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Nothing says early summer to me quite like a juicy berry pie, topped with fat snowcaps of cream. Especially when you can find tiny gem-like strawberries nesting in farmers markets, almost a different species from the cottony hulks in supermarkets. But with a clutch of berries this good, it felt like a waste to sully them with heat. So I veered to the other end of the thermal spectrum, but couldn't get pie off my mind.
Here's my problem with most strawberry ice creams: they're not that well-balanced. Far too often you see giant hunks of berry-cicle mixed with an already-sweet vanilla base. Once the berries melt on your tongue, they're too sweet for the base they're suspended in. Strawberry ice creams demand a stronger-flavored dairy than just cream.
Ethan and I have used cream cheese and sour cream in ice cream before to great effect. But my strawberry gems needed an even stronger tangy contrast. Something...barnyardy. Goat cheese makes for a lemony, tangy ice cream base with a hint of something savory. It's the perfect counterpart to strawberries, but you could use it with blueberries, or, if you swing that way, with brownie chunks and a swirl of dulce de leche or cajeta (a milk caramel sauce made with goat's milk). The best part? No cooking or egg-tempering required!
To keep the berries from freezing into shards of ice, I slice them thin and macerate them in a good amount of sugar and alcohol. I keep maraschino liqueur around as a floral, aromatic compliment to fruit, but you can use any other sweet liquor you'd like, or even vodka. I also add a touch of pomegranate molasses to the mixture, to up the acidity a bit while contributing another subtle layer of flavor.
What really makes this ice cream is the pie-homage, the graham cracker crust. It comes together and bakes in all of 20 minutes, and it adds a much-need salty, deep, caramel complexity to the flighty berries and light ice cream. It's best added as a topping, lest the crumbs get soggy. But you may want to make extra and eat it with a spoon.
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Ethan Frisch is the chef and co-mastermind behind Guerrilla Ice Cream. He's traveled around the world (30 countries, 5 continents) and worked as a pastry chef and line cook in some of NYC's great (and not so great) restaurants. He currently lives in London, where he really misses New York City tap water.
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 his ramblings on Twitter.