Hot and Cold Infusions
By Aaron Hale
Posted September 1, 2018

Infuse your cream to make delicious flavored ice cream, ganache, and whipped cream!

Making ice cream with fresh mint, ganache with green tea, or creme brûlée with toasted nuts can be done with a a little hot or cold infusion. It is easier than one might think. If you’ve ever made coffee or tea, you’ve made an infusion. Cream isn’t much different. The real task is in choosing which flavor to use. So, throw out that bottle of extract and let me show you how easy it is to get that flavor right from the source.

We infuse liquids with flavors all the time. Water, vinegar, alcohol, and oils can be infused for various reasons using various methods. One of my favorite infusions, Limoncello, can be done with vodka and lemon peel over days naturally or just a few hours using a Sous Vide. While I haven’t tested the Sous Vide on cream, the methods below are tried and true, and don’t take days to make a great product. 

There are two methods for infusing cream, hot and cold. Some sources will give up their flavor better using one or either method. Below I’ll describe how to perform each and which flavors do better with which method.

The first thing to remember is that the proposed steeping times for both hot and cold infusion are generally best for getting only the flavors you want and none of the flavors you don’t. Mediums such as lemon zest can be infused using the hot or cold method, but left too long will release the bitter oils. The same is true for the acidity in teas and coffee, and the tannins in in aromatic herbs.

If a stronger infused flavor is what you want, go with more ingredients not more time. All suggested measurements are for the infusion of 1 cup of heavy whipping cream. If the flavor turns out to be too strong, just add a little more fresh cream after removing the steeped ingredients.

Cold Infusion:

I am partial to cold infusion for most ingredients. If unsure which method to use for a new flaove, I will most likely try this way first. It works great for bringing out the light crisp natural essence of leafy herbs, citrus zests, tea, and coffee. 

  • If using leafy ingredients such as rose petals or mint, roughly  chop with a small sharp knife to reduce bruising as much as possible. 
  • Add your selected ingredients to the cream and refrigerate for 8 to 12 hours.
  • Remove from the refrigerator and strain out solids from cream. Some cream will have been absorbed by the solids. Gently press what liquid you can through a mesh sieve using the back of a spoon or ladle. Add more fresh cream if there is too much liquid loss.

Ingredient Amounts:

  • Aromatic herbs such as rosemary or thyme 1-2T finely chopped
  • Delicate leafy plants such as mint geranium, or rose 1/4C roughly chopped and lightly packed
  • Tea (Black, Great, Jasmine, Earl Grey) 1T
  • Coffee /2C
  • Dry lavender 1 1/2T

Hot Infusion:

This method is a bit quicker and works better for some flavors. In other instances, the same flavor that works for the cold method will also impart flavor using the hot method with subtle differences. Hot infusion generally works best for toasted coconut, sesame seeds, and nuts as well as dried herbs and spices, cinnamon sticks, and chili peppers.

  • Place cream in small sauce pan and add the flavor ingredients. Place on stove on medium heat and cook until cream is scalded or steaming near boiling point.
  • Remove from heat, cover, and allow to steep for 5 to 30 minutes depending on ingredient. 20 to 30 minutes is usually enough time for most flavors, but tea begins to bitter after 5min. While I prefer the cold method for fresh mint, the hot method can be used as well but will impart a grassy chlorophyll flavor if left too long. 
  • Strain out solids and press out absorbed liquid from the solids. Ad more fresh cream to replace lost volume or if the infused flavor is too strong.

Ingredient Amounts:

  • Toasted Coconut 3-4T
  • Toasted seeds or nuts 2-3T
  • Tea 2-3T
  • Dried fruits like raisins, cherries, or cranberries 1/4-1/3C

If infusing cream for a ganache (click here) double the flavor ingredient measurement so that the chocolate doesn’t overwhelm the flavor. 

As always, your comments are are welcome. Let me know what flavors you’re trying out and which method, time, and amounts you used!  

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