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by / Friday, February 13, 2015

Anise-scented Ice Cream w/ Candied Fennel Seeds

Anise-scented Ice Cream with Candied Fennel Seeds
What’s Galentine’s Day? Oh, it’s only the best day of the year. Every February 13th, Leslie Knope and her lady friends leave their husbands and their boyfriends at home and just kick it breakfast style. Ladies celebrating ladies. It’s like Lilith Fair, minus the angst. Plus, frittatas!

Today, some of my food blogging lady friends and I have done just that. We've left our husbands and boyfriends at home, and we're kickin' it around the table, sharing stories of other awesome ladies who have inspired or influenced us in some way over the years. I don't think any of us will go as far as Leslie's 5000 word essay today, but...

Today, I'm remembering my grandma (my dad's mom). I never got the chance to know her as an adult, since she passed away when I was a freshman in high school. Fortunately, I have lots of good memories of her through the years. Red-headed, fiesty (that combination of Irish and Native American blood running through her veins made sure that was a trait), independent, and opinionated as all get out.

I always looked forward to the 90 minute drive it took to get to her house. She cooked and made big batches of jams and jellies, which I've mentioned before. She had a back room full of fabric squares in all colors and patterns, and quilts in different stages of doneness. She usually had a beer in one hand and a cigarette in the other. She taught me to play a dice game called "Guts", and would sit and play with me for what seemed like hours. I wish so badly that I still remembered how to play it.
Candied Fennel Seeds
As I ran in and out of the house, explored the big barn outside, and went fishing at the pond down the road, I'd always stop to carefully remove the lid from her orange carnival glass candy dish. It was usually full of jelly beans, and I always picked through to find a black one. It wasn't that hard to find them, because most everybody else avoided them like the plague. But they were my favorites. I'd carefully replace the lid, and stick the jelly bean between my teeth, slowly biting down and feeling the outer shell crack between my teeth, right before they sunk into the gummy center.

Sometimes I'd get a surprise and she'd have gum drops in the candy dish instead. Those were fun, because you could bite through with your front teeth and see the smooth lines your teeth left in them against the sugary edges. Guess which color was my favorite? Mmm hmmm, black.

To this day, the pungent flavor of black licorice tugs wistfully at my heart and my memory. It makes me want to  dig through the piles of game boxes in my basement to find some dice. It makes me remember a spirited and loving lady who I spent far too little time with on this earth.

Anise-scented Ice Cream w/ Candied Fennel Seeds
Silky ice cream laced with the flavor of anise and swirled with colorful, crunchy candied fennel seeds. An optional shot of booze makes it an anise-lovers trifecta.
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Anise-scented Ice Cream w/ Candied Fennel Seeds
by Heather Schmitt-Gonzalez
Prep Time: 4 hours - mostly unattended
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Keywords: dessert nut-free soy-free vegetarian alcohol dairy anise frozen ice-cream

Ingredients (1 scant quart)
  • 2 cups whole milk, divided
  • 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1 1/2 ounces (3 tablespoons) cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 2 big pinches of sea salt
  • 1 1/4 cups heavy cream
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 3 whole star anise
  • 1 teaspoon whole anise seeds
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Ouzo or Absinthe, optional (see notes)
  • 2 tablespoons to 1/4 cup candied fennel seeds
Instructions
Stir 2 tablespoons of the milk together with the cornstarch in a small bowl until smooth. Beat the cream cheese and salt together in a medium bowl until smooth. Fill a large bowl with ice and water, and set out a thick gallon-size zippered baggie.

Combine the rest of the milk with the cream, sugar, corn syrup in a large pot (to prevent boiling over), and add the star anise and whole anise seeds. Set over medium-high heat and bring to a boil for 4 minutes. Gradually whisk in the cornstarch mixture, then let the mixture come back to a boil. Cook and stir for about 1 minute, until the mixture has thickened slightly. Gradually whisk the hot mixture into the bowl with the cream cheese until smooth.

Carefully pour the mixture into the baggie you set out; carefully seal the bag shut, squeezing out as much air as possible. Set the bag in the bowl of ice water, adding more ice as needed, and squidging it around every now and again to help it cool. Once the mixture has cooled completely, transfer to the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, but up to one day (to let the flavors come together).

Line a wire mesh strainer with some cheesecloth, then pour the mixture through to strain out the seeds. If using, whisk the liqueur into the base now.

Pour into an ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer's instructions (until thick and creamy). Pour into a freezer-safe container, gently folding in the candied fennel seeds. Lay a sheet of wax or parchment paper directly on the surface of the ice cream, then put a lid on the container or cover it with plastic wrap or foil. Freeze until firm, at least 4 hours.

notes:
You could use any anise flavored liquor or liqueur in place of Ouzo. Keep in mind that Ouzo is clear, so it doesn't affect the color of the final ice cream. More clear options would be Anisette, Mastika, Arak, or White Sambuca. You could also use Absinthe or Pastis, but they would lend either a green or yellow tint, respectively. Find more anise liquor and liqueur options here.

The candied fennel seeds add some fun pops and swirls of color, plus a little crunch to the ice cream. If too many seeds bother you, feel free to leave them out (or just add a few). You can always just sprinkle a few on top when serving if you don't want them swirled throughout the ice cream. The ice cream itself is delicious without them.

If you don't want to add any liquor to the ice cream base itself, you could make it without, but booze it up by pouring a shot of anise flavored liqueur over a big scoop in a bowl or glass.

Anise-scented Ice Cream with Candied Fennel Seeds
So, in honor of this memory, I've brought a batch of ice cream to the Galentine's Day party. It's infused with the flavor of black licorice in all sorts of ways (anise seed, star anise, fennel seed, and booze). Just one cool, creamy bite was all it took to transport me back 30 years.

A big shout-out to Courtney and Nancy for hosting this party and bringing us all together today. Happy Galentine's Day!

Our Galentine's Day Party Menu:

If the taste and scent of black licorice does it for you too, here's some more things you might like:
"Green Fairy" Cakes
Scampi Rockefeller
Spice-dusted Salmon w/ Absinthe-Tarragon Beurre Blanc
Tarragon Chicken



Heather is a Michiana-based food, drink, and travel writer with a fondness for garlic, freshly baked bread, stinky cheese, dark beer, and Mexican food—who believes that immersing herself in different cultures one bite at a time is the best path to enlightenment.

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