Monday, July 30, 2007

Recipes for REAL Women, Volume 22 - Full Fat, Full Dairy, All Killer, No Filler

It's about a hundred and a zillion degrees out these days, and naturally ones thoughts turn to chilling down.

Ones thoughts turn to... I scream, you scream... You know the rest.

Ice cream is probably the dessert treat Americans most identify with. Sure it's mom, the flag, and apple pie; but that apple pie has a big'ol scoop of vanilla goodness on top (apple pie and cream is for the Irish - who put cream on every dessert god bless'em -, apple pie and cheese is for the English, and midwesterners).

I mean really, is there any situation in your life that cannot be made better with Ice Cream? I know... you've all seen 9-1/2 weeks... but I digress.

Real ice cream for the home market is loosely marketed in two basic styles, Plain Style Ice Cream (or Philadelphia Style), and Custard Style Ice Cream; which are differentiated by the techniques used in preparation of their cream base, and in their protein content (custard style has a fair amount of egg protein in it, in a custard base).

Along with style, are are a few loose grades, defined by their butterfat content (how much cream), and their overrun (how much air is whipped into them). The more fat, the better, the less air the better. Air adds volume, but alters the texture (in good and bad ways), and melting characteristics (all bad).

"Low fat" and "light ice cream? Ice Milk? Frozen Yogurt?


No, no, no...

I actually LIKE frozen yogurt; but it's not ice cream.

Any Ice Cream like substances with less than 10% milkfat, less than 9% milk solid, and more than 50% overrun, are not by law allowed to be called ice cream (nor should they be). They are a "frozen dairy dessert" or something similar.

Between 10% and 12% milkfat, 9 to 11% milk solids, and 40% to 50% over run; you have your run of the mill ice cream. This is the same supermarket stuff they've been selling since home refrigeration became all the rage.

13% milkfat or above, and 12% milk solids or above, with less than 30% overrun, and you've got "premium" ice cream. Fat and milk solid contents can vary greatly across various recipes and styles. Given this, the primary difference between premium and "super premium" is the overrun. Super premiums typically only have between 5% and 15% overrun.

...Well that, and the cost (and the taste of course). A typical grocery store gallon of ice cream costs under $5 (on sale), but super premium ice cream can cost $3 a pint or more (8 pints to the gallon); 4-5 times as much.

Of course as I showed in this example, ice cream is generally sold by volume not by weight; and the discount store ice cream is up to 50% air by volume, whereas the super premium may be only 5% air. A gallon of super premium ice cream may cost 4 times as much as the discount brand; but it may also have twice as much actual "stuff" in it.

Then of course there's the actual "stuff" involved:

Discount store ice cream is generally made with milk byproducts, whey, added reconstituted milkfat and milk solids, partially hydrogenated vegetable oil , emulsifiers, stabilizers, high fructose corn syrup, artificial flavors, and food dyes.

Super premium ice cream is generally made with cream, milk, eggs (maybe), vanilla, salt, sugar, natural fruit or flavorings, and maybe carrageenan (a seaweed extract that acts as an emulsifier, aids in texture, and helps prevent large ice crystal formation).

Guess which set of ingredients cost more? Guess which tastes better?

Ok, so we know what's in it, how do you make it?

Well, if you just tried to mix up an ice cream base, and freeze it like popsicles... well that's pretty much what you'd get. Not an ice cream bar or a fudgesicle either, but an actual block, of most likely crumbly ice. Because ice crystals push aside anything dissolved or suspended in water when they freeze (unless they freeze VERY quickly); just freezing the base will make the fats, solids, flavors etc... all separate out, and nobody wants to eat that (nobody sane anyway).

What you need then, is an ice cream maker.

There used to be a wide variety of different ice cream maker designs out there; from hand cranked salt and ice buckets, to large self freezing rotating drum machines. No matter what the detail design though, they all work on the same principle: Freeze the cream base quickly to avoid the excessive formation of crystals; while smoothly the base smoothly to further retard crystallization, add air, and refine the texture.

