard (thus my recommendation above to add more sugar), but it provided cool relief to the heat. K polished off his cup with ease, and commented on how this ice cream would be perfect on a warm August afternoon. And I’d just have to agree.

Made in Detroit: Treat Dreams

One of the best parts about my job is that it requires me to travel to random cities across the country. Without it, would I be able to say I’ve seen cities like St. Louis, Fresno, and Cleveland? Probably not. And the same goes for Detroit, Michigan – my latest destination. Detroit was never high on my travel list, and I don’t have family or friends in the area to draw me in. 
I’ll be the first to admit that I harbored some less-than-glamorous visions of Detroit. I’ve heard so much about the collapse of the U.S. auto capital and rampant violence in recent years. But the true Detroit didn’t match up with my vision whatsoever. First of all, the airport is gorgeous. Clean, airy terminals with high ceilings and massive windows. Seriously, Detroit’s airport is now in my domestic “Top 5”, after Denver, San Francisco and Portland, Oregon. I stayed at the Westin in the airport (early-morning flight back to DC), which has a TSA check-point in the hotel lobby. Just five minutes from check-out to my terminal. Cool, right?
There is a Detroit outside the airport, however, and I was equally impressed with the glimpses of the city I caught on my brief trip. To me, Detroit seemed like the quintessential Midwest American city – all the American-made cars on the road spoke volumes of the Midwestern American pride people feel here. I loved it. 
As it turns out, Detroit is also home to one of the most American ice-cream shops I’ve ever found. While researching before my trip, it was quite apparent that Treat Dreams in Ferndale was the “must try” ice cream.
Despite being just three-years old, Treat Dreams is considered one of the best ice-cream shops in the area… and definitely the most unique! Only an American ice-cream maker would dare serve up flavors like Hot Jalapeño, Lobster Bisque, Pistachio Wasabi or Sunday Breakfast (with bacon!). Owner Scott Maloney, who calls himself “a mad scientist of ice cream”, was formally a banker with no formal ice-cream-making training before opening his shop. But Scott certainly has a knack for thinking outside the proverbial box! Treat Dreams has created hundreds of flavors in-house, and they offer at least a dozen daily on their constantly-changing menu. 
Apparently, the best time to come to Treat Dreams is on a workday during the late afternoon. There were only a couple people in the gigantic shop, and I had the undivided attention of the lady behind the counter. I was surprised to see a couple vegan offerings; I hadn’t expected a Detroit ice-cream shop to cater to the vegan crowd! After I asked her a couple questions about the flavors, I was encouraged to try a sample. Who could turn that offer down? I requested a bite of Raspberry Jalapeño. The raspberry flavor was creamy and sweet at first, but the jalapeño kicked in quickly, coating my tongue with a low heat. K would have loved it, but I was in the mood for something a tad more traditional. Although I’m not a cheesecake fan, the Pumpkin Cream Cheese Walnut stood out. ‘Tis the season! I also was intrigued by the vegan flavors made with rice milk… particularly the Banana Split, which was described as “banana ice cream with chocolate sauce and strawberry sauce.” Without sampling either beforehand, I ordered a single-scoop cup of each. The grand total was $5… not too shabby!
Banana Split on bottom; Pumpkin Cream Cheese Walnut on top
The verdict? One of these ice creams was not like the other. This was one of those occasions when one flavor far outshone the other. I was disappointed with the Banana Split, which was very icy because of the high water content in rice milk. The banana flavor was too subtle, and even the chocolate and strawberry swirls lacked the intense flavors I was hoping for. Feeling deflated, I turned to the Pumpkin Cream Cheese Walnut and — wow — it BLEW my mind. The pumpkin ice cream was laced with thick, gooey swirls of frosting-like cream cheese and studded with walnut pieces. I’m usually not a big fan of cream cheese, but its characteristic flavor accented the spiced pumpkin ice cream. The contrast in textures between the firm ice cream and the cool, soft swirls was irresistible. I couldn’t help but polish off the entire scoop, and it was SO worth it. Please, please stop by Treat Dreams next time you’re in Detroit… and stick with the traditional ice cream if you’re not vegan. I promise you’ll thank me 🙂

The Stats:
Treat Dreams
22965 Woodland Ave
Ferndale, MI 48220