Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Create new taste sensations in homemade ice cream

Growing up, there weren’t a lot of choices with homemade ice cream. First, we had a hand ice cream churn rather than an electric one. Contrary to all the glowing memories of cranking the churn on the porch with happy children clustering around, eager to turn the crank, it was a tedious process.

The type of ice cream was determined from on high the adult making it although we could make a wish on occasion. A custard of eggs, sugar and cream, cooked over low heat, cooled and flavored before churning, then surrounded with ice and rock salt along with a flavoring that suited the whole crowd mostly peach, strawberry, chocolate or vanilla was the way ice cream was made, and had always been made, even for Thomas Jefferson and George Washington.

The suspense was intense, particularly among the children, but the right ratio of salt and ice made for a hit-and-miss proposition, sometimes too icy and other times too soupy.

My husband and I have a deal. No ice cream in the house. Ever. We are both addicted to it, love it, dream about it, and it would be a constant temptation to eat.

A friend found an ice cream wrapper in my car and held it up to me, shame in her eyes. I confessed. We do eat ice cream when we travel, buying it at gas stations from those irregularly cooled chests, knowing it is not as good as we could make at home. We envy those who eat ice cream every night for dessert, as my father did, weighing the same when he passed on as he did when he was 20.

The development of kitchen gadgets for freezing ice cream and yogurt to accommodate our society’s cravings has added to the ease of making these treats. Suddenly, all sorts of varieties of ice creams are possible. I announced my intention to make ice cream on Facebook, and suddenly I was flooded with ideas from dozens of people. Not many real recipes, but ideas I’d never thought of, from bay leaf and dulce de leche to lemon curd and even bacon. Who knew so much was going on out there with ice creams?

Luckily, I have three interns this summer. That helps with the eating as well as with the ideas, and my husband agreed to the ice-cream-making, “just this once.”

Using a base of eggless vanilla ice cream, intern Allison Clark and I compiled half a dozen easy varieties. In order to experiment — and we suggest you do the same — we halved the completed base for the “plain” (unflavored) ice cream and then added ingredients to it as our fantasies dictated, allowing us to have two different ice cream flavors from one effort.

Nathalie Dupree, who lives in Charleston, is the author of eight cookbooks. She may be reached at

A local Facebook reader, Renata Dos Santos, brought this by the house for the dairy and gluten conscious.

Dairy- and gluten-free ice cream

About 1 quart

1 cup sugar

1 cup coconut milk

1 3/4 cup cream of coconut

2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

5 tablespoons dark rum

Bring sugar and coconut milk to a boil in a pan, stirring constantly until sugar has dissolved completely. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes to make a light syrup.

Stir in cream of coconut, shredded coconut and lemon juice. Cool completely. Add rum and chill mixture thoroughly. Mix in a prepared ice cream churn or machine until thick.

This ice cream can be made into any number of other flavors. It was hard to choose our favorite from the ones below because we would make them all again if we could take the calories and it wouldn’t ruin my marriage. It is remarkable how much flavor and freshness the herbs add.

Allison’s plain ice cream

Makes 1 3/4 quarts

1 1/2 cups whole milk

1 1/8 cups granulated sugar

3 cups heavy cream

Beat the milk and granulated sugar in a bowl 1 or 2 minutes until the sugar is dissolved. Stir in the heavy cream.

Pour the mixture into a prepared ice-cream churn or machine. Mix about 20-25 minutes, until thick. The ice cream will have a soft, creamy texture.

Move to an airtight container and freeze about 2 hours to mellow and harden. Remove from freezer about 15 minutes before serving.

Variations — To one-half recipe plain ice cream, add the following when pouring into the ice cream maker:

For vanilla, add 1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla extract or to taste.

For chocolate and orange, add grated rind of 1 navel orange and 2 to 4 ounces of chopped chocolate.

For banana, the sugar can be changed to brown sugar if desired; add three very soft bananas, squished with fingers into small pieces; add ginger, chopped chocolate or herbs if desired.