The old ice bucket churns do it pretty much the same way as modern home machines. Pour the cream base into a container surrounded by a chilling agent (in this case ice and salt mixed together, which gets down to about 19 degrees Fahrenheit), then churn the mixture with paddles (called a dasher), either by rotating them with a crank, or rotating the cream bucket around a fixed dasher.

Of course this is the modern electric age; so the hand crank has been replaced by electric motors; and ice and salt have mostly gone by the wayside. Oh, you can still buy the old fashioned machines if you want, or even electrified versions that still use the ice and salt, but do the churning for you; but the new machines have much cleaner methods... though surprisingly, generally not as fast (the ice and salt does a pretty good job of cooling things down quickly).

There are machines that include their own refrigeration mechanism, but they are bulky, expensive, slow, and have a relatively small capacity. Most modern home ice cream makers have chosen to use a cold sleeve that you put in your freezer for several hours before making your ice cream, to replace the ice and salt; but they still either churn the cream base with a rotating paddle, or rotate the freezing sleeve full of yummy yummy cream base around a fixed paddle.

For example, we have this 2 quart Cuisinart:

and as you can see in this picture, it does the latter, taking about 30 minutes to do the job:

Typical home machine prices vary from around $40 to over $300, but you can pick up a decent machine in the $60 to $120 range (yes I know, still a broad range), depending primarily on capacity, features, and brand name. Theres even an ice cream maker attachment for the god of kitchen small appliances, the KitchenAid Stand Mixer (actually, it's a damn good deal if you've got a KitchenAid... and we do - and so should you- but we got our Cuisinart on a very deep discount).

So, for all of you who are itching for premium ice cream without the premium (and rising) price, grab your ice cream makers and chill your sleeves. No ice cream you can buy, is better than what you've made at home with fresh ingredients, no fillers, and as much pure sugar and cream as you can stand.

So, pretty much all actual ice cream (as opposed to a sorbet or gelato which are a bit different) starts out with a basic vanilla. From there, you can add as many flavors, add ins, and combinations as you can fit in the bowl (welll... not quite, but we'll get into the limitations later).

The variations are pretty nearly endless, but it all begins with this:

Basic Vanilla Ice Cream


3 cups half-and-half (or 1 1/2 cups whole milk, 1 1/2 cups cream)
1 cup white sugar (finer sugars will dissolve easier - use vanilla sugar if you've got it)
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 tbsp vanilla extract
1 vanilla bean, pulped and scraped (optional - only if scalding cream)
1 large pinch salt (about a half teaspoon)


When the ingredients go into the ice cream maker, they should be as cold as you can conveniently make them without actually freezing. You can do this by mixing cold, straight out of the fridge and it makes great, quick, and surprisingly cheap ice cream.

If you have the time and ernergy though, there's a more flavorful way.

For extra flavor and better texture (but much longer preparation time) you can scald the cream base (all the milk and cream) before cooling it down. This will change the structure of the milk proteins and give a better mouth feel, as well as intensifying the flavor of the cream base.

Oh, and if you're really ambitious you can stew a vanilla bean (or beans if you are so inclined; but one will provide a LOT of flavor, and they are rather expensive) in the cream while you're scalding it. It's not necessary, but it has a truly wonderful additional aroma and flavor over the extract.

If you're going to do the scalding; you want to be very careful to not overdo it. If you don't know how to scald cream, just mix the thing cold. If you DO however; you'll want to mix the sugar in while the cream base is still hot (it dissolves better), then cool the base down quickly in an ice bath, and add the vanilla extract when cold (only use real vanilla, and don't add alcohol based extracts to hot dairy base; it can cause problems with the proteins); then strain the mixture through a fine sieve to remove the largest bits of vanilla, and any coagulated milk proteins.

From there, follow your ice cream makers instructions on churning.

