Tag Archives: ice cream

Sep
3
2012
Ice Cream Social

I ended up taking a little more time off from blogging than I’d anticipated at the time of this post. But I managed to make 33 pints of ice cream for my Ice Cream Social, have 20 people over to eat ice cream in a social manner, and live to tell the tale (four weeks after the fact).

I didn’t take a single picture during the actual party, so on the point of knowing 20 people willing to come to my house, you will just have to take my word for it.

I like to call myself a “recovering perfectionist,” but this party proved the falsehood of that term as a description of me.

During the planning, I found this ice cream social party planner on Epicurious. They suggested making 3/4 of a pint for each guest, and having “a few extras” to avoid running short. That suggested making about 20 pints for my party. Being certifiably insane, I decided to make more. Being as anal-retentive as the day is long, I also created an online poll of my guests to help me calculate the appropriate amount overall as well as by flavor. I was prepared, y’all.

Check out our brand new second freezer in the basement, stocked with 33 pints of delicious homemade ice cream:

If I don’t keep up the ice cream hobby, this will be one of the silliest purchases ever.

What was the menu, you ask?

I also made: hot fudge, salted butter caramel sauce, raspberry coulis, and served extra marshmallow sauce, strawberry sauce, pretzel crust, crushed chocolate cookie, and chocolate chips.

What did the ice cream look like, you ask?

Atlantean Vanilla Bean

As someone thinking about starting a business, I’m getting increasingly frustrated with the pretentiousness permeating food service today. Even with something as simple as  ice cream, it seems you have to be able to use words like “gourmet” and “artisan” and “organic” to get consumers interested in buying it. It used to be that “Madagascar bourbon” vanilla was exotic enough. But not anymore. One of the books I’ve used for inspiration while developing my recipes uses vanilla beans from Uganda. Why? My guess: because they were super hard to import, and sound very exotic, and justify charging more. Since I don’t want to be outdone, I’m just asserting that my vanilla beans come from the lost city of Atlantis.

Spicy Chocolate

Almost everyone I’ve shared this flavor with (OK, everyone except Dave) loves it. It is lovable. It’s creamy and rich, but refreshing at the same time, with just a hint of heat from cayenne. And a good hit of cinnamon too (100% certified organic from Mars).

Toll House

I got the idea for and name of this ice cream from my favorite ice cream shop, Gannon’s Isle in Syracuse, NY. The idea behind it is that the ice cream itself tastes like chocolate chip cookie dough (rather than having chunks of cookie dough in it). I’ve been working on perfecting this flavor for months (see an earlier version here). I’m 90% pleased with this version. There is disagreement among those who have tasted it on whether it should contain walnuts (the version pictured does). Any thoughts, dear readers?

Peanut Butter Chocolate Cookie Crunch

My favorite Dairy Queen Blizzard flavor is Peanut Butter Crunch. It’s vanilla soft serve mixed with peanut butter topping and the crushed chocolate cookies DQ puts in the middle of their ice cream cakes. There’s only one DQ in my area that still makes this flavor because most locations now use a pre-packaged solid disk of cookie in their cakes. I wanted to make ice cream that tastes like the Peanut Butter Crunch Blizzard. The flavor of this ice cream is right, but the texture needs tweaking. The extra protein of the peanut butter makes the ice cream too thick, with a “foamy” melt.

Lemon Meringue Pie

I worked on a perfect lemon custard for weeks this spring. It took several tries, but I finally did it. It’s creamy, not too tart, not too sweet, and thoroughly lemon-flavored. I add some homemade marshmallow sauce (it turns out more like Fluff, so I don’t think anyone believes I make it myself) and crushed homemade spice cookie and call it lemon meringue pie.

Strawberry Pretzel Salad

You all remember Strawberry Pretzel Salad, no? I worked for weeks on strawberry ice cream without much success. A tweaked version of the recipe from Cook’s Illustrated came out OK, but the strawberry pieces still froze. Yuck. My compromise is to thicken strawberry puree with sugar and swirl it into cream cheese ice cream with a crushed pretzel crust (baked with sugar and butter).

Peach Lambic Sorbet

I ran out of time to develop sorbet recipes. So I just made peach lambic sorbet from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home (Jeni of the Ugandan vanilla) and called it a menu. I’m not a big sorbet fan, but I wanted at least one non-dairy option. This was really tasty, very intensely peach-flavored, and the alcohol wasn’t overpowering.

Since I had 3,000 tasting spoons, I made a little game out of some of them.

Take a guess!

