Have you ever been struck by an incessant food craving that just won’t go away? Like a song that lodges in your head and plays over and over again.
Most often, it’s a childhood snack or comfort food you crave – Mom’s mac and cheese, Twinkies (RIP), or cherry flavored Jell-O. And it’s always, always, always, annoying because you simply can’t shake it off until you actually indulge it.
In my case, I’ve been fantasizing about glutinous rice balls in sugar syrup (also known as tang yuan) for the past week or so. You know, those chewy white balls made from glutinous (or sweet rice) flour, the ones that burst open with one bite, releasing a lavalike flow of sweet black sesame paste?
So when Diana Kuan (who writes the marvelous blog appetiteforchina.com) invited me to participate in her Chinese New Year potluck to celebrate her new book "The Chinese Takeout Cookbook," one recipe was calling, siren-like, out to me.
I’ve seen black sesame ice cream on menus before but I’ve never tried it, let alone attempted to make it. However, Diana’s recipe is so simple that my mind was made up before you could say “black sesame.” I whipped up the ice cream base in barely 10 minutes and the ice cream machine did the rest of the work.
The 4 hours the ice cream had to sit in the freezer to set seemed like a toe-tapping eternity. As soon as the timer went off, I scooped some out, sat down with a bowl of cool, nutty black sesame ice cream and ate my craving away spoonful by luscious spoonful.
Black sesame ice cream
Adapted from "The Chinese Takeout Cookbook" by Diana Kuan
Diana uses a light Philadelphia-style eggless base for this delicious dessert infused with a hint of vanilla and the more dramatic nutty fragrance and flavor of black sesame, which is almost akin to dark chocolate or French roast coffee. I lightened it up a little and used half-and-half instead of heavy cream for a fluffier gelato-like texture. If you can actually resist gorging, the ice cream stores well in the freezer for up to a week.
Makes: 1 quart
Time: 10 minutes, active
2 cups half-and-half, or heavy cream
3/4 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 cups whole milk
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup black sesame seeds
Ice cream maker
Combine 1 cup of the heavy cream, the sugar, and salt in a large bowl and whisk until the sugar is completely dissolved.
Stir in the remaining 1 cup heavy cream, the milk, and vanilla extract. Cover and chill in the fridge for at least 1 hour. (If you are in a hurry, skip this step.)
Grind the sesame seeds in a clean spice grinder for about 5 seconds until they turn into a coarse powder. Don’t grind for too long as the seeds will turn into a paste.
Pour the mixture into your ice cream maker and slowly pour in the ground black sesame. Churn according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer the ice cream to a freezersafe container and freeze for at least four hours or overnight.