Basic Vanilla Custard Ice Cream


2 1/2 cups half-and-half (or 1 1/4 cup whole milk, 1 1/4 cups cream)
1 cup white sugar (finer sugars will dissolve easier - use vanilla sugar if you've got it)
8 egg yolks
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 tbsp vanilla extract
2 vanilla beans, pulped and scraped (optional)
1 large pinch salt (about a half teaspoon)


This is the OTHER basic variation on ice cream; the custard style, or French style. It's ingredients are very similar to those of a plain (Philadelphia style) ice cream, but instead of a cream base, you use a custard cream (creme anglaise) base. This results in a smother, richer texture; but it's also heavier, more sensitive to temperature variations and mix-in varieties, and requires a bit more prep work.

For this recipe, scalding the cream is absolutely necessary; because scalded cream is the basis of the custard.

First, beat your egg yolks (you can also use 5-6 whole eggs instead of 8 yolks if you want a lighter, stiffer ice cream). Then beat the sugar and vanilla into them, and set aside. You want the eggs to be at room temperature or a bit warmer.

Next, carefully scald your cream; preferably with your vanilla beans in it. You want to scrape the beans down and add the pulp to the mix, then stew the husks in the cream until just before scalding (pull them out, scraping them down into the pot again before you reach the scald stage, or you can extract unwanted bitter flavors from the husk)

Take the cream off the heat, and allow it to begin to cool, and then CAREFULLY temper the cream and egg mixture together. Once tempered, return the mixture to low heat, and cook until the custard will coat the back of a spoon.

Once the custard reaches this stage, immediately take it off the heat, strain it to remove any coagulated milk proteins, large vanilla bits, and egg colease. Then cool the custard base as quickly as possible in an ice bath, until it is as cold as possible without actually freezing. It's important to do this quickly, because you don't want the custard to set up fully before the freezing process can begin.

From there, follow your ice cream makers instructions on churning. If you are going to add mix-ins you'll want to watch this one carefully, because the custard style ice creams can flash over from too loose to too stiff very quickly.

Cream Cheese Ice Cream

This is a recipe I adapted from another recipe in order to make an ice cream worthy of being layered into a special dessert (which I'll list in another recipe post).

It has a mild, creamy, rich, sweet, slightly sour (just like cheesecake should be) but "not-vanilla" flavor; that goes well with fruit, chocolate... well, pretty much everything.

The best thing though, is that it's quick and easy to make. All you really need is 5 minutes of prep time, and an ice cream maker at the ready.


1 quart (4 cups) half-and-half, or 2 cups each milk and cream
16oz full-fat cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1/3 cup triple sec (or other liqueurs, aromatics, or flavorful liquors)
1 1/2 tbsp natural vanilla extract
1 pinch salt


Cream together the sugar and cream cheese until well combined and smooth. In this case, you don't want them to be cold, because the cream cheese needs to be very soft. If you want to, you can use whipped cream cheese here, but make sure you're measuring by weight, and not by volume. Also, wouldn't recommend using most flavored cream cheeses unless they are fresh craftmade styles, because the commercial flavored versions use additives that don't work well in ice cream.

From here, you can again mix cold; or you can scald the cream base beforehand. If you scald the cream base, mix the cream cheese and sugar in while the base is still warm enough to melt the cream cheese; then stir gently, but frequently, as you cool it down in the ice bath.

Once the mixture is chilled, add your flavorful liqueur. Triple sec (a sweet and sour orange liqueur) is traditional for cheesecakes, but others will do jsut fine. I'm particularly fond of Irish Cream, Butterscotch Schnapps, and Hazlenut Liqueurs like Frangelico. If you are going to use a sweet cream or nut liqueur like Frangelico though (anything without a fair bit of acidity), you'll want to add a couple tablespoons of lemon juice to the mix at this point.

It is important however, to not add too much alcohol, or alcohol that is too strong. You don't generally want to use anything much stronger than 80 proof, because it will retard gelling action and change the crystal formation in the ice cream as it freezes; and you don't want more than a shot or two per quart of ice cream. Absolutely, never add more or stronger alcohol to a custard based ice cream, or it WILL cause texture problems.

Again, once the chilled ingredients are mixed thoroughly; churn as per the manufacturers instructions for your ice cream maker.


As we said above, all ice cream starts with a vanilla base, and then things are added to it to make the various flavors.