For thyme or lemon balm, finely chop 1/3 cup and add to taste. Add chopped chocolate or other flavoring if desired.

The piece de resistance, however, was caramelized bacon ice cream, suggested by Julia Regner, a student at Johnson & Wales University in Charlotte, who will be my third intern this summer. Did we love this? Yes. Would we make it again? Yes. Would we make a butterscotch ice cream, without the bacon? Yes. In other words, it is a winner all around.

Julia’s caramelized bacon ice cream

Makes 1 1/2 quarts

6 large egg yolks

2 cups heavy cream

6 tablespoons butter

1 cup brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 cups whole milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

4 slices caramelized bacon (see cook’s note), chopped finely

To make the ice cream, whisk egg yolks until well-blended. Set aside.

Pour cream into a metal bowl set in a larger bowl of ice. Have a sieve ready to strain mixture into the bowl.

Melt butter in a heavy medium saucepan. Add brown sugar and salt. Stir until sugar completely melts. Slowly add milk, stirring to incorporate. It will foam up initially, so make sure you are using a pan with sides that are high enough. Heat until all of the sugar is completely dissolved. Do not let boil or the mixture may curdle.

Slowly pour half of the milk and sugar mixture into eggs, whisking constantly to incorporate. Then add warmed egg mixture back into the saucepan with remaining milk and sugar mixture.

Stir mixture constantly over medium heat with a wooden spoon or heatproof rubber spatula, scraping the bottom as you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats a metal spoon, about 5-7 minutes. The temperature should register about 180 degrees. Do not boil.

Pour custard through the sieve to catch any cooked eggs and stir it into the cream. Add vanilla and stir until cool over the ice bath. Chill mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator, at least an hour or overnight.

While the mixture is cooling, cook and drain off bacon.

Pour custard mixture into a prepared ice cream churn or machine until fairly soft. Add chopped bacon and continue to churn. Move to an airtight container and freeze at least 2 hours to mellow and harden.

Let sit at room temperature 15 minutes until easy to serve.

Cook’s note: To caramelize bacon, use 2 tablespoons of light brown sugar per 4 slices of bacon. (I usually make the whole package and eat the remainder myself, as the recipe needs only four slices.) Line a rimmed baking sheet with heavy-duty aluminum foil. Spread bacon slices on the foil. Pat the sugar onto the top of the bacon. Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes, checking midway. Continue baking until crisp and brown on the first side, but not burned. Remove from oven, turn and drag the bacon slices in the melted sugar and goo. Return to oven until crisp and brown on both sides, checking frequently, about 5 to 10 minutes. Do not let burn.

My second intern for the summer, local high school graduate Hayley Daen, came up with this delicious recipe, which she adapted from the book “Apples for Jam.” I can only imagine this ice cream served with a Madeleine or a couple of lovely little cookies. But then that would be gilding the lily.

Hayley’s lemon curd ice cream

Makes 1 3/4 quarts

3/4 cup superfine sugar

4 egg yolks

3 tablespoons butter

Finely grated zest of 3 lemons, no white pith attached Juice of 3 lemons

1 cup milk

1 1/2 cups heavy cream

Whisk sugar and egg yolks together in a heavy, heat-proof bowl until the mix gets thickened and creamy. Set the bowl in a pot of simmering water, add butter and whisk until it melts into the eggs.

Add zest and juice and whisk until the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a metal spoon, about 180 degrees. Do not boil.

Heat milk in a separate pot until bubbles form around the edges. Add milk to lemon curd mixture and whisk to combine. Move the bowl to the refrigerator and cool to room temperature or even overnight.

Once it has cooled, pour the mixture into the heavy cream. Pour custard into a prepared ice-cream churn or machine and churn for 20 minutes. Transfer to a container and allow to mellow and harden in the freezer about 2 hours. Remove from freezer 15 minutes before serving.


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