Per Jill‘s suggestion, I also made cards for people to make tasting notes and received really nice compliments and helpful constructive feedback, and no one complained about the lack of exotic-ness of my vanilla beans.

So how much ice cream did 22 people eat? Remember, Epicurious said 3/4 of a pint per person…

When the dust settled, people had only eaten about seven pints. Have you ever laughed at the serving size listed on a pint of Ben and Jerry’s? Well, that’s basically all people ate. I was flabbergasted. Obesity epidemic, my ass!

I would have easily eaten 3/4 of a pint or more had I been an attendee at a party like this. I think I’m learning why I’m overweight.

People are pretty health conscious around here. Frozen yogurt places are all the rage (yuck). If I really want to sell ice cream, I probably need to move somewhere with more fat people. Suggestions?

How much ice cream would you have eaten? How many spoons were in the container? Do you think you would be able to tell the difference between a grocery store vanilla bean and one imported straight from the producers in Uganda? Where do all the ice cream lovers live?

Jun
1
2012
Merry Berry Month of May

I’ve never been a big fan of strawberry ice cream, especially when it includes pieces of strawberry. They freeze and provide a grating, icy mouth feel to something that’s supposed to be smooth and creamy.

My Ice Cream 101 professor mentioned the difficulty of adding fruit to ice cream due to its high water content, and my mind started racing about ways to tackle the problem. Ever since the class, I waited for strawberry season. For the past two weeks, I’ve been up to my eyeballs in strawberries. After washing, hulling, and eating many quarts of strawberries, I’m over strawberry season.

The recipe I used as a starting point (Jeni’s Splendid Roasted Strawberry and Buttermilk Ice Cream) used only one half-cup of roasted strawberry puree per quart of finished ice cream. Two weeks ago, I made that recipe as well as two variations. Why did I make the variations? Because I like to make things difficult and I want to create something of my own. Irritatingly, we liked Jeni’s recipe the best of the three. But none of them (all made with just a half-cup of strawberry puree) bowled us over with strawberry flavor.

In case you didn’t believe I made three versions of strawberry ice cream in one weekend.

I’m a bit on the lazy (logy!) side. So given all the work involved in this endeavor (hauling our asses to a farm in Maryland to get the strawberries, then washing, hulling, slicing, roasting, and pureeing them), I wanted more berry flavor. I’m demanding like that. The ice cream sort of tasted like a strawberry yogurt popsicle. 

Not being such a huge strawberry ice cream fan to begin with, I decided to try making one of my favorite strawberry desserts into an ice cream flavor. Enter strawberry pretzel salad ice cream:

Strawberry Pretzel Salad Ice Cream

I took some of the leftover roasted strawberry puree and boiled it with more sugar until it became syrupy and thick (so it wouldn’t freeze). Then I swirled the strawberry sauce into cream cheese ice cream. I baked up a small amount of sweetened crushed pretzel crust and threw that in as well.

I loved it. It tasted almost exactly like strawberry pretzel salad and the strawberry swirl had much more berry flavor than any of the dedicated strawberry ice creams. The pretzels started getting soggy after a couple of days though. And Dave didn’t like it, totally bursting my “I’m a brilliant ice cream flavor creator” bubble.

Over Memorial Day, I tested another variation of strawberry ice cream, doubling the amount of strawberry puree. We liked it marginally better than the original three versions. Economically speaking, I’m not sure the flavor boost was worth adding an extra half-cup of puree. The dairy just seems to dilute the flavor either way.

Gold star for anyone who correctly guesses which of these contains double the amount of strawberry.

I don’t know if I have a future in the ice cream business, or food service more generally. It seems that “artisan” and fresh, local ingredients are all the rage. That’s all well and good, and I would want to make homemade ice cream with high-quality ingredients if I opened a store, but some of the effort (and more importantly, expense) seems silly. Maybe I’m just disgruntled from all that washing and hulling and slicing and roasting, but I find it really hard to believe that most people would notice a difference between fresh farm strawberries and store-bought frozen strawberries after adding sugar, pureeing the crap out of them, and then diluting the puree with more than 3 cups of dairy. I see a test of this in my future, but not anytime soon, because I’m sick with this.

After all of this, we simply hadn’t eaten enough strawberry dessert. So I did what anyone who had already made five batches of ice cream in two weeks would do…I made another dessert. A testament to the lack of excitement in my life, this extra dessert-making was due in large part because I wanted to take a picture of a piece of actual strawberry pretzel salad next to my ice cream version.

Variations on a theme of strawberry pretzel salad.

