The New York Chronicles Part 2: Thomas Jefferson’s favourite

Thomas Jef­fer­son — aes­thete, poly­math and third Pres­id­ent of the United States — was also an ice cream fan­at­ic. I love the fact that this intel­lec­tu­ally dazzling politi­cian was also the first Amer­ic­an in his­tory to write a recipe for home-made ice cream.

I know all about ice cream obsess­ives; my Grand­fath­er ate a wedge of vanilla every day of his adult life and grew so inured to the chilly tem­per­at­ure that he could bite through ice cream as thick as a house-brick without win­cing. He told me that he must have wooden teeth, which would have giv­en him some­thing in com­mon with the first Pres­id­ent of the United States, George Wash­ing­ton. It got me think­ing — per­haps Thomas Jef­fer­son churned ice cream for George Wash­ing­ton while they eased the Declar­a­tion of Inde­pend­ence into life. Maybe the United States of Amer­ica really was built on ice cream.

On my recent trip to New York I ate ice cream that’s come a long way since Jef­fer­son laboured over his churn. At a res­taur­ant in the West Vil­lage I was served the culin­ary equi­val­ent of a ten den­ier stock­ing and a walk­ing boot — a que­nelle of del­ic­ate Earl Grey Tea ice cream, sand­wiched between two bis­cuits of por­ridge oats and dried cran­ber­ries.

You should know that I take tea very ser­i­ously — I drink so much of it that my chil­dren say I need to go into tea rehab. Ser­i­ously, what would pos­sess any­one to com­bine the per­fume of Earl Grey with a bis­cuit you could sole a shoe with?

You can prob­ably guess where this is going. The dig­nity of tea must be restored.

Lemon Biscuit and Earl Grey Tea Ice Cream Sandwich

Earl Grey ice cream

1 cup full cream milk

2 cups of single cream

3/4 cup of vanilla sug­ar

6 Earl Grey tea bags

6 eggs yolks

Keep a jar of vanilla sug­ar in the cup­board, made by pla­cing two vanilla beans in a jar and top­ping it up with caster sug­ar.

Warm the milk, sug­ar and one cup of the cream in a pan until hot but not boil­ing. Plonk the tea bags in, remove the pan from the heat and let it sit hap­pily for an hour. Take the tea bags out, hav­ing giv­en them a very gentle squeeze.

Beat the eggs yolks until smooth. Place the second cup of cream in a bowl with a sieve on top and put to one side. Reheat the milk, cream and tea mix­ture in the pan until it is warm but not hot. Very slowly whisk the cream mix­ture into the bowl of egg yolks, a ladle­ful at a time, stir­ring like mad so the yolks don’t trans­mog­ri­fy into scrambled eggs. Once the eggs have been com­pletely incor­por­ated into the cream mix­ture, tip the whole lot back into the pan and reheat, stir­ring con­stantly. Do not let it boil. Once the mix­ture has thickened enough for it to coat the back of your spoon rather than slosh straight off again, the cus­tard mix­ture is ready. Pour it thor­ough the sieve that has been wait­ing patiently over the bowl con­tain­ing the second cup of cream. Stir thor­oughly and chill imme­di­ately for sev­er­al hours.

Pour your cus­tard into your ice cream maker, fol­low­ing the instruc­tions.

Lem­on Bis­cuits

Finely grated zest of one lem­on

60 g of softened but­ter

Half cup vanilla sug­ar

2 eggs whites, lightly beaten

Half cup plain flour

Pre­heat the oven to 200 c.

Mix the but­ter and lem­on zest togeth­er well. Beat in the sug­ar, stir in the egg whites and finally add the flour. The idea is to make bis­cuits that are neat circles. The easi­est way to do this is to grease fairy cake tins and to spoon a thin lay­er into the bot­tom of each fairy cake depres­sion. Bake in the oven for around six or sev­en minutes. Keep check­ing on them — they’re done when they’re pale in the middle but car­a­mel brown at the edges. Prise out of the tin care­fully and cool them on a plate.

Sand­wich a table­spoon of ice cream between two bis­cuits — I think they look more chic if the bot­tom of the bis­cuit is on the out­side. Like Willy Wonka’s tomato soup/roast beef/blueberry pie chew­ing gum, these ice cream sand­wiches com­bine a com­plete meal in one mouth­ful — Eng­lish After­noon Tea. Earl Grey tea with a slice of lem­on, posh sand­wiches and del­ic­ate bis­cuits. Eat them out­side and if it’s rain­ing, so much the bet­ter. You want it to be authen­t­ic don’t you?

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5 thoughts on “The New York Chronicles Part 2: Thomas Jefferson’s favourite

  1. I love earl gray, and I’ve made truffles infused with it. No idea why I haven’t thought to make ice cream! And pair­ing it with lem­on bis­cuits is geni­us. What is that pretty print in the last pic­ture behind the plate tower? It’s lovely!

  2. Hi Anna
    I love mak­ing things with tea — my favour­ite drink — but if you read my July post about rhu­barb you’ll see that it doesn’t always work!

  3. Anna … p.s. the print is an old French archi­tec­tur­al draw­ing found by a friend of mine at Por­to­bello Mar­ket about twenty years ago.

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