Every time I pass through a Chinese grocery I take a glance of longing at the sugar cane leaning against a bin of lychees or dragon fruit. They're so cheap! I tell myself. But what would you really do with them? the more rational me asks in return.
Well, Star Wars reenactments, duh.
That retort has never been enough for me to actually buy a stalk. But my lust for the fresh, juicy, grassy flavors of raw sugar cane hit a fever pitch recently, so I finally paid up my $3.99 for a stalk of sugarcane as tall as I am. When I returned home to gnaw greedily on my prize, I came upon the last scrapings of my Mr. Softee-style vanilla bean soft serve. And that's when inspiration hit.
The best thing about making freezer-stable soft serve at home is...well, everything. But one of those best things is the ability to make whatever flavor of soft serve you want, no matter how weird. Sugar cane is the perfect soft serve player: it's light, not overbearing, and its fresh grassy funk takes well to the verve of sweet cream. One bite and you'll see how soft serve can and should join the ranks of serious ice cream.
To bolster the sugar cane's mild flavor I reached for cachaça, the rum-like Brazilian spirit made from fresh sugar cane. It helps keep the ice cream soft and crystal-free, and it's the closest thing you'll find to sugar cane essence out there.
Skip the cone for serving and top it with, as my friend Vittles Vamp suggests, some toasted coconut and cacao nibs. Or go for broke and add a drizzle of some gula jawa syrup. Or just devour it plain as it drips down your fingers. Imagine yourself in some place warm as the Mr. Softee tune plays in the background. On steel drums, of course.
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About the author: Max Falkowitz writes Serious Eats' weekly Spice Hunting column. He's a proud native of Queens, New York, will do just about anything for a good cup of tea, and enjoys long walks down the aisles of Chinese groceries. You can follow him on Twitter at @maxfalkowitz.