Since strawberry season is almost over here, I also made extra strawberry puree to freeze so that I have it on hand to make strawberry ice cream for my summer ice cream social. I didn’t make quite as much puree as I’d hoped since I overfilled the food processor, causing puree to ooze out everywhere, but that’s a bitch-fest for another day.

NOTE: Photo of the puree made with my blood, sweat, and tears from $5.49/quart strawberries running all over my kitchen counter and down my kitchen sink drain is not available.

Please to enjoy one of my favorite commercial ear worms ever, from my hometown joint Eat’n Park. I make better strawberry pie, by the way.

Apr
11
2012
Marshmallow Peep Ice Cream

I’ve always liked Marshmallow Peeps. I’m a sugar junkie, so what’s not to like? I’m partial to the bunnies because I like biting their ears off.

The Washington Post’s Peeps diorama contest is now one of my favorite parts of Easter. While I’d love to create a diorama made of Peeps, I’m not that crafty. Plus, I’d rather just eat them. So, I created my own edible art this year. I am the artist…and ice cream is my canvas.

In honor of Easter, I made Marshmallow Peep ice cream, my first real attempt at ice cream recipe development. It turned out pretty well. The texture of the ice cream is nice and smooth and the chunks of Peeps added at the end provide a little more visual interest and extra marshmallow flavor. Yes, Peeps were hurt in the making of this ice cream.

I'm a sick bastard.

I was a little underwhelmed by the marshmallow flavor, sort of reminiscent of marshmallow, but maybe a sweeter version of vanilla if you didn’t know the flavor before eating. It’s tasting more like marshmallow as the extra Peeps start to melt into the ice cream. I’d like to experiment with adding more marshmallow and maybe toasting it to enhance the flavor.

Marshmallow Peep Ice Cream

NOTE: I do everything by weight, so “ounces” refer to weight measurement, not volume (fluid ounces)

Makes about 1 quart

Ingredients:

10 ounces heavy cream

11 ounces whole milk (meant to do 10 but forgot I needed to use milk to make a cornstarch slurry,  11 oz. worked fine)

6 ounces evaporated milk

1.5 ounces sugar

6 ounces Peeps

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

chopped Peeps to mix in (I chopped one “row” each: yellow bunnies, green chicks, and orange chicks, which yielded more than enough)

  1. Combine 1 ounce of the milk with the cornstarch until blended and set aside.
  2. Heat heavy cream, the remaining milk, evaporated milk, and the sugar over medium heat in a heavy saucepan until it starts to gently boil. Gently boil for about 4 minutes.
  3. Turn off the heat and mix in the Peeps until they melt (laugh maniacally).
  4. Slowly whisk in the cornstarch mixture.
  5. Return the mixture to a boil over medium heat, boil for 1 minute while stirring.
  6. Strain the mixture into a gallon size freezer bag, seal, and submerge into an ice bath until about 40 degrees (about 30 minutes).
  7. Add vanilla to the ice cream mix, then freeze in an ice cream maker.
  8. Forget to chop extra Peeps until five minutes before ice cream is done freezing. Hack at Peeps in a blind fury.
  9. Mix chopped Peeps into the ice cream (doing this in a pre-chilled bowl helps keep the freshly made ice cream from getting too melty) and then pack into a freezer container and freeze for several hours.

FYI: While it might be tempting to use regular marshmallows for the mix instead of Peeps, don’t do this. Store-bought marshmallows contain a shitload (technical term) of cornstarch. While a little cornstarch in ice cream is good (it reduces iciness), the amount of cornstarch in a 10 oz bag of marshmallows produces a glue-like mix and a congealed, rubbery mass of frozen “ice cream.” Not that I would know that first hand or anything. Let’s just say I have discovered the perfect “prop” ice cream – useful for photography and TV and film. It looks like ice cream, but doesn’t melt — ever. If you don’t want to use Peeps, you could always make homemade marshmallows to avoid the cornstarch problem, or try Marshmallow Fluff.

Mar
16
2012
Photo Friday: Vanilla Ice Cream

You know what? I really don’t have time to blog. This is annoying, because I enjoy blogging so much more than many other activities (for example, work). 

I’ve been obsessed with the ice cream thing.

I made five versions of vanilla ice cream last weekend in the continuing quest for my perfect ice cream mix. This test was about eliminating egg yolks without sacrificing texture. The recipes I had been using all called for four to six egg yolks per quart. First of all, that’s a lot of eggs. Secondly, that shit is called custard (custard mix must be at least 1.4 percent egg yolk solids by weight, and that’s only about one egg yolk per quart of mix if my figures are right). I have nothing against frozen custard, but I’m anal and want to make ice cream. When I was testing my more strongly flavored brown sugar ice cream, the custard vs. ice cream thing seemed more a matter of semantics and texture, but plain vanilla custard with six egg yolks tastes like eggs, y’all.

