Ugh, ice cream is my favorite. I could give up literally any other kind of sweet — cookies, cakes, pies, doughnuts, candies — but not ice cream. It is the true ambrosia of the dessert world. It has everything! You can make any flavor (even if it sounds really weird — I’m looking at you, Japan, and your squid ice cream), you can add anything to it, you can eat it alone or put it on top of something or put something else on top of it…the possibilities are endless. Plus, I don’t always like having something hot at the end of the day, or even just room temperature. Maybe it’s because I grew up in the desert, but I like a cold sweet treat at the end of my evening.
It might be a family thing, too. Ice cream has very much been interwoven in my childhood and the stories I heard from my mom’s. She claims that the best thing for an upset stomach is ice cream (preferably an ice cream sundae) and apparently all throughout her childhood they would get sundae from Dairy Queen on their many travels throughout the United States to soothe their upset tummies. Most often, nowadays, if I have an upset tummy, I want one of two things: fizzy soda or ice cream/milkshake. God I love a milkshake, too, except that it goes too quickly. I need the spoon or cone to slow me down.
The most special family get-togethers, too, were the ones where my aunt and uncle broke out the hand-churn ice cream maker and made ice cream right then and there for everyone. Even though it was plain vanilla, I can’t remember a better tasting ice cream.
When my mom was born, my granddad (who was in the Air Force) was stationed in Alaska. According to my mom, every day my granddad and my great-aunt Ina would walk to the Dairy Queen and get an ice cream. This is what has caused me to hold fast my belief that there is no off-season for ice cream. And more than once resulted in me eating ice cream and being so cold I could barely get the spoon to my mouth for shaking.
Lastly, ice cream was the ultimate reward. I have terrible teeth. It doesn’t seem to matter how much I brush, floss, and swish with some kind of protective fluid, I still have trouble. And yes, I do all those things twice a day. Le sigh. Whatever, that’s just how things go. But I also had wildly crookedy teeth, and so I spent a lot of time seeing dentists and orthodontists when I was growing up. When I went to the dentist, my mom would get me a chocolate milkshake afterwards. When I went to the orthodontist, it was a chocolate ice cream cone from McDonald’s. They really know how to pile those high! And she and I would sit and eat our ice cream cones and reflect on how bad my teeth were. Even when I go to the dentist today, it’s really hard to not buy myself an ice cream cone afterward, as a reward. Ooh, especially considering that we have a place two blocks down that serves the best homemade milkshakes…yumm….
Anyhow, ice cream is my vice. Recently, some friends of mine went on about a three-week trip to France (he for work, she for fun, then they spent time together having fun after the conference was over) and I sat their house and dogs. They are very generous people, though, and suggested that I could use the ice cream maker if I felt like it.
OPEN THE FLOODGATES. I am only marginally ashamed to say that I have stockpiled my homemade ice cream. I currently have three containers in my freezer, each about a quart of ice cream. Even more fortunately, since then, my friend has been so so SO kind as to buy me an ice cream maker of my own! THERE’S NO STOPPING ME NOW. In total, I have made six flavors so far:
- S’mores (disappointing)
- Mint chocolate chip
- Turkish coffee
- Mocha almond fudge
- Rocky Road (but with almonds, because leftover from mocha almond fudge)
- Blueberry cheesecake
I have discovered many things along my ice cream journey.
- I recently had a blueberry cheesecake frozen yogurt from Ben and Jerry’s that is just heaven on earth. If I could die with that on my lips, I’d die happily. But it has this swirl of graham cracker that’s just indescribable and I wanted to duplicate with my s’mores ice cream. No such luck. The swirl technique escaped my level of finesse and I should have toasted the crumbs. Likewise with the marshmallows. Toasted marshmallows would really have gotten that s’mores flavor in, but alas, our caramelizing torch is out of fuel.
- Cardamom = life. Best spice ever. Add to everything for that deliciously light citrus feel without having to zest a key lime. Which usually results in zested knuckles. They’re just too damn small.
- The flavor of mint you’re going to get from the mint in your backyard is definitely not the flavor you’re used to. It’s weird. I still wasn’t sure if I really liked it at the end.
- It is possible to strain coffee grounds through a mesh strainer if you don’t have cheesecloth…but it’s not the best. Buy the cheesecloth.
- Almonds are much tastier roasted. In fact, probably most nuts are tastier roasted. WHY DON’T I ROAST MORE NUTS??
- Fluffernutter is really weird and I don’t trust it but ohmygod it’s delicious.
Ultimate conclusions: homemade ice cream is not that hard. If you have an ice cream maker for churning purposes, delicious, velvety, rich and imaginative desserts await you after only about an hour, hour and a half (and that includes chill time). Plus, ice cream is so, so easy to experiment with. This is the one dessert where I felt I’ve really been able to step outside of the box if I wanted to, really adding my own ideas (Turkish coffee, for example), but I could stick to the classics with panache (mint chocolate chip). I’ve also discovered it’s well worth experimenting, as the best flavor I made was the one I sort of made on my own. Fear not the ways of the creamed ice. It is much easier once you’ve taken the mystery out. For just recipes (I have several) see next blog post.
P.S. We just got back from Oregon and I had several fabulous varieties of ice cream. Pictured above is “wild mountain blueberry” and “fireside s’mores” from the Tillamook Cheese Factory (I am happy to report they didn’t know what to do with the graham crackers any more than I did). I also had marionberry and chocolate cake batter gelato but that photo was supaaaa blurry.