One of my earlier memories is when my dad first got his ice cream maker — a huge (it seemed to me) wooden thing that ice and salt went in the outer ring of while the electric motor churned ingredients into ice cream. I think it was a Father’s Day present, and I was younger than my daughter is now. (At least, I’m pretty sure he got it while we were in Tonopah. I’m sure Mom will tell me if I’m wrong.) He had that same ice cream maker for decades; it moved across the state with us. I think it may even have still been around when he died. Strange how I’m less certain of that.
But ice cream was something my dad made, not something I ever did. He made it seem mystical, as if the slightest wrong move would mean no ice cream would result.
When my husband and I got married, among our gifts, we received a Cuisinart ice cream maker — also electric, but much smaller, and with no ice and salt requirement. We also got an ice cream cookbook, Ice Cream! The Whole Scoop That summer, we must have made two or three different flavors a week, and we had one party where we invited friends over for pizza (grilled!) and homemade ice cream. There was nothing magical about ice cream after all. Sort of.
In fact, how much sugar and fat and add-ins you use definitely influences the final texture, as does the temperature at which you start freezing, and how much air gets incorporated in the churning process. But there’s a lot of leeway, and if you don’t get precisely what you were aiming for, the odds are that it’s still going to be imminently edible.
That initial cookbook gave me such reliable recipes as watermelon sorbet and taught me how to make a spoom (which mixes sorbet with meringue). I’ve learned that if I want to add solids to the ice cream, I need no more than one heaping cup, and the add-ins should be kept in the freezer until I add them at the last minute or so of blending with the ice cream maker. I’m not wild about what too much gelatin can do to the texture, although it can help stabilize ice cream, and it’s best to chill the mix overnight before freezing it.
Two of my current favorite recipes I actually found online: Nutella Gelato and Vanilla Cheesecake. If you click those links, you’ll see that the second is actually Jeni’s ice cream base — but, as it requires mixing in cream cheese, I feel justified in calling it cheesecake. (I use 4 oz. of cream cheese rather than the 3 that the recipe specifies. Also, I add vanilla, which the recipe doesn’t call for.)
This past week, I made the Vanilla Cheesecake ice cream and mixed in crushed Oreos (Double Stuf, of course!). The aim was to make a cookies-and-cream ice cream. What I actually got was closer to one of those cheesecakes with the Oreo cookie crust — still delicious. To skip the cheesecake, I’d have to go back to one of the more traditional vanilla or French vanilla recipes in the cookbook. I may try that later this summer.
Maybe I’ll even experiment and see if I can make butter brickle or pecan praline ice cream. It shouldn’t be too hard — the pralines will sugar quite a bit in the humidity here, but that’s just fine. Turtle ice cream would be harder.
And hardest is this crazy idea I have for salt water taffy ice cream. I can’t just put pieces of taffy in the ice cream because they’ll get hard, and that’s not what I’m after. I have to make the ice cream taste like taffy. I’ll pick up some glycerin to play with the texture a bit, and we’ll see what I can come up with.
Recipe I probably shan’t try because I’m the only one in the house who would eat it: Banana Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk Ice Cream. My husband doesn’t do peanut butter, and my kids don’t do bananas. Oh, well. I’m sure my hips appreciate there being one recipe I won’t try.
Your turn! Have you made homemade ice cream? Whether you have or not, what’s your favorite flavor? What would you like to try but haven’t yet?