A couple of weeks ago I had lunch with a friend at The Cafe and we discussed having dessert. I wasn’t super keen on any of the options (some were really good, but I’d had them before and didn’t need dessert), but she wanted to try the white chocolate brie cheesecake. Since I hadn’t had it before I agreed to split it with her. The cheesecake was brought out and it was topped with whipped cream (superfluous) and blueberry sauce (delicious). The cheesecake was… fine, taste-wise, good even, but the texture was just awful. Instead of creamy and rich, it was almost gritty and dry. I’m not sure whether the white chocolate was responsible for that or whether something else went wrong, but it was a rare misstep at a restaurant that, in my opinion, seldom suffers failures of execution.

Despite that review, I couldn’t get the flavor combination of the blueberries and brie out of my thoughts and then I picked some blueberries at a local pick your own. Oh course I ended up eating them all out of hand, but then I got a second pint and finally had enough will power to keep back one cup (barely). Since the cheesecake had texture issues that I didn’t fully understand and I’m not a huge fan/supporter of white chocolate I decided to create a brie ice cream instead. I really like the combination of vanilla and almond extract that I use to make french toast, and I thought that the brie would be strong enough to stand up to both of those flavors, so I went for it.

I used half of a vanilla bean and a few drops of almond extract (I used about an 1/8 of a teaspoon) to flavor the custard, and I added the cheese after the custard was done cooking, but before I added the cream to cool it down. I’m glad that I separated the cheese into about four pieces before adding it to the hot custard because I’m not sure it would have melted had it been one big lump. Then I strained the whole mess into the cream and chilled it overnight.

I went really simple for the sauce, since the blueberries were so good. A little sugar, a little water, and a little lemon juice and that’s it. I like the texture of leaving the berries whole, but if that bothers you just force the whole mess through a fine mesh strainer.

I used a cheese similar to brie since that’s what I had on hand – Fromage d’Affinois. Mine was a little overripe, but in general I’d say the main difference between that cheese and a “real” brie is that Fromage d’Affinois is softer, creamier, and maybe a little more mild. The age of the cheese, the time of year it is produced, and the producer all leave their mark on the cheese, so your flavor/texture results may vary.

The final result is delicious – not the comfort food ice cream of vanilla bean or chocolate, but a great change of pace for a warm summer day. By itself the ice cream is intensely cheese flavored, but the blueberry cuts through that richness with a sweet tangy flavor that brings the whole flavor profile together. I hope you enjoy it.

Brie Ice Cream

2 cups whole milk
4 egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 vanilla bean
A few drops almond extract
4 ounces brie or Fromage d’Affinois, trimmed of its rind.
1 cup cream

Split the vanilla bean open from one end nearly through the other end. Drop into a pan and had the milk. Place over medium heat and stir occasionally until steaming. In a bowl whisk the egg yolks and sugar together. Once the milk is hot begin ladling small amounts into the eggs while whisking.

After adding about 1/2 a cup to the eggs, pour the mixture back into the pot and stir continuously while it thickens. Once the mixture starts steaming gently again you can probably turn off the heat and just keep stirring for a few minutes. Remove the vanilla bean from the mixture scraping the seeds carefully into the hot milk. Add the brie in chunks and stir vigorously to melt the cheese into the custard. Add the almond extract.

Place the cream in a bowl with a strainer set over it. Pour the custard through the strainer to remove any stray bits of vanilla bean or cheese rind. Mix well, cover, and chill thoroughly. Freeze in an ice cream maker per its instructions. Serve with blueberry sauce and maybe a shortbread cookie.

Blueberry Sauce

1 cup blueberries
1 tbs lemon juice
1 tbs water
3 tbs sugar

Place all the ingredients in a pan and place over medium heat. Bring to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Allow to cool and then refrigerate. Reheat gently if you want a warm sauce.