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Black Bean Ice Cream 

This is fun to make. There's a lot of time between certain steps, but if you're doing other things in the kitchen and you don't want ice cream right now,  it's a great side project.


— 1 cup dried black beans
— 4 to 5 cups boiling water
— 1/2 to 3/4 cup honey
— 2 cups whole milk
— 4 egg yolks
— 1/8 teaspoon salt
— 1/2 pint cream (about 1 cup)

Put the beans in a heavy saucepan with a lid, and cover with the boiling water. Let sit, lidded, for an hour or so, then stir in 1/4 cup of the honey. Simmer over medium-low heat for another hour, adding water if necessary, then turn up the heat and stir the mixture continually until almost all the water evaporates and you have black beans in a dark, heavy syrup. At this point, the beans will hopefully be tender. Pour into a medium-sized bowl and allow to cool.

Scald the milk in the top of a double boiler. Beat the egg yolks slightly in a small bowl, add the salt and just under 1/4 cup of honey, then beat again. Spoon some of the hot milk into the eggs, stirring, then add the entire egg mixture to the milk, and stir again. Continue to stir constantly over gentle heat in the top of the double boiler, until the custard begins to thicken. As soon as it is noticably thicker than water and can coat the back of a spoon, remove from heat. Add the custard to the bean-syrup concoction, and taste it. If necessary, add a pinch more salt and some more honey. You'll be diluting the mixture with cream in a minute, but the honey will mix more evenly with warm ingredients, so it's important to adjust the seasonings now. Keep in mind that things taste less sweet when they're frozen.

Stir in the heavy cream, cover the bowl, and put it in the fridge for 4 hours or overnight. One hour before you'll put the mixture in your ice-cream maker, put it in the freezer, checking and stirring once every 15 minutes. Then, make ice cream! Our ice-cream maker is basically a special insulated bucket that stays cold in the freezer, and you affix a plug-in part at the top that attaches to a revolving paddle. I turned on the machine, dumped in the mixture gradually, and the ice cream was done within about 25 minutes. It was still a little soft, so I packed it into a yogurt container and froze it overnight until it got hard as a rock.

Way back in the first step, I scorched the black-bean-and-honey mixture and just rinsed the beans off and continued. I'm sure it affected the taste a bit, but I didn't mind, because to me the end result tasted coffee-flavored.  There's no accounting for taste, though: more than one person at Monday's dessert potluck said the black beans reminded them of chocolate chips. If I made this again, I'd be more careful not to burn the beans, and I'd use a bit less honey. Outside of the Eat Local Challenge, I might use softer and naturally sweeter Japanese red adzuki beans instead of black ones (canned beans would save having to cook the beans).

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Meghan Dewald


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