Cherry Blossom Tea Ice Cream with Plumped Cherries

This is a take-off on Jeni's Earl Grey ice cream which is wonderful, but OH. MY. GOODNESS. This cherry tea version is to die for!!!

The second I opened the foil pouch of Sakurambo tea bags, a Mack truck of cherryness blasted out and ran me over. I was in heaven! The air was permeated with cherry perfume which I spontaneously started inhaling with slow, deep breaths.

I knew this boded well for the ice cream I was going to make. If it smelled this amazing just from opening a bag, there'd be no problem infusing the cream with gobs of cherry flavor.

An absolutely divine treat!

Cherry Blossom Tea Ice Cream with Plumped Cherries
adapted from Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at Home by Jeni Britton Bauer
Makes approx. 1 qt

In a 2-qt saucepan or medium-size heatproof mixing bowl, whisk until smooth:
1.5 oz (3 Tbs) cream cheese, softened (43g)
Set aside.

Measure out:
2 cups whole milk

From the 2 cups of whole milk, transfer 2 Tbs (24g) into a small saucer and add to make a smooth slurry:
1 Tbs plus 1 tsp cornstarch (10g)
Set aside.

In a large saucepan (4qt), combine remaining whole milk along with:
1 1/4 cup heavy cream
2/3 cup sugar (133g)
2 Tbs light corn syrup (41g)

Over medium heat, bring to a rolling boil and boil for 4 minutes. Remove from heat and steep in the milk mixture for 15-20 minutes:
5 tea bags, (approx. 1/4c tea leaves) Sakurambo Black Tea with Japanese Cherry Flavor

Have a fine-meshed strainer on hand. Remove tea bags from cream, put inside the strainer and quickly place strainer over the saucepan. Press down on tea bags with the back of a spoon to extract as much cream and flavor as possible. Or better yet, use your hands and squeeze the bejesus out of those bags (they should be cool enough to handle, but nonetheless take care). Not only will you get more flavor out, your hands will be redolent of cherries.

Gradually stir in the cornstarch slurry with a heatproof spatula. Bring back to a boil over medium heat and cook, stirring, until slightly thickened, about 1 minute. Remove from heat.

Slowly add hot milk mixture to cream cheese and whisk until smooth. Whisk vigorously for a couple of minutes to release steam and aid in cooling.

Place a clean paper towel over the top of the saucepan and place the saucepan lid on top, locking the paper towel in place. If you're using a bowl, cover paper towel with plastic wrap and hold in place with a rubber band if necessary. The paper towel will absorb any remaining steam and prevent any condensation from dripping back into your ice cream base. Place in refrigerator and chill overnight.

Meanwhile, prepare the plumped cherries.
Make a simple syrup by bringing to a boil in a small saucepan:
1/3 cup water
1/3 cup sugar

Remove from heat and add:
2/3 cup dried, pitted, tart Montmorency cherries
Let cool to room temperature. Refrigerate covered overnight.

Next day, drain cherries well. (You can use the cherry-flavored syrup in a Cherry-Limeade drink.) Churn ice cream according to manufacturer's instructions. As you pack ice cream into container, layer with drained cherries. Press a piece of parchment paper directly onto the ice cream and seal with airtight lid.  Freeze until firm, about 4 hours.

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