Eat Like a Princess - Merida - Toasted Oatmeal Ice Cream

We had another winter storm blow into Colorado today and there I was churning ice cream. I always was the kid who wanted ice cream when it was snowing though. My Kitchenaid stand mixer and my ice cream attachment make it really easy to churn up unique and delicious small batches in my own kitchen. Usually I make a low stress base with milk, pudding mix, flavorings and mix-ins. Making a true custard base for ice cream involves cooking milk, mixing egg yolks and sugar, and combining the milk and egg mixture to make a custard while avoiding it becoming scrambled eggs - it takes a little longer but the results are completely divine. Asking my hubby about the coffee ice cream with Kahlua and chocolate covered espresso beans... he'll tell you.
Flipping through The Disney Princess Cookbook I found a recipe for Toasted Oatmeal Ice Cream starring our leading lady for the month - Merida. To keep it easy for little princess pasty chefs, the recipe calls for mixing rolled oats, maple syrup, and cinnamon into store bought vanilla ice cream. I knew I could whip up a better ice cream making my own base and putting a little extra love and passion into the process! Using whole ingredients like rolled oats and a whole vanilla bean plus a cinnamon stick would give the ice cream base richness and flavor you wouldn't get with swirling items into any old store brand vanilla ice cream.
Another inspiration for this recipe was a couple episodes of Gourmet Makes from Bon Appetite where Claire Saffitz (my spirit animal) made gourmet Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and used different food items to infuse liquids for gourmet Jelly Belly flavors. Infusion ended up being the perfect technique to get delicious cinnamon brown sugar oatmeal flavor into the custard ice cream base. She made "bread tea" for french toast flavored jelly beans and "popcorn tea" with fresh popcorn from the stove for buttered popcorn jelly beans. Using her techniques for inspiration I toasted the oats, used a a split vanilla bean pod and cinnamon stick to infuse the milk with flavor before cooking with the eggs to make the base - adding the vanilla bean cinnamon stick back to the base to chill overnight intensified the flavors even more and really helped them meld together in the fridge. The next morning the base was full bodied with a warm, spicy flavor. 
After churning for 20 minutes the mixture was perfect fluffy and an ideal soft serve texture but would have to have been eating immediately. Since I knew I wanted it to be firm and eat with my hubby over a few days I got out my usual storage container. I put my ice cream in upcycled 1 lb lunch meat containers with air tight lids. They stack beautifully in the freezer, don’t break if they fall out of the freezer and hit the floor like thicker Tupperware that becomes brittle when frozen, and will hold a regular batch of ice cream with easy scooping dimensions! The ice cream by itself has a perfectly smooth texture with flecks of vanilla bean running through it, but I think it benefits from another "extra love" step of drying out the oatmeal used to infuse the milk (which had a lovely vanilla, cinnamon, creamy flavor) and adding it back to the churned ice cream. The bits of oatmeal give the ice cream a nice chew and break up the richness and spice of the cinnamon. Nuts are optional too - I sprinkled a few pecans over top but you can leave them out, mix them in by hand, or add them near the end of churning with your ice cream maker.
However you choose to finish this ice cream the flavor is undeniable. Sweet, spicy, creamy, smooth and with a bit of chew you want from the perfect oatmeal cookie. My hubby was also surprised by how filling it was due to the combination of flavors and added oats. It's a truly satisfying flavor.
Tasting this ice cream with my husband I started making a list of an ice cream flavor of the month for each princess... what do you guys think?


Toasted Oatmeal Ice Cream

Ingredients

For the Ice Cream:

  • 1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1 1/4 cups heavy cream
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 7 egg yolks from large eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

For the Mix-Ins:

1/4 cup toasted, chopped pecan or walnut pieces (optional) 

Directions
  1. In a medium pot, toast rolled oats over medium-low heat until the grains are fragrant and lightly browned, about 8 minutes, moving continuously to keep from burning. Remove from heat, add milk and cream, along with vanilla bean and cinnamon stick. Cover and steep up to 4 hours at room temperature. Remove then set aside vanilla bean and cinnamon stick to reserve for step 3. 
  2. Combine brown sugar, egg yolks, salt, and ground cinnamon in a medium bowl, then whisk vigorously until pale and mixture falls off whisk in ribbons. Pour the oat-infused milk into the bowl and mix to combine. Return to medium sauce pan and cook over medium-low heat until warm to the touch, then increase heat to medium, stirring and scraping constantly with a flexible spatula until steaming-hot, about 8 minutes or to 155°F (68°C).
  3. Pour through a fine-mesh sieve into a large stainless steel bowl, pressing gently with a flexible spatula to release the liquid trapped in the oats. Stir in vanilla extract. Add reserved vanilla bean and cinnamon stick back to ice cream base then cover and refrigerate to continue infusing overnight, or until no warmer than 40°F (4°C).
  4. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 300°F (150°C). Transfer strained oats to a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Bake 18-20 minutes, stirring frequently to promote even browning, until oats are dry to the touch and beginning to crisp but not yet hard or crunchy. Once cool, transfer to an airtight container and freeze until needed.
  5. Once custard base has cooled, remove vanilla bean and cinnamon stick an churn in an ice cream machine according to manufacturer’s directions until custard looks fluffy and thick about 20 minutes. Add toasted pecans and all but a handful of the dried/frozen oat crunchies and churn only until well combined or mix in by hand after transferring ice cream to freezer safe container with lid. With a flexible spatula, transfer ice cream to container and sprinkle with reserved oat clusters, as well as additional toasted pecans. Freeze until hard, at least 2 hours.
Try this at home and tell me what you think! It may look like a lot of work but the results are definitely worth it. Comment below!

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