Sweet, tangy rhubarb is folded into vanilla bean ice cream and topped with shortbread cookies in this Rhubarb Ripple Shortbread Ice Cream.
First, the story behind today’s Rhubarb Ripple Shortbread Ice Cream.
A few Sundays ago, it was raining heavily, and I was on a bike racing to the Ottawa Farmers’ Market.
When you live in a condo and can’t quite make out the ground and its saturation level, it’s often hard to tell when it is raining. In fact, I only discovered those salty cloud tears having stepped out of my condo building, a backpack lashed to my back and myself lashed to the bike. There was no going back now. The rhubarb must be acquired.
There’s nothing quite like the farmers’ market frenzy for rhubarb. Cherries might come close. But rhubarb is in a league of its own – this fleeting vegetable, the darling of the market. Only here for a month, perhaps two if you’re lucky, though given the appalling weather Ottawa has been having this spring, it’s doubtful it will be around for much longer.
Every smart Ottawan knows to get to the market early if you want the choice rhubarb, the bright red-pink variety, or even the thick and thriving green and blush variety. You can’t take your time getting rhubarb. It demands attention amongst a demanding crowd. Next to the stunted, soil-flecked root crops and rare curls of garlic scapes this time of year, rhubarb is the beautiful star of the show. It disappears fast.
But back to the bike.
Breaks screeching in protest—remind me to get those checked—I rode into Lansdowne Park, hair plastered to the sweat from my helmet, black yoga pants not betraying their soaked reality. Around and around through the aisles, but nothing. The kindly farmer who sold me rhubarb the week before was nowhere to be seen.
I inquired—no rhubarb this week. Too rainy. Half our vendors cancelled, said the market organizer. That made sense. Only the crazed make the journey to Lansdowne’s roofless square in the pouring rain for that elusive plant.
Time to bike home.
Thankfully, this past weekend yielded a mess of vibrant rhubarb, standing proudly at attention as they bumped around in my backpack on the ride home. With the weather deciding, finally, that it was time to be warm and stay warm, the rhubarb gladly consented to being made into ice cream. And not just humble ice cream, but Rhubarb Ripple Shortbread Ice Cream.
This ice cream base comes from the talented Alana Chernila‘s first book, The Homemade Pantry, and is lightly adapted from her vanilla ice cream recipe. Rich, vanilla-laced ice cream creates the perfect base for what’s to be added.
As the final touch to add decoration to the belle of the farmers’ market ball, an accent of jewellry perhaps, is crumbled shortbread cookies. Tangy from the rhubarb, creamy from the dairy and vanilla bean, and sweet from the tender biscuits—a taste of spring.
Fitting, I’d say, for that fleeting crop.
- 3 cups heavy cream (35%)
- ¾ cup granulated sugar
- ¼ tsp. finely crushed sea salt (but any type of finely crushed salt works well too)
- 1 vanilla bean
- 1.5 cups milk (I used 1% but any type works)
- 1.5 tsp. vanilla extract
- 3 cups (400 grams) chopped fresh rhubarb
- ⅓ to ½ cup granulated sugar (depending on how sweet you like it)
- 1 tbsp. water
- 165 grams shortbread cookies (add more or less, depending on how much you like them. Measuring isn't necessary)
- In a medium pot, combine 1.5 cups of the heavy cream, the sugar and salt over medium heat. Give it a good stir to dissolve the sugar. Leave it on the stove for now.
- Slice open your vanilla bean and scrape all of the seeds out, dropping them into the pot. Once all the seeds are out, add the used bean and stir. If the sugar hasn't dissolved yet, keep stirring until it does, then remove from heat.
- Add the remaining cream, all of the milk and the vanilla extract; stir. Pour into a medium bowl, cover, then refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
- Meanwhile, prep the rhubarb ripple. Add all ingredients into a small saucepan over medium heat until the rhubarb starts to break down and bubble, then lower the heat and let simmer gently until thickened. The consistency is similar to a slightly loose jam. No need to stress about the consistency, though, as it will be mixed into the ice cream soon.
- Once it's ready, scoop into a bowl and refrigerate until cool.
- Prep your shortbread cookies by breaking them into pieces by hand or by putting them into a ziplock bag and crushing them with a can or rolling pin. Ideally you'll want pieces ranging from ¼ inch to 1 inch.
- Once your ice cream base has been refrigerated for at least 2 hours, remove from the fridge (don't forget to take out the vanilla bean! You can rinse it and use it to infuse vodka for vanilla extract, if desired) and process according to your ice cream maker's instructions.
- When it has finished, scoop the vanilla ice cream into two standard loaf pans, alternating between ice cream, scoops of rhubarb ripple and crushed cookies, mixing them slightly together with a spoon or chopstick as you go. This will give you the ripple effect. Add a few crushed cookies on top if desired.
- Cover with plastic wrap and freeze for at least 4 hours, or as long as 3-4 days, before serving. If the mixture has been in the freezer for a while, let it sit at room temperature for 10 minutes before scooping.
Ice cream base lightly adapted from The Homemade Pantry by Alana Chernila.