Sunday, October 2, 2011

Ice Cream

I am an avid maker of ice cream.

It all started with a trip to Berthillon in Paris.  If you are planning a trip to Paris I would suggest going to the Ille St. Louis and grabbing a glace at Berthillon.  (Go to the original on the main street.  First stop at the small shop across the street, just wide enough for a Smart Car, and have some samples of Foie Gras and Rillette.  Then grab a glace.  I highly recommend the ginger praline, but you can't go wrong.)

If you are not planning a trip to Paris, you now have an excuse.

Needless to say, I became obsessed with ice cream, and having Turtle reach an age when that might be a nice little treat, I wanted to make something he could eat, something pure, something with few ingredients that people have been making forever.  The kind of ice cream my parents would make in the backyard in Salt Lake City, Utah when I was a kid, pouring the rock salt into the machine, working the hand crank.

I have been working from David Lebovitz book, The Perfect Scoop.  His recipes are straightforward and easy.  It's ice cream the way it's always been made:  Philadelphia style with milk, cream, sugar and your flavoring, or the traditional French style with egg yolks added.  And the ice cream is wonderful.  His salted caramel is brilliant and I'm a huge fan of his Black Mission Fig Ice Cream.

I also own a copy of Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at Home by Jeni Britton Bauer.  She may have the most brilliant and intriguing recipes I've ever seen.   We're anxious to try her Grape Hibiscus Frozen Yogurt, her Chamomile Chardonnay Ice Cream, Scarlet & Earl Grey Ice Cream, Kona Stout Ice Cream, Roasted Pumpkin 5-Spice Ice Cream, Young Gouda Ice Cream with Vodka-Plumped Cranberries, and a Bangkok Peanut Ice Cream that has the spicy notes of a good Pad Thai.

These flavors keep me up at night, mouth watering as I dream about their ice cold goodness.

The ingredients of her ice cream base keep me up at night, as well, but for an entirely different reason. Instead of making a custard with egg yolks, she uses cream cheese, cornstarch and corn syrup.

When I pick up a carton of ice cream, I rarely see a list of four or five ingredients.  It's typically a list of things I wouldn't chose to put into my body, let alone my child's body.   And by the time Turtle is ready for more than a taste of Dad's ice cream, I hope to have the skills to whip up a batch with ease.

It's the list of garbage on the back of ice cream cartons that led me to want to find a simpler, purer way of making ice cream.  Great ingredients, local organic milk, raw sugar, free range eggs...  Cornstarch and corn syrup are not on that list.

Now I should add here that Jeni uses milk and cream from local, small dairies, she finds the best ingredients, sourcing vanilla from Uganda and highlighting local, independent farmers and small purveyors of the most incredible chocolates.  She is sort of everything I aspire to be as a person who cooks and everything in a person whose business you want to support.  I kind of love her and want to go to Ohio just to visit her and spend a day in her kitchen...  I just have a personal dislike for corn syrup, cornstarch in my ice cream.  

This weekend I decided to try one of Jeni's recipes, just to see what the difference was in the respective ice cream bases.  We made a chocolate sauce with coffee, cocoa and chocolate.  Simple enough.  We then added cream cheese, which turned it into a thick chocolatey paste.  We made a cornstarch slurry, then we made the base of milk, cream, sugar and corn syrup.  It looked similar to the base of David Lebovitz simple ice cream base.  I added the cornstarch to thicken it.

I tasted it and it was definitely different.  It had a definite vanilla taste, although no vanilla had been added.  It also tasted like toasted marshmallows and caramel.  Again.  None of these ingredients had been added... only two tablespoons of corn syrup.

We added this to the chocolate cream cheese mix and chilled it.

This process took me nearly three times as long as just mixing milk, cream, sugar and the flavoring for the ice cream. It wasn't hugely labor intensive, just a lot of steps.

This morning we put it into our ice cream maker and the flavor was terrific, a wonderful blend of chocolate and coffee. It did seem to freeze and expand faster than the other bases, but in the end, it still had the same texture and consistency.  We froze it and there wasn't a noticeable difference in texture.

The taste blew my mind.

And now...  The decision comes down to what I want to feed my family.  I got into this ice cream game the same way I make most food decisions, I eat something pure, wholesome and fantastic, become obsessed about it, find out how to make it and work to perfect it.

Corn syrup, cornstarch and cream cheese were not on the list of preferred ingredients for my ice cream.  I'm going to stick to a basic base of milk, cream, and sugar.  I will steal her recipe ideas, however...  She's a flavor genius and while I prefer the Lebovitz base, she's got amazing flavors.  I guess my ice cream will be a hybrid, the best of both.

And I will eventually make a Bangkok Peanut Ice Cream that Turtle can eat.


  1. There's a Jeni's here in Nashville. I'm not much of an ice cream eater, but being all sorts of pregnant, I'd had a dream about a sundae, and it was itching at my mind. We were clueless about Jeni's and just happened to be driving by and decided to stop in. It was thoroughly overwhelming . . . so many exotic flavors! The sundae was a work of art, awesome. But almost too decadent. I imagine we'll go back, just not anytime soon. It's a twice a year kind of indulgence.

  2. Her flavors look absolutely amazing. Eat some for me.