So while I can see making a custard for some flavors (I’d like to make a nice creamy lemon custard, sort of like frozen lemon curd), I really want to develop most of my flavors using no egg yolks.

Here are the five vanillas I made this week. I’m irritated that this is the best shot because the bowl blocks the little tag I made to label ice cream #3 (hello, perfectionism!).

#1: custard mix made with 6 egg yolks

#2: same mix, no egg yolks

#3: same mix, no egg yolks, 1/8 teaspoon xanthan gum (the xanthan gum is a stabilizer that commercial ice cream makers use to combat iciness and improve shelf life. I hoped it would serve the same purpose as egg yolks, without the egg flavor and the wasted egg whites. I couldn’t get the powder to blend and ended up having to strain most of it out. But it still gave the ice cream a weird gummy texture and a slightly off flavor. I think I’m done with the xanthan gum).

#4: same mix as #2, made with organic heavy cream (it took me several weeks of ice cream testing before I realized the regular heavy cream I’d been using actually contained a stabilizer (carrageenan) already and I wanted to test whether that mattered. It didn’t seem to.) This one also replaced a tiny bit of the sugar with 1 tablespoon corn syrup (which I learned at Ice Cream 101 can help reduce iciness and improve shelf life). I actually haven’t found any of the ice creams to have an icy texture as of three days out. Also, I felt I could taste the corn syrup (in a bad way).

#5: same mix as #2, made with organic heavy cream, all regular sugar

These were all passable (except #3) but I wasn’t super thrilled, so it’s back to the drawing board this weekend. I’m already getting a little sick of vanilla.

Feb
24
2012
Photo Friday: A Complex Food Colloid

From Ice Cream Sixth Edition by Robert T. Marshall, H. Douglas Goff, and Richard W. Hartel:

“Ice cream is a complex food colloid embodied in a product the consumer associates with pure enjoyment. It is paradoxical that what can seem so simple is indeed so complex.”

And that about sums up Ice Cream 101, y’all. In a word…overwhelming. Leave it to me to select a food to sell that is defined in the Code of Federal Regulations. I was trying to get away from working for the man.

If I wait any longer to write about Ice Cream 101, I won’t, so here are my thoughts: 

  • “Ice cream” has a standard of identity defined by the federal government (so recipe development is not as simple as you might think, unless you are willing to sell something you have to call “frozen dairy product.”).
  • The mix must be pasteurized (even if your dairy ingredients are pasteurized). Before the professor hammered this point home, he said, “now is when I shatter your dreams.” We were told 98% of ice cream shop owners purchase their mix and most of us sighed dejectedly.

Who knew ice cream could be such a pain in the ass?

This was hour one of a two-day course. Quite frankly, I tuned out a little the rest of that morning. I want to MAKE ice cream, not flavor and freeze somebody else’s mix.

  • During the tasting lab, I ended up being quite attracted to the version of vanilla made with artificial sweetener instead of sugar. Oops. My taste buds must have been exhausted by then…
  • A presentation on the business side of opening an ice cream shop likened the process to having a baby. Unfortunately, conception is the only part of pregnancy that sounds like any fun, and I worry the ice cream business might feel the same. The part of his talk that stuck with me most was the following off the cuff remark:  “if I could get rid of all my staff and I could get rid of all my customers I would have the best business in the world. Just go down and make ice cream.” Uh-oh.

On the afternoon of day two, several batch freezer (basically a huge expensive ice cream maker) representatives hawked their wares. They demonstrated their machines and let us taste the ice cream. The moment I saw fresh ice cream extruding from the first machine, I was back on board. I wanted to remove the bucket from under the spout and replace it with my open mouth.

  • I’m a very risk-averse person. I learned there is a lot I didn’t know about making ice cream. And I know even less about starting and running a business.

In the short term, I plan to make a lot of ice cream. We’ll see if it’s as much fun as I thought and whether my friends and family think it’s any good. My lovely husband ordered me a snazzy new ice cream maker for Valentine’s Day. Last weekend, I made my first batch of my signature flavor idea, basically ice cream that is supposed to taste like chocolate chip cookie dough (I threw in actual cookie dough for good measure). I couldn’t decide if I should share the full view or close-up, so you get both.