Chocolate ice cream can be created by the simple addition of good-quality cocoa to the basic vanilla recipe; much as a chocolate cake is simply a white cake with chocolate added. There is no set amount of cocoa to use; just mix to taste.

The easiest variation is to add, subtract, or substitute the alcohol you use. Liqueurs are best for a variety of reasons: they are already sweet so they don't detract from the flavor, they are very concentrated and deliver a lot of flavor, and they generally don't react badly with dairy. This is especially true of cream-based liqueurs; Bailey's is absolutely heavenly.

Again, let me repeat my warning about not using too much, or too strong alcohol though. Much more than two shots per quart of 80 proof liquor, and you won't have ice cream; you'll have a half gelled, half ice, mess.

Also, don't judge how much alcohol you need by tasting the mixture before churning: freezing makes the alcohol taste much stronger. If you need to add more, add near the end of churning while you're adding mix-ins.

If you are sensitive to alcohol taste but still want the added flavors (or if you want to use a very high alcoholic content liquor), you can partially boil off the alcohol in a small sauce pan before chilling it and adding it to the mix. Let me note however, you don't want to boil off all the alcohol, because you don't just add alcohol for the flavor of the liquor; other flavorings are enhanced by being in solution with alcohol as well, especially vanilla.

Now all that said about the plusses and minuses of alcohol in ice cream, imagine doing a variant on the custard vanilla above, with maple syrup instead of sugar, bourbon, and candied pecans.... Oh my.

Ah yes, that brings us to mix-ins. Fruit, chopped nuts, chocolate, pretty much anything you want so long as it isn't too heavy t be suspended in the ice cream, or too liquid to freeze up; can be added 5-10 minutes before the ice cream is done (or a bit earlier for powdered ingredients that need to blend a bit more).

We've personally done all of the above, but the absolute best ice cream we've ever made was just plain vanilla ice cream with Bailey's Caramel liqueur, 4 tbsp Schokinag Drinking Chocolate, and 1 cup Guittard chocolate chips. It was wonderful and completely and utterly fattening.

We hope these basic recipes and ideas give you the inspiration to raid your grocery store's dairy aisle (or even better, if you can get unpasteurized whole milk and cream from a farmers market) and start making some premium ice cream of your own.

a note: unlike most of the recipes for REAL Women which are written almost entirely by Mel (Chris does some copy editing and writes little add on notes), this one was written by both Chris and Mel. Chris can't bake, and leaves most of the desserts to Mel, but this one is close to his heart... right under it actually, in his stomach.

And be sure to check out:

Recipes for REAL Women, Volume 21 - Forget About the Dough Boy
Recipes for REAL Men, Volume 20 - QDCBS (Quick and Dirty Chili Bean Stew)
Recipes for REAL Men, Volume 19 - Chicken Salmonella
Recipes for REAL Men, Volume 18 - I'll give YOU a good stuffing turkey (1)
Recipes for REAL Men, Volume 17 - REAL Coffee
Recipes for REAL Men, Volume 16 - DTG (Damn That's Good) dip
Recipes for REAL Women, Volume 15 - More Chocolate Than Cookie
Recipes for REAL Women, Volume 14 - Millions of Peaches
Recipes for REAL Women, Volume 13 - Mels 10,000 Calorie Butter Cookies
Recipes for REAL Men, Volume 12 - Lard Ass Wings
Recipes for REAL Men, Volume 11 - Bacon Double Macaroni and Cheese
Recipes for REAL Men, Volume 10 - It's the meat stupid
Recipes for REAL Men, Volume 9 - Labor Day Potatos
Recipes for REAL men, Volume 8 - It's a pork fat thing
Recipes for REAL men, Volume 7 - It may not be Kosher...
Recipes for REAL men, Volume 6 - Andouille Guiness Chili
Recipes for REAL men, Volume 5 - Eazza the Ultimate Pizza
Recipes for REAL men, Volume 4 - Two Pound Meat Sauce
Recipes for REAL men, Volume 3 - Highbrow Hash
Recipes for REAL men, Volume 2 - MuscleCarbonara
Recipes for REAL men, Volume 1 - More Beef than Stew