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7.03.2012

We're Having A Heat Wave...

It is miserably hot this week. So hot, in fact, that even I don't feel like turning the oven on to bake, even though I have central air conditioning. It's projected to be near, or over 100 degrees every day this week. So when it came time to make a dessert for the Fourth of July party I'm hosting tomorrow, I was looking for something cool and refreshing that would require a minimal amount of baking.

My first impulse was to make homemade ice cream, but that didn't seem quite special enough for a party. I knew I wanted to take things to the next level. Homemade ice cream sandwiches seemed like a good idea at first, but I didn't want to go through the effort of baking all the cookies for them. Plus, we have virtually no freezer space, and there certainly wasn't room for anything that bulky. As I scrolled through my dessert-themed Pinterest board in search of inspiration, I finally ran across something that I thought would work -- an ice cream pie.

The recipe I'd saved called for an amaretti cookie crust and a filling made from roasting fresh peaches and mixing them into store-bought vanilla ice cream, neither of which sounded particularly appealing to me. I decided to swap out the amaretti for gingersnaps, since warm spices go well with peach pie, and to make my own ice cream from scratch. After all, peach is the flavor most people think of when they think of homemade ice cream in the first place.

It would have been more attractive if I hadn't pressed the plastic wrap directly into the soft ice cream, but doing so prevents the creation of unpleasant ice crystals.

Predictably, I turned to David Lebovitz's The Perfect Scoop for a peach ice cream recipe. Since I've been favoring non-custard based ice creams of late, I appreciated that his peach recipe called for a unique combination of cream and sour cream. From my favorite peach popsicle recipe, I knew that peaches pair well with slightly tart dairy, so I was on board with the unconventional addition. 

The ice cream turned out smooth and creamy, as per usual, but I was disappointed that the peach flavor wasn't more dominant, especially considering the lack of custard base to detract from the fruit. For once, one of Lebovitz's recipes was not the ne plus ultra. I'm going to have to keep an eye out for a better peach ice cream in the future, though maybe finding one would be as simple as cracking one of the numerous non-Lebovitz ice cream tomes languishing on my cookbook-only bookshelf.

Nonetheless, the pie was easy enough to put together, and I think it will make a perfect summer dessert tomorrow. Aside from a quick trip to the oven for the crust, this was almost a no-bake dessert. If you were inclined to use a store-bought graham cracker crust, you'd save yourself from the heat all together. Clearly, the genre of ice cream pies merits further investigation...


Peach Ice Cream Pie

Crust
adapted from Bon App├ętit
1 1/3 c. finely ground gingersnap cookies
1/4 c. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon sugar
2 pinches of salt

Peach Ice Cream
adapted from David Lebovitz
1 1/3 pounds ripe peaches or nectarines (about 4 large)
1/2 c. water
3/4 c. sugar
1/2 c. sour cream
1 c. heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
a few drops of freshly squeezed lemon juice

For Crust:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat 9-inch glass pie dish with nonstick spray. Mix finely ground cookie crumbs, 1 tablespoon sugar, and pinch of salt in medium bowl. Add lukewarm melted butter; mix to blend. Press crumbs onto bottom and up sides of dish. Bake until golden around edges, about 10 minutes. Cool completely in dish on rack.

For Ice Cream:
1. Peel the peaches, slice them in half, and remove the pits. Cut the peaches into chunks and cook them with water in a medium, non-reactive saucepan over medium heat, covered, stirring once or twice, until soft and cooked through, about 10 minutes.
2. Remove from heat, stir in the sugar, then cool to room temperature.
3. Puree the cooked peaches and any liquid in a blender or food processor with the heavy cream, sour cream, vanilla, and lemon juice until almost smooth, but still a bit chunky. 
4. Chill mixture thoroughly, then churn it in an ice cream mixture according to manufacturer's instructions.
5. Pour freshly churned ice cream into the pie crust, press plastic wrap directly onto the surface, and freeze until firm.

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