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Feb 2011 01

Pareve ice cream can be a thing of beauty – I kid you not. The little bit of extra effort required to create a gently thickened, cooked custard base is well worth the reward: rich, velvety ice cream that happens to be both pareve and not made of strange chemicals or those ubiquitous “edible oils” (so not my thing)!

So why Chinese five-spice? I have always loved topping vanilla ice cream with cinnamon. There is something about warm spices that works brilliantly with cold, creamy and sweet. As a delicious and unexpected combination of such, this makes this the ideal “winter ice cream,” if such a thing exists.

In this recipe I have you create your own Chinese five-spice powder, freshly ground and deliciously aromatic. Don’t stress out too much if you don’t have all of the spices in whole form, or if you don’t have the ideal equipment for grinding them. If, say, you haven’t got a coffee grinder, use a mortar and pestle to pound the spices. If you have neither, just use pre-ground spices — or, better yet, increase the amounts of the spices slightly and just use them, whole, in the milk. Whichever way you choose to go about it, the idea is to transfer those warm, spicy flavours into the milk, allow them to steep really well, and then strain out any solid spice-bits.

You will need:

-for the five-spice powder-

1 star anise
10 cloves
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
1/2 tsp ground ginger (or substitute 1 tsp fresh ginger, grated or minced)
rounded 1/4 tsp cinnamon

-for the custard base-

2 c regular soy milk (I use PC Organics and So Good original)
2 c coconut milk
2 wide strips of orange rind (use a vegetable peeler)
1/4 tsp salt
1 c sugar, divided
1 vanilla bean (or, in a pinch, use 1 tsp vanilla extract)
2 eggs + 1 egg yolk

Place the anise, cloves, fennel, ginger (unless you’re using fresh ginger) and cinnamon together in a coffee grinder. Pulse the spices together to a coarsely ground mix.

In a saucepan, heat together the soy milk and coconut milk over medium heat. While it’s warming up, throw in the orange rind, salt, five-spice powder, and a 1/2 cup of the sugar. If you’re using fresh ginger, add it to the milk now. Make a long slit down the middle of the vanilla bean, and use the back of a knife to scrape the gooey black seeds into the milk mixture. Throw in the rest of the pod as well.

Bring the milk mixture just barely to a boil, then remove it from the heat. Allow it to rest, covered, for 20 minutes (this gives the spices a chance to really steep in the milk). Meanwhile, whisk the eggs and yolk with the remaining half cup of sugar in a bowl.

Strain the milk, then return it to the saucepan and bring it to a gentle simmer. Slowly whisk some of the hot milk into the eggs (not too much, just eyeball about half a cup), then whisk the egg mixture back into the milk in the saucepan. Stir it over low heat until the custard has thickened enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon (but don’t let it come to a boil).

Your custard base is finished! Chill it in the fridge overnight (or at least 8 hours – it should be as cold as possible). When you’re ready, freeze it in your ice cream maker, churning for about 40 minutes, then put it back in the freezer to firm up (about 3 hours).