orange five-spice + chile ice cream.

orange five spice + chile ice cream.

Because why not celebrate an ancient tradition with something not at all traditional? This is my contribution to the upcoming Chinese New Year festivities; an ice cream with some classic Chinese flavors and a little bit of heat. Don’t be scared: the final product isn’t as wild as you may think. Imagine how homemade orange rolls taste when they’re fresh from the oven: you smell the spice of cinnamon, the sweetness of orange, and the overall effect is a feeling of warmth and comfort. That’s very much how this ice cream tastes, only with a little extra something to make it exotic.

I think five-spice powder works just as well with sweet dishes as it does in savory ones; perhaps even better. Although each blend is different (depending on the brand, or if you make your own) it’s commonly a mix of cinnamon, star anise, cloves, fennel seed, and either white or Sichuan pepper. Sichuan pepper is harder to find, so most ready-made blends come with the former rather than the latter. The one I use contains a little ginger as well. It’s a very versatile spice blend, if you think about it; using it in an orange ice cream seems a little bit like the perfect thing to spice up the cold mid-winter.

This was an experiment which took a few tries to get exactly right. The first time, the amount of chile flake I used went too far, and the heat was still pretty assertive even after freezing. The second time, I wasn’t paying enough attention to my base, and my final product tasted great but had an odd texture. My third attempt is the one you see before you: it has bright, winter-citrus flavor with the warmth of cinnamon and spice, and the gentle, background heat of chile, which amplifies the other flavors and blends them into a perfect little orange spice symphony.

I learned a few things from this one, so if you like to mess around with ice cream flavors, keep a few things in mind:

  • When using heat in a dessert, less really is more. This is especially true if you’re letting the mixture steep while heated. Heating liquids and spice together spread out the flavor, and steeping those spices in the warmed liquid brings them even closer to the forefront. Although it’s true that freezing ice cream dulls the flavors somewhat, you’d be surprised how much it doesn’t dull heat. If it’s too spicy going in to the freezer, it will be too spicy coming out. That being said, use any sort of heat-bearing spice sparingly and with care.
  • Using proper equipment could (and most likely will) mean the difference between success and failure. The only – swear, only – thing I changed ¬†from my second to third batches was the type of pan I used to heat the base. The second time, my good heavy-bottomed saucepan was busy, so I used a less-heavy (but seemingly acceptable) saucepan of the same size. The result? some of my cream mixture caught on the bottom, it didn’t heat evenly, and my ice cream was very icy and not smooth and rich as it should be. It just never came together. I wasted a batch of ice cream trying to cut corners, and I’ll never do it again. Cream and egg mixtures are very delicate and deserve your best heavy-bottom saucepan, period.
  • Don’t rush it. This could be said with most any sort of food preparation, but is especially true with ice cream. You can’t make the base cook any faster, cool any faster, or be ready for your ice cream maker any faster than it would normally. If you push your base, it will push you back, and it will win. Don’t try to hurry things along; if you feel like you’re going to be impatient, make your base and chill it at night, then stick it in your fridge while you sleep; this way it has ample time to chill without you hovering over it.

I love a good orange roll, and this is my ice cream/spicy version of a frozen orange roll. I promise you, it’s delicious, and with oranges all over the place right now, it’s the perfect time to make this. If you’re having a Chinese New Year party, this would be delightful paired with almond or fortune cookies. If you’re not celebrating, this works really well as an after-dinner ice cream served with coffee. In fact, it may be delicious whirled up in your coffee. Just a thought.

orange five spice + chile ice cream.

Base adapted from Sweet Cream and Sugar Cones: 90 Recipes for Making Your Own Ice Cream and Frozen Treats from Bi-Rite Creamery by Kris Hoogerhyde, Anne Walker, and Dabney Gough. Inspiration for this came from a few places: Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home has a Pumpkin Five Spice recipe, and she spices it with a little cayenne. Mostly it seemed like a fun thing to try out with oranges; if i were being completely honest, I started thinking about orange chicken and the flavors in that, and this was what came of it. I did not use chicken in this ice cream. You’re welcome.

Orange Five Spice + Chile Ice Cream

  • 1 tablespoon Chinese five-spice powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon red chile flake
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 1 large orange (like a navel)

In a heavy bottomed saucepan, stir together the five spice blend, chile flake, heavy cream, whole milk, and half of the sugar (1/4 cup).

Heat the cream mixture over medium-high heat, until the mixture just begins to bubble around the edges, stirring occasionally. When you see bubbles, remove from the heat, cover the pan, and let steep for about 30 minutes, so all the flavors have a chance to blend. Be careful not to over-steep, or your flavors will be too strong.

In a medium heatproof bowl (I use my glass Pyrex bowl), whisk the yolks to break them up, then whisk in the remaining 1/4 cup sugar.  Set aside.

When your cream mixture has finished steeping, uncover it and place the pan over medium-high heat. When the mixture just begins to simmer, reduce the heat to medium.

Using a ladle or measuring cup, carefully (it’s hot!) scoop out about 1/2 cup of the cream mixture and, whisking the egg mixture continuously, pour it into the eggs. Repeat with another 1/2 cup of the cream mixture, still whisking constantly and pouring slowly until everything is evenly combined.

Now, switch gears (and utensils) and use a rubber spatula to stir the egg/cream mixture back into the cream mixture on the stove. Stir constantly to blend, and continue stirring while you cook your base over medium heat.

