This is the story of how I made a lot of ice cream by mistake, no really.
Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home is a pretty interesting contrast to my current ice cream bible, the David Lebovitz book. They’re both really good ice cream books. The latter is a slow foodie’s dream: all natural ingredients, slow preparation, real egg custard bases, and so on. The former is not molecular gastronomy or anything, but it’s definitely on the cooking as science side of the fence.
I did my first recipe from the Jeni’s book tonight; just a plain vanilla ice cream. The generic base uses cream cheese to get the richness that normally comes from egg yolks. It also incorporates cornstarch, which works to provide better texture by impeding crystal formation. And I guess the corn syrup helps with texture as well? So in general, more processed ingredients for the sake of better texture.
It came out pretty well. The flavor was right on target. The texture was awesome, and I assume it’ll freeze up nicely. On the whole I sort of prefer the traditional custard method cause I was indoctrinated in the ways of earthy-crunchy granola from a very early age, but I like this stuff too.
I took David Lebovitz’s custard-based chocolate ice cream and cut the cream down by half a cup to 1.5 cups and the chocolate down to 4 ounces from 5 ounces. The first change was in the interests of making sure we have room for raspberry swirl in the ice cream container, and the second was because it seemed like a waste to open an extra bar of semisweet Ghiardelli’s chocoate to get one extra ounce. The mix is sitting in the fridge right now, and by pre-frozen taste test it’ll work out just fine.
He likes to conserve saucepans, so I made the custard in the same saucepan I used for the initial chocolate plus heavy cream blending. This resulted in a somewhat odd-looking brown egg custard. This was definitely my second good custard in a row, although I’ve gotta be careful if I use the hot burner. I should swap back to the cooler burner next time even if it’s a pain to get it lit.
Oh, the raspberry part is just raspberries fork-crushed with sugar and a bit of vodka to prevent too much freezing. You layer it into the quart container with the ice cream after you’ve made the ice cream. So good. We did the vanilla raspberry swirl last time and it was amazing. This is a test run for some future visitors who requested this flavor.
So this is your basic chocolate ice cream recipe, Philadelphia-style (no eggs), but you also add a bit of brandy and some cinnamon and a bunch of chile powder. The recipe calls for either ancho or chipotle chile powder; we went for ancho. My initial reaction on tasting the mix was that it was a bit wussy, but I’m more hardcore about heat than is reasonable. It is super-rich and chocolatey, so all’s well! And when I have a chance to make this with Chris T., we’ll fiddle around with a hotter batch. You could do this with a small amount of naga jolokia and get something really interesting.
If you look, the Internet will tell you that it’s OK to use Eggbeaters in ice cream recipes. As is so often the case, the Internet lies. I had been using Eggbeaters but I swapped to real eggs for David Lebovitz’ oatmeal raisin ice cream, without the raisins, which is more or less like this recipe. Add some oatmeal praline, put some cinnamon and brown sugar in the heavy cream, and drop the whole vanilla bean step and there you go. The custard was definitely trickier with real eggs; there was a bit of scramble in it but that’s why you strain it and all and all it was fine. And the resulting ice cream is awesome, or at least I assume it will be once it freezes up. Cause it’s pretty good right out of the ice cream maker. Putting real eggs in makes a huge difference. You can mock me now if you like.
Note for next time: even if the ice cream maker looks like it’s going to seize up around 15 minutes in, let it keep going — that’s what gets all the air in. It’ll be okay.
This is oatmeal praline, which is pretty easy to make if you pay close attention to the sugar. Came out way better than the roasted bananas. Tangentially, the problem there was that I tossed the bananas with the brown sugar in the pan, which left a lot of stray brown sugar in the pan, which was bad. I should have tossed the bananas and the sugar elsewhere. Water under the bridge. Anyhow, the oatmeal praline is going to wind up in some nice vanilla ice cream tomorrow, which will be made with real egg yolks, so we’ll see how that all works out.
I got two books on making ice cream. I’m very pleased with one; I am not so pleased with the other.
Perfect Scoop is really good. David Lebovitz was a pastry chef at Chez Panisse and he cares a lot about good ice cream; his cookbook gives a nice solid grounding in ice cream theory and then rolls into a ton of recipes. There are also sections on granitas, toppings, and things to serve ice cream in. It’s a very foodie cookbook but it’s also very practical — there are not a lot of super-weird ingredients and he’s not snotty about using just the right thing.
His blog has a lot of recipes, not limited to ice cream, but you can get a feel for his techniques and style with this one. Which sounds great, but I do like white chocolate. You may note that his recipes tend towards using less sugar than the average, which is a plus for me. Not that I don’t like sweet ice cream; however, a guide to less sweet ice creams is good.
