Ilili's chewy ice cream

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Ilili owner Philippe Massoud stretches chewy ice cream.

Ilili owner Philippe Massoud stretches chewy ice cream. Photograph: Roxana Marroquin

Imagine your ice cream isn’t creamy and dense, but stretchy like taffy, or melting while still seemingly solid. It would be tempting to chalk it up to the work of some zany chef tooling around with chemicals and turning food logic on its head. But that’s not the case at ilili (236 Fifth Ave between 27th and 28th Sts, 212-683-2929), where chef Philippe Massoud makes chewy ice cream ($9 for three scoops) that boggles the mind, using age-old techniques. In order to achieve the springy texture of his confection, which comes in pistachio and ashta (milk) flavors, he follows a traditional Lebanese recipe—albeit one aided greatly by modern machinery. Massoud works in small batches, making an eggless base of milk, sugar, flavorings and a solution of salep, the powdered tuber of an orchid native to Turkey that acts as a thickener and gives the dessert its gummy consistency. After the mixture passes through an ice cream machine and Massoud kneads it in a bread mixer, it’s transformed into a thick and pliant mass that you can stretch with your hands. In the mouth, it’s like an ice cream marshmallow, cold and spongy, slowly dissolving while remaining chewable. Though he just introduced the dessert last summer, Massoud, somewhat of an ice cream freak, is excitedly whipping up new flavors—halawe (pistachio halvah) and chocolate will be available later this month—and he’s planning an expansion into to-go cartons. Now that’s something we can sink our teeth into.

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