As I sit at home, looking out at the bare trees in our yard, the heated birdbath, and the light dusting of snow, I’m immersed in daydreams about my favorite sweet treat: ice cream. The most recent fuel for my sugary fantasies is the Humphry Slocombe Ice Cream Book by Jake Godby, Sean Vahey, and Paolo Lucchesi.
Mr. President, my husband, thinks it’s remarkable that I actually read cookbooks, you know, rather than just skipping right to the recipes and avoiding the standard commentary for each. I really don’t do that for just any cookbook, but this one features the story of the two San Francisco entrepreneurs (Godby and Vahey) behind the Humphry Slocombe ice cream store in the city’s Mission District. So, you see, I’m inspired by the ice cream recipes as much as I am by the story of their now wildly successful business.
Jake and Sean are not just driven by mere capitalism, but the belief that ice cream should not be cute. Their “ice cream noir” concept is exemplified by the two-headed calf they chose as their official mascot and some of the names for their signature savory-meets-sweet flavor combinations. Elvis (the fat years) is banana ice cream with homemade bacon peanut brittle while Rosemary’s Baby features olive oil, fresh rosemary and fragrant toasted pine nuts. Yeah, I want it and I want it NOW.
Why make homemade ice cream? Because you can. It’s better than anything in the store, and you will always know exactly what ingredients are in it. I’ve been making ice cream for years, and it’s so easy to do that I feel fraudulent when friends “oooh and ahhh” over it. It never fails to impress. Once you understand the basics, most recipes follow a similar pattern that’s easy replicate. You make a cooked custard with milk, cream, and egg yolks (unless the recipe is eggless, or “Philadelphia Style”), add your flavor and freeze.
Bonus: If you have kids, no one will be cooler than YOU if you learn to make homemade ice cream!
And, there’s no need to wait for warmer weather to enjoy homemade ice cream. There is no shortage of fall- and winter-inspired ice cream recipes that leverage all the best flavors of those seasons. For instance, in the Humphry Slocombe book, you can find recipes for Miso Pear and Pumpkin Five Spice. Another favorite of mine is maple bourbon ice cream from Zen Can Cook.
Below are some tips and tricks, some from the book and some from me, to get you closer to your own icy, sweet, but not necessarily cute, treats.
Tips for Homemade Ice Cream
1. Always use the best milk, cream, and eggs you can find. Good ice cream recipes have only a handful of ingredients, so it’s important that each of them be top shelf. Use only whole milk and try to use organic, pastured and local dairy products when possible.
2. Skip any milk or cream that’s labeled “ultra-pasteurized.” This process uses very high heat to kill off many healthful and beneficial bacteria and other microorganisms so that the finished product has a longer shelf life at your grocer. It can be shipped over many days’ time and across thousands of miles before it gets to you. Gross! The other problem with this process is that it kills some of the yumminess inherent in full-fat dairy.
3. Plan ahead. I find that with the inexpensive ice cream maker I use, I get the best results when I’ve frozen the bowl portion of it for a full 24 hours and I’ve completely chilled the custard prior to processing it in the machine. Also, after it’s processed, my ice cream usually benefits from sitting for several hours in the freezer to firm up even more. I make the custard in the morning of the day before I want to eat it and get it chilling in the refrigerator at the same time my freezer bowl is chilling. The next morning, I process the ice cream and get it quickly into the freezer to finish. By dinnertime, it’s perfect.
4. Buy a good, but inexpensive ice cream maker. I use a Cuisinart that retails for about $50, and it’s perfect for dipping your toes into the world of homemade ice cream. While you need to plan ahead and make sure the freezer bowl is sufficiently cold, the machine produces a good end product. The Humphry Slocombe guys validate my choice and also recommend this machine in their book.
5. Stray from the
tried tired and true. Don’t be afraid to experiment with flavors that may seem just completely weird to you. Some of the best ice creams I’ve had are those that contain fresh herbs, a little salt, or olive oil. Seriously, the aforementioned Rosemary’s Baby threatened to send me right into diabetic shock because I came this close to drinking it from a glass before it even made it to the ice cream maker. For Thanksgiving this year, I consulted the book again and settled on the Balsamic Caramel which raised eyebrows in a good way all around our dining table.
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