Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Homemade ice cream - a sad tale of longing

For the holidays, I had the brilliant idea of making my parents & brothers homemade ice cream as Christmas gifts.  I had a brand new ice cream maker that I received for my birthday, and I always love making homemade gifts.  Of course, I figured this venture would take lots and lots of experimentation, which I couldn't wait to start!

The first recipes I tried made some of the best ice cream I've ever had - they are from an old article in Fine Cooking Magazine (August/September 1995, recipes and article by Andrew Hingston).  My first attempt at ice cream greatness was the caramel ice cream with toasted almonds.  You cook an ice cream base, add homemade caramel sauce, cool it, churn it in your ice cream maker and add toasted blanched almonds.  Here is the concoction in the early stages of the process - you must use a candy thermometer because it's very temperature-specific:

This recipe was outstanding!  I think next time I make it, I might try it without the almonds, although their toasted flavor really added a lot to overall experience.  Maybe I'll omit the almonds and add some more salt, for a sweet & salty ice cream.  But it really is just perfect as is!

Well, as I mentioned, experimentation was key here, because I would surely hate to give my family sub-par homemade ice cream for holiday gifts!  So, I figured now that I had one winner, I needed to get a few more for variety (for the sake of my family, of course)!

The next recipe I tried from the article was the hazelnut-mocha ice cream.  But I made some changes right from the start.  I didn't make it with the hazelnuts because I wanted to try to re-create my favorite store-bought ice cream: Ben & Jerry's Phish Food (=chocolate ice cream, marshmallow swirls, caramel swirls & little chocolate fish....yum).  So, I made the mocha ice cream (although Phish Food is not mocha, it's chocolate - I'm not sure how I missed that detail), found a great recipe for the marshmallow swirly stuff from Martha, of course and made another batch of the caramel sauce, which is so yummy you could just sit there & eat it straight out of the bowl (please don't ask me how I know this).  I also chopped up chunks of milk chocolate & swirled them in as the ice cream was churning.  Here are the all the flavors and sauces, awaiting their late-night assembly:

It really made a truly delicious ice cream.  But, just as with the caramel ice cream, I learned some things along the way & vowed to make a few changes.  I decided to make chocolate ice cream, not mocha, for an authentic Phish Food taste.  Also, I wasn't crazy about the milk chocolate chunks....I think next time I'll try it with semisweet or bittersweet chocolate for some distinction.  Otherwise, it was divine and it did not last long in the Bach house!

At this point, you might be wondering why I have titled this post a sad tale of longing.  So far, everything's good, right?  Well, I am sad to say that it all went downhill right from this point.  See, I realized that I needed a chocolate ice cream.  So, instead of tweaking the absolutely perfect mocha recipe I had, I decided to try a different cookbook, one that seemed very promising.  So, I tried a new recipe for a milk chocolate ice cream and it was....terrible!  It never actually froze and was sort of like eating dense, cold chocolate pudding or cold hot fudge.  It was the strangest ice cream ever, and I was so grateful that I had only borrowed this cookbook from the library and not purchased it without trying any of the recipes.

However, in my excitement over this new cookbook, and my absolute determination to make the best ice cream for my family for their gifts (this is what I kept telling myself, at least), I had already purchased the ingredients to make a homemade lemon frozen yogurt from the cookbook.  Not wanting to waste all the yogurt, cream, lemons, cheesecloth, etc. that I had invested in, and hoping that the food-like-substance that was the chocolate ice cream recipe was merely a fluke, I plodded on. 

And, sadly, the container to the ice cream maker decided to not freeze.  So the lemon yogurt, which was a very lengthy recipe, never actually froze properly because the canister wasn't thoroughly frozen (but we did eat it all anyway, after just letting the recipe sit in the freezer for a day - it became an icy yogurty lemony thingy).  You know that saying about Hell freezing over? It's been replaced by my ice cream canister freezing's never going to happen!

My ice cream maker left me hanging, with a couple of delicious recipes that I would love to make again and again.  It taunts me every time I open my freezer - I see the canister just sitting there in its sloshy state, surrounded by frozen peas and bags of ice. 

And as for my homemade gifts for my family?  Gift certificates for everyone!

A sad tale, indeed!


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