Finally, it’s a really pretty book. Lots of nice ice cream photography. Ice cream isn’t the most interesting subject in the world (look, another scoop of frozen dairy in a glass bowl!). On the other hand it gives me a good idea of desired textures.
So that’s the good. Bad: Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Ice Cream & Dessert Book. The history of the company is kind of interesting but the recipes, OK. They mostly have eggs, and there is no cooking of the eggs. It’s an entire cookbook full of raw eggs. Grrr. This tells me there’s not much thought given to the recipes, and it also tells me they weren’t that concerned with really giving away how their commercial ice creams are made, because I’m also pretty sure we’d figured out salmonella by 1987. Don’t buy this one, it’s not worth it.
I got this recipe from the excellent The Perfect Scoop, about which more later, so I won’t reproduce the recipe verbatim. But you roast your bananas with brown sugar and butter and then you blend with milk and vanilla and more sugar and so on. No eggs involved.
There is an attractive picture of bananas prior to roasting to your right. The sugar didn’t caramelize as much as I think it’s supposed to; I have a pan with a bunch of almost burnt sugar in the bottom. I should have read up on how that works first, but the banana mix (which is currently churning into ice cream) doesn’t smell burnt or anything, so I don’t think I’ve ruined it. We have plans to put roasted salted peanuts on top of the ice cream when we eat it.
And post-churn, we have pretty good ice cream. It’s less sweet than the others I’ve done, which I suspected would be the case, since it just uses less sugar and the bananas alone won’t make up for that. This allows the caramel and the banana flavors to shine more. I dig it. It’s almost smoky with the brown sugar and all.
The chai ice cream turned out a little chalky in the end. I didn’t like the taste, and Susan didn’t so much like the texture. I think it’s a lesson in ingredients — I’d have been better off using a purer tea rather than tea bags. Also, next time I do a custard we’re going to use real eggs; I suspect the substitutes, which are mostly egg whites, are not thickening the ice cream the way yolks would.
I started with my previous recipe, and modified it to be in line with this one. I dropped the vanilla and changed the dairy products to one quart of half-and-half as per the second recipe — I’d wanted to thin out the fat content a bit, and getting rid of the whipping cream should take care of that. I also used just 3/4ths of a cup of sugar, and a smidge less than 2 eggs. I suppose I could have scaled the second recipe up but using 1 quart of half-and-half is awfully convenient. The ratio of sugar is a bit lower than before, which should allow the tea flavor to come out more.
I used vanilla chai tea bags instead of loose-leaf tea, so I randomly guessed at 5 teabags for the infusion step. Now that I’ve made the custard and tasted it I think I was too light on the tea, but I didn’t want to do a second infusion because the custard isn’t all that hot. Also I sort of wish I’d gone for a simpler black tea; the vanilla chai will taste really good but it will refer back to plain vanilla ice cream because, well, it’s still vanilla. This is a pretty postmodern flaw when you get right down to it. Maybe I’ll do another batch with Earl Grey and more tea bags. Alternatively, I could squeeze the tea out of the bags more. Or use loose-leaf, but I’m not sure I care that much.
The custard is now cooling on the counter since I’m not in a hurry. In an hour or so I’ll transfer it to the fridge, and I’ll pull out the ice cream maker tomorrow night. I believe this means I’ll have actual ice cream on Wednesday.
Edit: I got impatient and ran the ice cream maker this morning before work, to match the chilly ice storm outside. Looks promising.
I started with this:
2 eggs (used Eggbeaters to avoid raw egg problems)
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups whipping cream
2 cups half-and-half
1/2 cup 1% milk
2 1/4 teaspoons vanilla
The original recipe calls for 2 1/2 cups of whipping cream, but I wanted to make it a tad less rich and they sell whipping cream by the cup, so it was simplest to just put half a cup of milk in. I cooked everything but the vanilla over lowish-medium heat till it hit 160 degrees, then poured it into a bowl over ice to cool quickly. The custard texture wasn’t super-thick, but it coated a metal spoon nicely enough.
Because I am impatient, I’m trying to cool the custard in the freezer. I may regret this. I’m going to give it an hour, then if it’s cold enough, I’ll turn it into ice cream. If it’s not cold enough I’ll transfer it to the fridge to sit overnight.
Update: one hour in the freezer cooled it down nicely; it then spent 25 minutes in the ice cream maker and is now in the freezer. It looks pretty good, so I’m optimistic.
Update 2: after freezing, the texture and mouthfeel are perfect. This is a winning procedure for custard-style bases. I want to try the Cuisinart-supplied simple recipe next; I’m curious to see how it’ll change. Flavor-wise, it was a tad sweet and a little bit bright. Possibly a smidge more salt and a bit less sugar is called for? Or it might be that the Mexican vanilla we used is super-flavorful. Definitely tasty, though.