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John Golden

John Golden writes about food and has a highly opinionated blog, The Golden Dish.

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Posted: July 30, 2014

Homemade ice cream: It’s easier than you think

How sweet it is: homemade ice cream is a cinch to make and so delicious with Maine’s wonderful farm-fresh cream and milk.

Written by: John Golden

Cooking purists will insist that ice cream made in a hand-cranked wooden bucket submerged in ice and salt is the best way to produce this beloved summertime dessert.   In his book, The Gift of Southern Cooking co-authored with Edna Lewis, Scott Peacock describes this nostalgic scene about hand-cranked ice cream: “… Eight or ten times each summer we’d make homemade, out in the yard or at the farm.  And despite the unspeakable heat and humidity or maybe because of it, the task never ceased to excite me.” Peacock, who is a James Beard award winning chef on Southern Cuisine, relates that he still makes ice cream the old-fashioned way and believes that the hand-turning produces the best texture.

Perfect chocolate ice cream

Perfect chocolate ice cream from an electric ice-cream machine

Nowadays with electric ice-cream makers that do all the work, any other way seems unnecessary unless you get a thrill from old-fashioned  hand cranking.   But the method to achieve a smooth texture relies on slow churning, something that hand-cranking forces you to do.  Too much air  whipped into the base would produce a less creamy mixture—and hand-churning does it just right.  But most good ice cream machines churn at a moderately low speed to produce similar results.

Another must for great ice cream is to chill the base thoroughly before churning.  Six hours is enough,  but overnight and up to 48 hours is ideal. The long chilling time adds to the richness and creaminess of the ice cream.

I make three styles of ice-cream base using a standard Cuisinart ice cream maker.  One relies on an egg-yolk custard of sugar, milk and cream or all cream and flavorings; the other is a Philadelphia style that omits the eggs. These days I use all heavy cream, omitting the milk, and it’s a particularly rich ice cream.

Another method is to prepare a mousse-like base of syrup cooked to just under the soft-ball stage and slowing adding it to the yolks, beating until the mixture  is  as thick as a mousse.  It’s a more complicated method but produces extraordinary results.  In all my ice creams I use raw milk and cream, which have the purest flavor.  Pasteurized is fine, but do not use ultra-pasteurized dairy since it has a “boiled” taste.  The only ultra-pasteurized cream that I’ve encountered without an off taste is from Beth’s Farm Market in Warren.  It’s a high-fat cream from local diary herds and it’s a great cream.  I used it when I made the vanilla ice cream with excellent results.

Vanilla and chocolate ice cream

Vanilla and chocolate ice cream

For further reference on ice-creaming making look at The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz, an American chef, cookbook author and ice cream and dessert connoisseur who now lives in Paris.  His recipes are superb, and I’ve based some of my adaptations here on the recipes from his book.

In this several-part series, I offer first the method for Philadelphia style chocolate and vanilla ice creams.

Triple vanilla Philadelphia style ice cream

Vanilla ice cream ready to serve from the ice cream canister

Vanilla ice cream with flecks of vanilla seeds ready to serve from the ice cream canister

This ice cream relies on using the best heavy cream you can buy.  Consider Smiling Hill, Bisson’s or Misty Brook Farm  (See sources) or any other farm-fresh raw or pasteurized cream.  Harris Farm cream and milk is another source available locally.

Note: for a smaller yield, just halve the ingredients for 1 pint of ice cream

Servings:  About 1 quart

3 cups heavy cream
3/4 cup sugar
Pinch of sea salt
1 vanilla bean, Tahitian or Madagascar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (available at food specialty stores), optional

Pour 1 cup of the cream into a medium saucepan and stir in the sugar and salt.  Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean by cutting it in half and scraping out the seeds with a sharp paring knife into the cream mixture.  Add the pod to the pot.  Warm the mixture over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the sugar is dissolved.  Do not let it bubble or boil but cook just until steam starts to rise and the sugar is dissolved.

Remove from the heat and add the 2 cups of the remaining cream, vanilla extract and optional vanilla bean paste.  Pour the contents of the pot into a mixing bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 6 hours, preferably overnight.

Pour the mixture through a medium-meshed strainer into the ice cream maker (you want to keep the vanilla seeds) and churn according to the manufacturer’s instructions.  You can serve it soft-chilled directly from the  canister or transfer to storage container with an air-tight seal and let it firm up at least 1 hour in the freezer.

Philadelphia style double-chocolate ice cream

Fully churned chocolate ice cream

Fully churned chocolate ice cream

This is an intensely chocolaty ice cream because it uses both cocoa powder and unsweetened baking chocolate.  I used the Valrhona unsweetened cocoa powder (available at Whole Foods) and Ghirardelli unsweetened baking chocolate, both of which have excellent flavor properties.

Servings: About 1 quart

6 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped in food processor
2 1/4 cups heavy cream
6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup sugar
Pinch of sea salt
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Prepare the unsweetened chocolate by breaking it up (if in bars) into smaller pieces and put into the food processor fitted with the steel blade and pulse until it’s chopped into small pieces.  Seat aside.

Using a whisk mix together the cream, cocoa powder, sugar and salt in a medium-size heavy-bottomed saucepan.  Heat the mixture, whisking frequently (or stirring with a wooden spoon), until it comes to a full boil.

Remove from the heat and immediately stir in the chopped chocolate, whisking until it is completely melted.  Stir in the milk and vanilla.

Pour the mixture into  a blender.  Cover the jar tightly starting on low speed up to high speed (puree) blend for 45 seconds until very smooth.

Pour into a large bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap and chill at least 6 hours or overnight.  Then put into your ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer’s instructions.  Serve soft from the canister or transfer to an air-tight container to firm up in the freezer for at least 1 hour.  Because there are no stabilizers these ice creams will last up to 3 days without getting ice crystals or becoming grainy.

Local sources

Chocolate: Whole Foods Market

Raw cream and milk: Misty Brook and Bisson’s are good sources and are usually available at Rosemont Market, or at  Bisson’s Meat Market in Topsham for their milk  and cream. Smiling Hill heavy cream is available in supermarkets and Whole Foods.  Harris Farm raw milk and pasteurized cream is available at their farm store in Dayton or at the Saco Farmer’s Market

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