What's a cheesemonger to do during ice cream week? Make ice cream, of course... of the cheesecake variety. And for a whimsical and seriously tasty crunch, we've whipped up a graham cracker topping, as well.
This is a custard-less, egg-free ice cream, and is essentially a dump and stir. Or, more precisely, a dump and blend, as it's made in either your blender or food processor. An ice cream maker you will need, but a stovetop you will not. No tempering of egg yolks, no dissolving of sugar, and no stirring. And best of all, no worrying about the top of your cheesecake cracking!
The ice cream tastes just as you'd expect: like smooth, rich cheesecake, with a hint of lemon, and not too sweet. It'd be great with a blueberry compote or some fresh fruit to cut the creaminess. The ice cream base looks almost like cheesecake batter, and no wonder: the ingredients of these two desserts are pretty similar. And the graham cracker topping is a more-than-suitable incarnation of that classic cheesecake crust.
Next time we may cut the lemon down just a bit and use the zest of just half a lemon, but if you're up for a punchy hit of citrus, go for it, it's not overwhelming in the least.
The cheesecake ice cream is a David Lebovitz recipe, from his really excellent ice cream book, The Perfect Scoop; the graham cracker crumbles, however, are my own invention.
Cheesecake Ice Cream with Graham Cracker Crunch
For the ice cream:
8 ounces cream cheese
1 lemon, preferably unsprayed
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup half-and-half
2/3 cup sugar
pinch of salt
Cut the cream cheese into small pieces. Zest the lemon directly into a blender or food processor, then add the cream cheese, sour cream, half-and-half, sugar, and salt, and puree until smooth. Chill the mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator, then freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions.
For the graham cracker crunch:
4 whole graham crackers
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 stick unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat, such as a silpat. In the bowl of a food processor, blend graham crackers until very fine. Add brown sugar and process again to incorporate. Add melted butter, vanilla, and salt and process until combined, scraping down the sides of the food processor as necessary.
Turn mixture onto prepared baking sheet, sprinkle with granulated sugar, and shake pan to distribute crumbs in an even layer. Bake until fragrant and deeply golden, about 12-15 minutes. Transfer baking sheet to a wire rack to cool completely. Using a spatula or your hands, break graham cracker crumble into pieces. If not using immediately, store in an airtight container.
Nora Singley is an avid lover of cheese, and for some time she was a Cheesemonger and the Director of Education at Murray's Cheese Shop in New York City, where she continues to teach cheese classes for the public. She is currently an assistant chef on The Martha Stewart Show.
(Images: Nora Singley)