Feb
3
2012
Photo Friday: From Cow to Cone

Thanks to everyone who commented on my last post and shared tips. Ice Cream 101 at Penn State was great, but overwhelming. The “it’s 5am and I’m still awake and my alarm is set for 6:05″ insomnia Friday night into Saturday morning didn’t help. I haven’t had a chance to catch up on sleep so I’m still exhausted. In brief, I learned a lot and the class didn’t fully talk me out of this ice cream business idea. I plan to write about what I learned, but only after I’m no longer hallucinating from exhaustion.

In the meantime, here are two photos from the weekend. It was hard to get decent shots with only our small point and shoot and its max ISO of 400.

We got a behind the scenes tour of Penn State’s Creamery. There were pipes running everywhere, all carefully labelled as to their contents (raw versus pasteurized milk, etc…).

I didn’t get any good shots of ice cream being extruded during the batch freezer demonstrations, but here’s a shot I like of ice cream being mixed and frozen in a cool European machine. It seemed like more of a novelty machine than a workhorse. The only way to get the ice cream out of the tub is with this huge paddle-like thing. The company representative demonstrated how you can make the ice cream in front of your customers and then basically shove the paddle full of ice cream in their face offer up the paddle full of fresh ice cream for them to sample. Kind of reminded me of fudge demonstrations at Niagara Falls.

Jan
26
2012
The Second Greatest Gift of All

From The Muppets:
“Walter:  You give people the greatest gift of all.
Kermit:  Children?
Walter:  No.
Kermit:  Ice Cream?
Walter:  No. Laughter. Laughter is the third greatest gift of all.”

I’m going to have to disagree with Kermit and promote ice cream to number one.

Mom ate a banana split daily while pregnant with me. I’ve been obsessed with ice cream since birth. Coincidence? (Probably!) My family visited our friendly neighborhood ice cream shops a lot when I was growing up. One time I had enjoyed my small vanilla cone with Crunch Coat so much that my Dad let me go in and get another one…good times!

My first job was pumping the cream at DQ (ooh, that sounds filthy!) when it was still called Dairy Queen. I also worked at Carvel and I still use a quart container I took from there as a pen holder on my desk at work, 18 years later.

I love ice cream is what I’m saying.

When Dave was still in Syracuse, I caught a glimpse of a certificate of completion for something called the “Ice Cream Short Course” at Penn State while waiting to order at our favorite ice cream shop. It planted a subliminal seed in my brain. In the 15 years since, I have looked into the course several times. But it’s serious: a seven-day course intended for people in the ice cream industry. I filed the course into my mental bucket list.

As you know if you’ve been visiting here awhile, I’ve been thinking about career fulfillment and I appreciate all the encouragement I received after posting about my job apathy last August. Since then I’ve been trying to listen harder for my elusive inner voice.

Last fall, while walking Chuck, I got this idea to throw an ice cream social. Then I thought, I should make all the ice cream for it myself. I brainstormed flavors, toppings, and accompaniments. Then I saw an ice cream shop in my mind…my ice cream shop.

I’ve been rolling this idea around in my head as if savoring a butter rum Life Saver ever since. When I allow myself to daydream about the fun stuff, waves of excitement pulse through me. I have some store names, a logo idea, and signature flavors to develop.

When I force myself to think about the less creative aspects of running a business or things I know nothing about, like developing a business plan and employing people, and things like having to work all the time, including nights and weekends, my brain shuts down. When I remember how close I might be to early retirement if I simply don’t rock the boat, and how my biggest complaint about my current job is how much of my time it eats up, a stomach-seizing anxiety sours the excitement.

I want more free time and I’m a raging introvert. Life as a small business owner in a service industry might be my craziest idea ever.

But I was getting ahead of myself. So I looked up the Ice Cream Short Course and found a newer, two-day “Ice Cream 101” that sounds more like my speed. Before I could talk myself out of it, I registered for the course, booked a hotel room and a flight. I’m going to Penn State this weekend to learn more about ice cream making and running a shop.

Wish me luck, as spending all of my precious weekend free time traveling and being around four dozen strangers (complete with “group luncheons” and a reception providing an “opportunity for networking,” shudder…) is a little out of my comfort zone. But I’m excited and I think this experience will be telling…will it leave me with any excitement for this idea?

At least I’ll come home having learned how to make better ice cream, no? And that’s at least the second greatest gift of all.

Actually, you can do one better than wishing me luck…do you have any tips for how I can not be completely drained by this weekend? Any networking tips for a serious introvert? Since “ice cream lovers, entrepreneurs, and small-business owners” were all “welcome and encouraged to attend,” it’s probably going to be a mix (ha, a little ice cream humor!) of people already in the field and people, like me, who have a job in a different field and no clue.