Black sesame ice cream — which we first fell for at the Chinatown Ice Cream Factory (along with pandan coconut ice cream!) — is one of our favorite flavors. Rich and complex, yet dry and never that sweet, it’s the perfect treat when we’re searching for something a little out of the ordinary. When we saw Max’s version on Serious Eats, we just had to make it for ourselves. His recipe is spectacular — the sesame seed oil and dash of salt brings out the warm nuttiness of the the sesame, while the orange zest — a truly inspired addition — adds a bright summery touch.
We first attempted this treat for the indigo continuum dinner, and for that event, had to make it twice. We strayed from the recipe at first, thinking ourselves all fancy, and crushed the sesame seeds with our mortar and pestle. This, apparently, is not the most effective method for creating sesame seed powder, and we ended up with a greenish yellow cream flecked with bits of black. It looked less than appetizing, and simply wouldn’t do as the dessert for a indigo continuum dinner, so we tossed the failed experiment and started again. For our second attempt, we followed Max’s point about blenders, but our blender wasn’t up to the challenge of really crushing the seeds to a powder. The results tasted fantastic, but looked a little sad — more of a yellowish grey than a stately, grey grey.
As they say, third time’s the charm. For this iteration, we pulled out our spice grinder (an old coffee grinder we’ve dedicated to spices only) and pulverized the toasted seeds to a thick black paste. Then, we whipped the egg yolks and sugar into a frenzy, lightening the yolks to the palest, palest of yellows lest our eggs color our final product. Success! The same delicious ice cream, and just the right color.
black sesame seed & orange zest ice cream
Adapted from Serious Eats
1/4 cup black sesame seeds
3 cups half-and-half (or 1 1/2 cups each cream and milk)
3/4 cup sugar
6 egg yolks
1/4 cup toasted sesame oil
2 teaspoons orange zest
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1. Toast sesame seeds in a small skillet, stirring frequently, until fragrant and nutty, then set aside to cool.
2. Transfer seeds to a blender (or, a spice grinder!) and blend on high till seeds are crushed. Add two to three tablespoons half-and-half and blend till smooth. Add remaining half-and-half and blend on high till well combined, about two minutes. They won’t be completely pulverized, but do your best.
3. In a large bowl, whisk together sugar and yolks until thickened and lighter in color.
4. Combine yolk and dairy mixtures in a heavy-bottomed three quart saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly while custard thickens. Custard is done when it coats the back of a spoon and a swiped finger leaves a clean line.
5. Remove from heat and transfer to an air-tight container for overnight chill. Stir in sesame oil, orange zest, and salt till well combined.
6. Chill overnight, then churn the next day according to manufacturer’s instructions.
7. Serve immediately for a whipped, soft-serve consistency, or return to container to set for two to three hours for something firmer.