Stir constantly with the spatula until your mixture has thickened, and coats the back of a spatula, 2-3 minutes. Don’t let my timing stop you; if you think it needs a minute more, please continue stirring until you feel like it’s the correct thickness.

Strain the base through a fine-mesh strainer (don’t skip this step, as it will get the chunks of chile flake out of the mixture) and into a clean bowl. Zest the orange over the warm base and stir with a spatula to combine. Set the container into the ice-water bath to cool, stirring occasionally. Once it has cooled, remove the container from the water bath, cover with plastic wrap, and place in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours or overnight to finish chilling.

Freeze in your ice cream machine according to the manufacturer’s instructions. When it has finished spinning, transfer to a freezer-safe container to finish the freezing process, about 4 hours. When it’s time to serve, set it out for a few minutes to loosen up; you don’t want it to melt, but you want to take the hardness out of it. A five-minute thaw time should work well.

Makes about 1 quart.

Pin It

22 Comments on "orange five-spice + chile ice cream."

  1. Mmmmm! You’re an ice cream genius! Seriously, though, you’re so creative in the kitchen…this flavor seems so obvious and perfect, like it should have been made years ago and yet no one has done it. How do you find so much time for your cooking with the wee one around? Does she help you? :)

    • shannon says:

      aw, Amy, you’re too kind! i was thrilled at how not crazy the final results tasted; ice cream is funny like that where you just have to be careful with how much/how little flavor you add. Blame my love for orange chicken for this one, for sure: and orange rolls, i suppose. :)

      you know, one of my cousins asked me that the other day. My Wee One LOVES a project, so when i’m working in the kitchen, i try to give her things to either real help (or fake help) so she has fun with me. I also have her dollhouse village set up just outside the kitchen, so she gets really into her little doll stories as well. And as a rule, i bake/cook around her moods and in stages: prep may happen before she wakes up, combining everything may happen midday, finished product could happen later. and so it goes. I think i’ve just worked out a rhythm with her (and i do think she assumes every mommy is in the kitchen like i am by now.) she also knows the outcome of letting me work is fresh cookies, so…bribery. :)

  2. sara says:

    Looks fantastic! What great flavors! Definitely appreciate hearing your tips…good to know! :)

    • shannon says:

      thanks Sara! You know, i’m still learning the tricks to making good ice cream, and there are definitely some things to watch out for as you make it. I’d rather everyone not have to waste batches of ice cream as I have trying to figure them out.

  3. I’m screaming for this ice cream! What a great flavor profile.

  4. kale says:

    well it’s totally gorgeous. but are you suggesting we should eat it with chopsticks? i suppose that would be non-traditional! ;)

  5. Brianne says:

    GIVE ME ALL OF THESE THINGS. While I am presently on a break from five spice (Kevin put a little too much of it into some greens last week, and it was, putting it nicely, putrid), this would be the sweetest reunion ever.

    • shannon says:

      oh no! I can imagine how too much five spice could go badly; i did it once years ago to chicken wings…GROSS. I promise you this ice cream would rid you of the memory of putrid greens.

  6. Emma says:

    I’ve spent the past day thinking about how good an idea your Chinese New Year party is… and thinking about how much I’d love to do it in the future…

    And then this morning, I was like ‘snap out of it girl – – why don’t you just have a Chinese New Year party this year?!’ So although our one friend in town can’t make it, we’re going to live it up and make a few of our favorite dim sum dishes. Plus try a new recipe out! Can’t wait;)

    • shannon says:

      GIRL: i saw FB: you totally DID pull off an epic chinese new year party! Nice work! I was envious. Dim sum waits for no one; best to do it this year (and then keep doing it in years to come). You’ve inspired me to work on my Chinese cooking, iron out some kinks, and throw a proper party next year.

  7. I can’t wait for your ice cream book to come out.

  8. HeatherN says:

    Sounds tasty. I bet my son would love to try it. Glad you skipped putting in the chicken. Keep up the good work!

  9. Ashley says:

    I made a push to do this after buying Jeni’s cookbook, but you’re really making me desperate to finish clearing enough space in my apartment’s freezer to use my ice cream maker. Orange + five spice + chile? You’re just irresistible! (I mean, in the least creepy way, you and the ice cream.)

    I feel your pain on hard learned lessons in the kitchen. I’ve lost many recipes due to a crazy stove/oven (the first year adjusting to my apartment’s ancient gas creature was a doozie) or a broken thermometer (at least I hope it was broken). Having your wisdom in advance can ensure ice cream’s (and so many other treats’) delicious future…in my tummy! Thank you for being able to share your hard knocks!

    • shannon says:

      yay! I know those things take up so much room, right? Sometimes i’ll gather a few ice cream recipes and do them one right after the other (with freeze time in between); i guess then the ‘problem’ you have there is trying to eat all of it (although i never feel that’s much of an issue…) :)

      It’s hard when you have testy equipment; so unfair because when people are trying to learn, generally they’re younger and can’t afford All-Clad everything and a chef’s kitchen, you know? It’s tough not to get discouraged; i’ve been there, and I’d rather everyone not have to repeat my own mistakes. so you are very welcome.

  10. I have my scoop in hand. I’m ready to dip.

Got something to say? Go for it!