Monday, June 8, 2009

Ice Cream Makes Me Want To Scream!

I never quite understood the appeal of making homemade ice cream. Why would you when there are so many great varieties available at the market? But my Mom did when she was a young girl and she’d tell fond stories of her and her four sisters lugging out the rock salt, taking turns cranking the ice cream machine until their arms felt like they would fall off and - wait for it - how it was an all day endeavor! Poor things. Can you imagine? I would just sit there staring blankly, feeling sorry for her while I devoured my bowl of Chocolate Malted Crunch from Thrifty’s. The prospect of making ice cream didn’t appeal to me at all and I secretly wondered why she’d never thought of calling the authorities because surely this had been a form of child abuse! I had no idea my Grandma had been such a proponent of childhood slavery. “Oh, It was fun!” my Mom would say, but my eight-year-old self wasn’t buying it, nor did I believe that it tasted “even better” as she claimed because they’d spent the whole day making it together and anticipating it for that night’s dessert. Snide even at age 8, I’d roll my eyes and say something like, “God Mom, the olden days must have been hard. Were you raised on the prairie? Did you have to milk cows too?” Ah yes, the snarkiness of youth, all the while thinking I knew all the things I was still too naïve to know I didn’t know.

As I got older and (I thought) my tastes more discerning, I eventually turned my back on the pedestrian likes of the Thrifty’s brand ice cream of my youth when I discovered Haagen-Daz and Ben & Jerry's. I was now, or so I thought, a bona fide gourmet ice cream snob. Even still, the mere thought of making homemade ice cream with all its work seemed much too involved and absurd to me. What was next? Water from scratch? I mean, you can just buy that in a bottle too!

Fast forward many years later: one day a friend presented me with a cookbook full of esoteric and worldly recipes. As I came upon an entire chapter devoted to ice cream I patronizingly skimmed passed with no intention of stopping until one recipe in particular caught my eye. Rose Petal Pistachio Ice Cream! I was immediately intrigued. I’d never heard of such a thing, but as I read about the dense custard base gently perfumed with rosewater and rose petal jam and studded throughout with emerald-like chunks of green pistachios, I knew I could not rest until I’d tried the glorious ice cream described and photographed so beautifully in this book.

An hour later, sitting in traffic, I had a beautiful stainless steel Cuisinart ice cream maker strapped in the passenger’s seat of my car as I drove to the Middle Eastern market for exotic ingredients. That happened to be a Friday afternoon and by Monday I had made 7 different varieties of ice cream! So much in fact, that I had to call friends over for a tasting party. To say I was hooked would be an understatement. To say I was obsessed would probably lie closer to the truth. I couldn’t believe how easy and fun it was to make your own ice cream, not to mention delicious! Gone, of course, were the needs for rock salt and all that churning by hand of my Mom’s childhood. I still shudder at the thought! All I had to do was whip up a custard base, flavor it with whatever struck my fancy and pour it into the machine. Thirty minutes later I had the richest, dreamiest, densest, most luxurious frozen velvet I had ever had the pleasure of eating. It made me want to scream! (In a really good way!) I devoured it greedily and kicked myself for not jumping on the homemade ice cream train years earlier. I realized in that moment that I’d never really had truly great ice cream. It makes me wonder what other things I don’t know that I’m still too naïve to know I don’t know. Perhaps I’ll look into that water from scratch thing after all.

Cheesecake Ice Cream with Blueberry Syrup

This recipe comes originally from Nigella Lawson. I’ve tinkered with it a bit by adding lemon zest to both the ice cream and the sauce as I think it gives an extra brightness and edge to both.

Makes about 1 quart

3/4 cup whole milk
3/4 cup sugar
4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 large egg, room temperature
1½ cups heavy cream, lightly whipped
Juice of half a lemon
½ teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest

2 cups fresh or thawed frozen blueberries
1½ cups sugar
2/3 cup water
½ teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Heat the milk in a pan, and while it’s getting warm, beat together the sugar, cream cheese, vanilla and egg in the bowl of a freestanding mixer with a paddle attachment until smooth. When the milk comes to just below the boil, whisk the cream cheese mixture while slowly drizzling the milk in a thin and continuous stream so the egg is gradually warmed up. Return everything to the saucepan and cook while stirring with a wooden spoon. Make sure that you are constantly scraping the spoon across the bottom of the pan so the custard does not scorch. The custard is done when it has thickened slightly and can evenly coat the back of the spoon and when you run your finger along the back of the spoon and it holds the “line.” Do not let the mixture come to a boil, or it may curdle.

Strain the custard into a metal bowl through a fine sieve to remove any bits of egg. Nestle the bowl of custard into a large bowl of ice water to cool more quickly. I do this because I’m incredibly impatient, but you could just put the whole thing in the fridge to cool. Add the lemon zest and juice and whisk in the slightly beaten cream, stirring occasionally until mixture is cold, about 20 minutes.

Transfer the custard to an ice cream machine and freeze according to the manufacturer's instructions. Put the finished ice cream in a storage container and freeze until firm.

To make the blueberry syrup, combine all the ingredients in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer until thickened to desired consistency. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature before serving. (If thinner syrup is desired, strain through a fine mesh strainer while still hot.

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  1. I have the same little machine:)
    I LOVE your photographs..I must admit the Rose Petal Pistachio has got me very curious too.
    The cream cheese in the latter must be decadent!
    I think it's fun to serve fresh ice cream..Feels like summer and home.

  2. Once me and my colleague had a chance to have Swiss premium ice creams, two scoops of Movenpick ice creams of our choice. They were simply soothing. This is something one can’t afford to miss. You scream, I scream for Ice Cream!!

  3. The ice-cream toppings we choose, it always seemed like the vanilla-flavored ice-cream was the best base. No the surprise there as vanilla is a blank slate upon which of the many flavors can be placed on and still taste of the both vanilla and whatever topping was used.

    ice cream maker