22 Aug 2009

Blue cheese and plum soft ice cream (TGRWT #18)

Pastry chef Aidan Brooks has posted the invitation to join in on episode #18 of "They go really well together" (TGRWT). The idea is that foods with one or more flavour compounds in common will taste well in combination; the concept of flavour pairing. This month's ingredients are plum and blue cheese.

I've found that simple dishes such as milk shakes, smoothies and ice cream (this post) provide excellent matrixes for testing flavour pairings. Things are kept simple allowing for the pure flavours to come out, not being swamped by lot of (distracting) flavours from other ingredients. As such, milk and/or cream pose a good base. So this time, I went for a very simple straightforward recipe for soft serve ice cream. At the same time, it gave me the opportunity to test our new Bamix immersion blender (a common blender or smoothie machine will probably work well too).

Blue cheese and plum soft serve ice cream (4 persons)
250 g plums, scalded diced and frozen (variety Fortune)
3 T icing sugar
100 ml double cream
1 egg
20 g mild blue cheese (Blue Castello)

Peel/scald plums by immersing for a few seconds in boiling water, dip in cold water and peel (will need somewhat more than 250 g fresh plums). Cut in four and remove stone. Leave in freezer until completely frozen.

Initially, blend frozen plums, icing sugar and egg just a little. Add double cream gradually together with the cheese while blending, resulting in a smooth and soft ice cream. Garnish to taste, but include at least a piece of cheese (picture: cheese, plum and lemon balm). Serve immediately.


We were somewhat sceptical to begin with, especially my wife. Some times I feel that people testing flavour pairings are being somewhat biased, feeling that they need to justify a successful match when the match is indeed not that great (just a gut feeling of mine...). However, this pairing was amazingly good:

Well balanced flavour-wise, and the cheese was noticeable but not overpowering. Resemblant of frozen yoghurt. Very smooth texture with small pieces of creamy, more dense cheese (a very slight bitter note). The flavours blended in an excellent way, while playing against each other in a way to complement rather than conflict. Also, something strange happened: from the bits of pure cheese (garnish) a sweetness emerged that wasn't noticeable in the cheese alone. Hence, the mixture brought out new flavours in the cheese, quite fascinating.

As to Aidan's extra challenge; to play basic flavours against each other, this might be a combination of (mainly) sweet, with a touch of sour and bitter.

Comments/potential problems to deal with
Plum variety
Another, home grown, and more tart variety was also tested. However, this did not by far work as well. Hence, the variety, or degree of ripeness(?), makes a great difference. In the home grown plums, the tartness was overpowering, calling for much more sugar. The result was fresh, but not at all as balanced. Much more flat flavourwise. Unfortunately, I don't know the variety, but they're yellow rather than red/blue (thanks to our friends Ingunn and Arild for the plums). The deep red Fortune variety (Spanish produce) also resulted in a more appealing pink/orange colour as opposed to yellow/beige using the yellow plums.

Curdling due to fruit acid
After a while, the ice cream showed initial signs of curdling. However, this was only visible when the ice cream was melted. It might be slightly unappealing, however, having partially curdled remains of ice cream in the bottom of the glass. This might be fixed using a small amount of some emulsifier/hydrocolloid, maybe? (guar gum, xanthan, lecithin?)

Browning (due to enzyme action in plum)
The plums are prone to enzymatic browning, as seen after the ice cream has stood in the glass for a while. I made a couple of initial attempts of adding a pinch of ascorbic acid, but couldn't see marked differences. Needs more experiments.

A great hit in terms of flavour pairing and flavour/texture in general. Very easy and quick to make as long as one have got frozen plums. Works great at home for serving a few people, but is probably in need of some development to sort out potential stability problems (curdling and browning). I'd expect these to be manageable, however.


  1. Very nice recipe Erik! I nevner thought about making a soft ice cream this way. Is the texture a little like the "softice" you can buy?

  2. Yes, indeed. As long as the fruit is completely frozen, the texture is perfectly creamy. It tends to start melting around the edges rather quickly, at least if the glass is not chilled in beforehand. But I guess that might be fixed with a stabiliser of some kind. Any suggestions, maybe? Since it is so quick and easy to prepare, one would want a stabiliser that works instantly. Else, the "neatness" of the recipe is partially lost.

    Naturally, the amount of sugar will vary according to tartness of fruit. In my experience, blueberries are excellent, as are strawberries. Both these work well with the given amount of sugar.

  3. That colour is still getting to me!


Please add your comments