Part of me feels like I’m blowing the big surprises early: Ami’s dessert is far and away the biggest overhaul from the original, and it also happens to be my personal favorite overhaul.
The original Ami dessert had a lot of things I would have changed about it. First of all, I had no decent freezer at the time so my ice cream never really got firm. Additionally, the overall look just wasn’t what I wanted. I didn’t love the yolks tinting the ice cream green, and the chocolate teacup was cute but didn’t really say “Ami” to me.
To address these issues, I changed the ice cream recipe to a starch-based gelato. This allowed for a much more true blue color. Additionally, I added a sugar bowl that really invoked the water imagery well. The whole thing rests on a bed of meringue.
Though I had made sugar bowls in culinary school, I’d always done them using silicone molds. Recently Ann Reardon of How To Cook That (which I love!) released a video where she made sugar bowls using water-filled balloons. I thought this was utterly brilliant, so I used her technique here.
AMI’S CREME DE MENTHE ICE CREAM
Yields: 4 servings of gelato with edible bowls, big enough to share.
Timing Notes: Since you’re making ice cream from scratch, this recipe will take two days to complete. I recommend taking your time so you can enjoy the process without stressing. Read over the whole recipe before you begin, making note of any equipment used and the chill times.
Creme de Menthe Ice Cream [Recipe Below]
Meringue Bubbles [Recipe Below]
Sugar Bowls [Recipe Below]
Gold leaf (optional)
1. Secure meringue bubble bases to your plates using a little dab of ice cream. Carefully nestle the sugar bowl into the bubbles. It’s okay to gently push and wiggle to make the top of the meringue crumble a little to fit the bowls cleanly.
2. Using a large scoop, dish a scoop of ice cream into each bowl. Top with a little gold leaf if desired. Serve immediately.
Creme de Menthe Ice Cream (Adapted from Ice Cream Nation)
700ml (3 cups) half and half
100g (1/2 cup) sugar
25g (scant 1/4 cup) cornstarch
1 pinch salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
30 drops (about 1/2 tsp) creme de menthe flavoring oil
Blue food coloring
1. In a saucepan, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch, salt, vanilla and half and half together briskly. Cook on medium heat while whisking constantly for 5-10 minutes, or until thick and bubbling. Once bubbling, allow to cook for a good minute to eliminate any starchy taste.
2. Remove from the heat and stir in the creme de menthe oil. Taste the cream to determine if you want to add more oil or not. Once it’s as minty as you want, begin adding color. Add the color one drop at a time, stirring well between each addition and stopping when you like the color. Once it looks good, cover the cream in plastic wrap. Be sure to touch the wrap to the top of the cream to avoid a skin forming. Chill overnight in the refrigerator.
3. Once chilled, freeze the base according to your ice cream maker’s instructions. Once it achieves soft serve consistency, transfer to a freezer-safe container with a lid and freeze for at least 6 more hours before scooping. If the ice cream is too hard to scoop cleanly, just let it sit at room temperature for 10 minutes to soften it.
NOTE: Ice cream looking a little too much on the green side? Add a single drop of purple food coloring; it should make it look true blue.
Meringue Bubble Nests
2 egg whites
100g (1/3 cup) white sugar
1 tsp good vanilla extract
Baby blue colored food coloring powder
Pearl shimmer food coloring powder
Equipment note: Requires a coupler and assortment of round tips (Suggested: #3, #10), a small (1-1.5″) pastry cutter and some paintbrushes.
1. Preheat your oven to 250°F/120°C and line a cookie sheet with parchment. In a clean bowl and with clean beaters, whip the egg whites with the cream of tartar until foamy. Drizzle in the sugar and continue to beat until you achieve stiff, glossy peaks. Add in the vanilla and a tiny amount (I used a knifetip) of blue food coloring and mix to combine.
2. First, lightly dip a 1″ pastry cutter into the meringue and use it to mark circles on the parchment with at least 4″ of space between each one. Fill remaining meringue into a piping bag fitted with a coupler. Snip off the end and place on a large round tip (#10 or similar).
3.Pipe the bubble nests as follows: First, pipe a mound of meringue using the circle markers as a size guide. It can be solid or swirled; it really doesn’t matter. Next, pipe bulbs all over the mound at random. Switch to a smaller tip (#3) and pipe more bulbs all around in various sizes. These are bubbles, so the more random the better! Finally, dip the bottom of a spoon in water, shake off the excess, and then use it to gently press a little curved indentation into the top of your bubble nests. If you have a lot of peaks, dip y0ur fingers in water and carefully pat them down.
4 . Bake the meringues for 90 minutes, then turn the oven off and leave the meringues to dry inside the closed oven overnight.
4. The next day, take out your meringues. Using a paintbrush, brush the nests liberally with the shimmer food coloring powder. Finally, brush a few random bubbles and ridges with the blue powder color to add depth. Store in an air-tight container until ready to use.
Sugar Bowls (Technique adapted from Ann Reardon)
400g (2 cups) sugar
200g (1/2 cup) light corn syrup
120ml (1/2 cup) water
Blue candy food coloring
Equipment note: Requires a pastry cutter, small cups or pastry cutters (roughly a 2″ rim) and medium or small party balloons. Make sure to get helium-quality balloons or they will simply melt.
1. First, get your balloons ready: fill a balloon up with water, pinching the top once it’s fat with water and pretty full. Pinch the top to hold in the water, but don’t tie it off yet. Gently loosen your pinch on the top to allow some water to flow out, and let water run out until the balloon has shrunken to about 4″ in diameter. Now tie it off. Pat dry with a paper towel and set it knot side down into either a small cup or pastry cutter (rounded cutter side up, if using the latter!). Repeat until you have at least 6 balloons, since you want extras in case of complications. Rub each balloon with a thin layer of vegetable oil; don’t over-oil it or it will make the sugar fall off in globs. Arrange the balloons in their cups onto a cookie sheet and keep it over the sink in case a balloon bursts in step 3.
2. In a saucepan equipped with a candy thermometer, combine the water with the sugar and corn syrup and bring to a boil. Use a pastry brush dipped in water to carefully wash any granules of sugar from the sides. Don’t stir the sugar mixture as it cooks. Cook to 300°F, then immediately take off the heat. Add in some blue food coloring (go easy on it at first since you can always add a bit more) and gently swirl the pan to distribute it throughout the sugar.
3. Slowly pour the sugar syrup over the balloons. In doing various experiments I found that doing this slowly massively decreased the chance of a balloon popping. Once you’ve poured the syrup onto each balloon, allow them to cool completely (for roughly 20 minutes). Using gloves, pick up a sugar-covered balloon and hold it over the sink. Now snip or poke a hole into the base near the knot and allow the water to drain out gradually. If a balloon wants to burst all at once when you do this, don’t freak! Just dab any moisture that gets onto the sugar with a paper towel right away. Peel the balloon off the rest of the way once it’s totally drained, then store the bowls in an air-tight container until ready to use.