I’m a savory person… which means that cranberry sauce is my least favorite of Thanksgiving dishes, but I still make a cranberry sauce every year out of tradition. I’ve created a different cranberry recipe every holiday from a boozy compote to a spicy jelly, but frankly, cranberry feels too dessert-y to eat with my turkey (which is also my least favorite meat, but that’s a different story).
So while I was in the kitchen last week, roasting and mashing and blanching up a few trial runs on new recipes (it honestly feels like the whole month is Thanksgiving with the amount of food I make for these trial runs!), I started wondering… What are we going to serve for dessert? The savory side of me usually doesn’t go for dessert, but I do have a weakness for cheesecake and ice cream… especially when it comes to interesting flavors (like Vietnamese coffee ice cream and chai ice cream).
That is how cranberry cheesecake ice cream came into my life. I started dreaming about galangal and orange-glazed cranberry sauce swirled into a rich, cheesy ice cream base, perfect by itself or paired with an equally rich, chocolate pecan pie.
Why galangal? And what is it? Galangal is a fragrant rhizome similar to ginger, though it has a more citrusy note. It’s mostly used in Southeast Asian cooking and those are the types of markets you’ll find it in, though any well-stocked spice shop should carry it. If unavailable, ground ginger works perfectly well in its place here.
My other ice cream recipes have always involved a French custard base, but the secret to making a cheesecake-y ice cream is — are you ready for it? — cream cheese. The plain old Philadelphia kind.
It might sound weird if you’ve never tried it, but cream cheese mixed with more cream, and milk, and then frozen, makes for some good eatin’. In place of eggs (which give custard ice creams their richness), we have extra thick and luscious cream cheese to hold it all down. Cream cheese-based ice cream is also an easier endeavor than custard-based ice cream, so if you’ve been shying away from making your own at home, make this your first. (And if you’re looking for an ice cream maker, here’s the one I use and love.)
I also added graham cracker crumbs for some crunch. The crumbs soften as they’re swirled in but still give a little texture, like the graham cracker crust on a cheesecake. Though not normally a fan of cheesecake, my husband enthusiastically approved of this recipe, likening the taste to a cross between strawberry ice cream and an Orange Julius!
Even if you don’t make this recipe for your Thanksgiving table, it’s a good way to use up any leftover cranberry sauce the day after… to go with the inevitable turkey soup, turkey sandwiches, and turkey salad!
Cranberry Cheesecake Ice Cream
Makes 1 1/2 quarts
For the Cranberry Sauce
1 1/2 cups fresh cranberries
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground galangal (or ground ginger)
Juice and zest from 1 orange
For the Base
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
1 cup heavy cream
10 squares of graham crackers, crushed
The night before, put your ice cream freezer bowl in the freezer.
The day of, combine all the cranberry sauce ingredients in a small saucepan over medium heat. Simmer for about 10 minutes, or until the cranberries start to burst and the sauce starts to thicken (I like to leave some berries whole for added texture). Transfer the cranberry sauce to a bowl and refrigerate for one to two hours, or until the sauce is very cold.
In a mixer or blender, combine the cream cheese, milk, sugar, and salt and mix until smooth. Pour the mixture into a bowl and stir in the heavy cream. (Don’t try to save a step by mixing all of it at once, else you’ll end up with whipped cream!) Keep cold in the fridge until the cranberry sauce is ready.
When everything is as cold as it can get, churn the milk mixture in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. After 15 minutes, add the cranberry sauce and half the graham crackers and churn for another 5 minutes, or until the ice cream reaches a thick, creamy consistency.
Homemade ice cream tends to look like soft-serve right out of the ring, so I always freeze mine for a couple hours after it comes out of the ice cream maker. Transfer the ice cream to a freeze-proof container in alternating layers of ice cream and the remaining graham crackers. Before serving, let the ice cream rest at room temperature for a few minutes to make it softer to scoop.