Thai Tea Ice Cream

Happy August! How are you all? The past month of July struck Minnesota with a steamy heat wave that set all kinds of new records, sometimes with as many as seven consecutive days with a temperature of 90° or more, and that has prompted my kitchen to be strangely dormant. This weather is so unusual for Minnesota! Even June was hotter than normal. While I am mighty glad I’m having my dose of summer, which will for sure power me through the intense cold of the winter months six months from now, it’s been a wild month of sunny days and warm nights. It has been an abnormally hot and dry summer, and gardens and lawns have been wilting under the scorching sun and turning a delicate shade of pale yellow. I’ve had to survive much of July cooling at the lake, drinking lots of water and Mexican agua fresca, and trying to stay in the shade as much as possible when being outside. I also survived the heat wave by taking a brief break from baking and giving my oven a well-deserved vacation.

That being said, heat wave and all, summer is still a season to make the most of it here in the Land of 10,000 Lakes and no matter how many new records we are setting, summer is long-awaited and precious. The city simmers under the hot sun, Minnesotans finally get to wear one layer of clothing, and kids and dogs get to run loose and play in the sprinklers to cool off. Summer is also peak ice cream season, and that became the way I got through my baking hiatus. All summer dreams involve ice cream! If you are eager for a recommendation for the perfect scoop, you are in luck: the Twin Cities are blessed to have a multitude of wonderfully quirky locally-owned ice cream shops serving original ice cream. A few of my favorites are Grand Ole Creamery, my old haunt from my college days in St. Paul, serving classic flavors with a taste of deep nostalgia; Milkjam Creamery, where adults and kids alike indulge in eclectic flavors named after celebrities; and Adele’s Frozen Custard, the family-owned shop serving frozen desserts that are denser and richer than traditional ice cream and can sell as many as 2000 scoops on a single 4th of July day. But what if you don’t want to go to an ice cream shoppe?

If you’re like me, you haven’t lived until you’ve made your own ice cream! I know that may conjure images of a giant wooden tub filled with lots of ice cubes and the hard physical work of churning the base using an old-fashioned hand-cranked machine for many hours. And yes, believe me, I’ve done that too! The first time I made ice cream at home, my Mom and I used one of these old-fashioned machines. We had a good laugh, but there was ice and water everywhere! (This is a story for another time!) So yes, I can see why making your own ice cream may sound intimidating and difficult, amd I’ve come here to debunk the myth. The very essence of ice cream is a custard base that gets chilled in the fridge and then poured into an electric ice cream maker that has a removable bowl that chilled in the freezer for 8 hours or more. Modern ice cream makers, like the ones made by KitchenAid or Cuisinart, have made homemade ice cream so accessible if you want the sweet pastime of making your own frozen desserts at home. They do all the work for you, and all you really have to do is make the custard on the stovetop and chill it the day before. You don’t have to worry about those old-fashioned ice cream machine monsters anymore. The ice cream bowl is usually large enough to make a sizeable batch and small enough to fit into the tiniest of iceboxes and freezers, and the cleanup is very easy. Best of all, the ice cream will be made in about 20 minutes or so.

If you’re up for the challenge, and want to try an exotic and delicious flavor, I bring you today a recipe for homemade red Thai tea ice cream! In the Twin Cities, the only place you can get this flavor is Milkjam Creamery, where I first tried it during the summer of 2018. My friend Andy and I went over to Uptown and were thoroughly impressed with the towering scoops of ice cream balancing atop sugar cones. I became absolutely obsessed with Thai tea ice cream since then, and I thought it would be a fun challenge to make it from scratch at home. If you’ve never tried red Thai tea, whether as a drink or as an ice cream, the flavor of the tea itself is refreshing, very sweet, and creamy all at once. The tea is made from strongly-brewed Ceylon tea, often featuring Assam, locally known in Thailand as Bai Miang, blended with a mix of ingredients and spices, and is orange in color. In Thailand, this drink is called Cha Yen (which literally means “cold tea”) and is one of the most popular items in most restaurants and market stalls, served in tall glasses with ice. When you make that into ice cream, it is an incredible dessert that not only has the distinctive orange hue of the sunset, but is also incredibly addictive. My recipe has condensed milk, cream, and evaporated milk, and errs on the sweeter side of things. I’ve tested this recipe three times and I’m pretty happy with it, balancing the sticky sweetness of condensed milk with the earthy vanilla tones of the Thai tea. If you are worried about where to get Thai tea, I have included a link below to order red Thai tea mix from the Chatramew brand. Make sure you order the red Thai tea mix and not the green Thai tea mix! Making it with green Thai tea would still work, but the taste is decidedly more floral than that of red Thai tea, the result will be green in color, and I have not tested the recipe for the right amount of tea to use when switching the tea mix. Just follow the link I’ve provided below and you’re sure to be taken to the right tea mix. I recommend making the ice cream base one day, leave it chilling it 8 hours or overnight in the fridge, and then churning the next day. I have discovered that if I don’t chill the mixture long enough in the fridge, the churning process can be compromised. Similarly, if you’re using an electric ice cream maker, or the ice cream attachment of the KitchenAid mixer, place the bowl in the freezer for at least 8 hours or more. If the freezer bowl is not sufficiently cold, you won’t be able to churn it properly. The churning should take no more than 20-23 minutes, and you will know when it’s ready when the paddle stops moving. Initially, it will be the consistency of a soft-serve ice cream, and it will harden once it’s in the freezer several hours. You can remove it a few minutes before serving it if you prefer it to be softer and easier to scoop.

This is truly a lovely, sweetly indulgent, creamy dessert. A scoop of this ice cream is the best way to cope with the summer heat wave, and will take your tastebuds on an all-expenses-paid vacation to Southeast Asia.

Make your own ice cream at home, because why not? Hang out with me long enough and I’ll have you making waffle cones in your kitchen in no time too…

Thai Tea Ice Cream

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 15 minutes

Chill time: 8 hours, or overnight

Churn time: 20 minutes

Servings: 1 quart

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 dash Celtic salt
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • ½  cup +1 tbsp red Thai tea mix (Chatramew brand)
  • 4 egg yolks
  • ½  tsp vanilla
  • 1/8 tsp almond extract
  • 1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk
  • 5/8 cup evaporated milk

Preparation:

  1. In a large saucepan, combine the heavy cream, whole milk and dash of salt, and bring to a simmer.
  2. Turn off the heat and add the Thai tea mix, stirring until incorporated. Let steep for 6-7 minutes.
  3. Strain the tea into a clean saucepan and cool slightly.
  4. Gradually add ½ cup of this cooled mixture to the egg yolks. Pour the mixture of egg yolks and ½ cup mixture back into the saucepan with the rest of the milk and cream, stirring well.
  5. Add the vanilla and almond extracts, followed by the sweetened condensed milk and evaporated milk. Use a whisk to stir until well combined—sometimes the condensed milk can stick to the bottom of the pan if you don’t stir it well initially.
  6. Cook the custard base over medium-low heat, stirring regularly with a wooden spoon. You will know the custard is done because it will thicken in the same manner as a pudding or custard. You will know it’s ready because it will change viscosity suddenly, and you can trace your finger on the back of an ice cream spoon coated with the batter. 
  7. Pour into a glass container, cover, and refrigerate overnight.
  8. Churn following your ice cream maker’s directions, making sure your freezer bowl has been in the freezer at least 8 hours. It should take about 20 minutes to churn the ice cream.
  9. Store in the freezer until ready to serve.

© 2021 Carol’s Baking Adventures

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