What is wrong with this picture? Me on the front porch hand-cranking ice cream. For starters, I don’t have a front porch. “Somewhere people are still hand-cranking ice cream, but it’s not for me,” said food writer and consultant Peggy Fallon, author of The Best Ice Cream Maker Cookbook Ever (HarperCollins) by phone from her Northern California home. “Cranking will just make you cranky. Unless you’re Amish, I’d go with the electric.”
When the temperature rises, we look for cool, refreshing desserts, but making my own ice cream? Yet another unused appliance taking up space on my counter, I thought.
Then I leafed through the book and was smitten. Chocolate Pumpkin with Hazelnuts. Peaches ‘n’ Cream. Double Ginger. Utterly Peanut Butter. But with so many gourmet ice creams available today, why would I want to make my own?
“In the store-bought category there’s good, not so good and really bad,” Fallon noted. “I think the appeal of homemade ice cream, sorbets and frozen yogurts is that you control what goes into them. There are so many odd ingredients in most supermarket ice cream. Just look at the labels. When you make your own, you use real cream, eggs, sugar and milk. If you’re concerned about what you put into your body, it’s better to eat real food.”
A chapter called “On the Lighter Side” offers mouthwatering light ice creams, frozen yogurts, granitas and sorbets with alluring titles such as Maple Crunch Light Ice Cream, Tangy Orange Iced Buttermillk, Honey Vanilla Frozen Yogurt and Pear Sorbet with Zinfandel and Fresh Basil.
“It doesn’t always have to be a high-fat experience,” Fallon explained. “You can get the same satisfaction. This plethora of store-bought, low-fat ice cream we’re seeing today contains fish emulsions, carrageenan and all kinds of bizarre ingredients they have to use to keep the calorie count down. When making it at home, there are no preservatives.”
When it comes to ice cream makers, there are lots of choices, as Fallon outlines in a chapter entitled “Meet Your Maker,” from the wooden hand-cranked freezer still in use today to its electric cousins that rotate the ice cream base in a stainless steel canister surrounded by crushed ice and rock salt.
“It used to be you’d have to buy an expensive imported Italian machine that would cost as much as your first car,” Fallon quipped. “But they’ve come down in price, and more manufacturers are getting involved. You’re going to be seeing a lot of homemade ice cream.”
One of my favorite summer desserts is the Lemon Soufflé I saw Chef Mary Sue Milliken whip up on Bravo TV’s “Top Chef Masters” a few seasons back, a dazzling show-stopper guaranteed to wow your guests.
While Milliken lost in the final round to Chef Floyd Cardoz, the judges’ ooh-ing and ah-ing sent visions of lemons dancing in my head. But a soufflé? How intimidating!
For my first attempt my guinea pigs were houseguests from Sweden – the delightful Malm family of five – with mixed results. The good news is I have an open kitchen that allows me to talk to guests as I’m cooking. The bad news is I have an open kitchen that allows me to talk to guests as I’m cooking. When the conversation is flowing and your concentration is not, mistakes can happen.
Preparing a soufflé, I later learned when I tried it again, need be no more intimidating than anything else if you follow one simple rule: read the recipe! Seems obvious, doesn’t it, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve looked at the list of ingredients without consulting the method. “Oops” is not something you want to hear in the kitchen.
A soufflé is an ephemeral treat, best served immediately or you risk the biggest error of all: deflation! I wondered, however, if I could reduce that last minute frenzy by preparing the egg yolk mixture ahead. “Certainly,” said Chef Mary Sue. “I worked on a soufflé station when I was at Le Perroquet in Chicago. We would have the yolk mixture prepared ahead, and as the order would come for a soufflé, we’d butter and sugar the molds and whip the egg whites.”
And what did she take away from the “Top Chef Masters” experience? A lesson we all could use as we’re cooking. “I allowed myself to focus on nothing else except the competition,” she noted. “Now when I get frustrated or irritated, I just focus and let all the distractions go away. Anybody could use a dose of that kind of focus.”
Bittersweet Chocolate Truffle Ice Cream
Makes about 1½ quarts
3 cups heavy cream
1 cup milk
1½ cups sugar
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably Dutch-process
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 egg yolks
4 (1-ounce) squares unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 In heavy saucepan, mix together cream, milk, sugar, cocoa powder, and salt. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until sugar dissolves and mixture is hot, 6 to 8 minutes.
2 Whisk egg yolks in medium bowl. Gradually whisk in about 1 cup warm cocoa cream. Return egg mixture to saucepan; reduce heat to medium-low, and cook, stirring, until custard thickens enough to coat back of spoon (at least 160˚F. on a candy thermometer), 5 to 10 minutes. Do not boil or egg yolks will curdle. Remove from heat. Immediately add chocolate and stir until melted and smooth.
3 Strain custard into bowl and partially cover. Let cool 1 hour at room temperature. Stir in vanilla. Refrigerate, covered, until very cold, at least 6 hours or as long as 3 days.
4 Pour custard into canister of ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer’s directions. Transfer to covered container and freeze at last 3 hours or as long as 3 days.
Source: The Best Ice Cream Maker Cookbook Ever by Peggy Fallon
Mary Sue Millken’s Lemon Soufflé
Soft unsalted butter, for buttering molds
Granulated sugar, for molds
½ cup granulated sugar
8 large egg yolks
9 large egg whites
2½ tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (generous)
1 cup whole milk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Garnish: Powdered sugar, delivered lightly through a sieve
1 Preheat oven to 375˚F. Liberally butter 12 (6-ounce) soufflé dishes; coat well with sugar. Whisk together yolks, flour, zest, and half the sugar (1/4 cup).
2 Bring milk to a boil in small saucepan. Slowly pour milk into yolk mixture, whisking constantly to prevent yolks from cooking. Return mixture to pan; lower heat and whisk until thick like pudding, 1 to 2 minutes. Strain; stir in butter and lemon juice.
3 Beat whites until foamy. Gradually add remaining 1/4 cup sugar. Beat until medium firm peaks form (not dry). Stir a third of whites into yolk mixture. Gently fold in remaining whites.
4 Fill each soufflé dish to top; tap to settle. Smooth top. Run thumb around edges to ease batter from sticking. Place on cookie sheet; bake 15 to 18 minutes or until they rise at least an inch above rim but are still jiggly in center. Dust lightly with powdered sugar. Serve immediately.