It would be cute to say that my “Deep Freeze Tiki” ice cream flavor and orgeat-making experiment were inspired by this past weekend’s cocktail seminar with Julie Reiner and Francesco Lafranconi, but the truth is, I was actually planning this flavor before I knew I’d be going to the event.
It seems like every time we go away on a trip, our friend/neighbor leaves us a bag of goodies hanging on our door to discover when we get back. The last couple times, she’s left us Makaha Mangoes. They are wonderful, but with just Shake and me, we can only eat so many so fast. The latest pile of mango was starting to get a bit smooshy when I stumbled across a recipe for a Bourbon Peach ice cream.
Hmmm…peaches –> mangoes…bourbon –> rum…?!
Why make orgeat, though? (Other than sheer craziness, that is.) Well, the one thing that I didn’t like about the recipe was that it used corn syrup. I know it’s not the same as the much-maligned high-fructose corn syrup, but I felt like there could be something better. Something that added character and more flavor, instead of just sweetness, especially since the mangoes were already plenty sweet.
A couple minutes searching online for corn syrup substitutes turned up suggestions ranging from honey to rice syrup. Though not specifically meant as a corn syrup substitute, a mention of orgeat a bit further down caught my eye.
Hmmm…mangoes and rum and orgeat—sounds like a tiki drink to me!
Of course, then I got it into my head that if I was going to eschew commercial corn syrup, I should also steer clear of commercially produced orgeat. I was already pretty committed to the plan, but attending the cocktail seminar and tasting “Tiki” Adam’s orgeat convinced me that it would be a worthy exercise.
So, orgeat-making first. (Incidentally, it’s pronounced or-zhat and comes from the French for barley because originally it was made with barley water.) I used a combination of this recipe from Imbibe and this Art of Drink blog recipe, upon which the Imbibe recipe was based. Basically, I followed the Imbibe recipe, except for the end step, where I heated the almond water with the sugar, as the Art of Drink recipe instructs, rather than shaking to combine. Because I am incredibly impatient, I also tried, per the Art of Drink recipe, heating the almond water to speed up the process, but I ended up having to do an airport run to fetch Shake, and then we went to dinner, so the almonds ended up soaking for the requisite 5 hours anyway. Oh well. I like to think it helped extract more almond-y flavor into the water, but who knows.
Making orgeat is not actually very difficult at all. It essentially involves watching almonds sit in water for hours. And hours. And hours.
I wanted to put a twist on my orgeat and use jasmine (pikake) flower water instead of orange flower water, but, sadly, I discovered that the bottle of jasmine water I’d bought Shake a while back had gone off. There were scummy looking floaties in it, and it did not smell like flowers at all. So much for that. Maybe next time.
Is it worth making orgeat at home? Well, since some commercially produced syrups not only have a bunch of chemicals in them, but they don’t even contain any actual almonds, that’s one reason you’d want to make your own. However, I was chatting with some bartenders after the Paradise Lost seminar, and they all agreed that while “Tiki” Adam’s orgeat kicked ass, the secret was consistency. If you make this at home 10 times, it’ll probably be a bit different each time. That could be a problem if you needed to make the same drink all the time the exact same way, like in a restaurant or bar. At home, I think this is worth it, especially since you can always tweak your drink to your preference.
On to the ice cream! I adapted the Bourbon Peach ice cream recipe by substituting mango for peach and orgeat for corn syrup. Because of my previous slightly-too-salty ice cream experience, I went very light on the salt for this one, about half the amount the recipe calls for.
This particular recipe is an American-style ice cream — no eggs. This definitely simplifies the process, but it does result in a slightly grainy texture. (According to what I’ve read about the properties of corn syrup, using it may have lessened the grainy mouth feel.) Due to the heat (making ice cream in the summer in Hawai‘i in a non-air conditioned apartment is probably not ideal), and possibly also because of the liquid content of the fruit, my ice cream never quite set while in the machine. A few hours in the freezer, though, fixed it right up.
The result is a lightly creamy, delicately sweet ice cream. It’s almost like a creamy sorbet. I think it could use more rum, but between the brown sugar, the rum and the orgeat, there is a definite mai tai-esque flavor going on.
Photo credit note: Background props in the top photo are recipe cards illustrated by SHAG.