San Francisco is clearly the place to be for those who love ice cream. I have never been there, but base this statement on the fact that the two best ice cream cookbooks in the world, Humphry Slocombe Ice Cream Book and Sweet Cream and Sugar Cones, are from ice cream stores in San Francisco. The two best ice cream cookbooks? This is rather an extravagant claim. Perhaps I should limit it to “two best ice cream cookbooks in the English language”, but ice cream is primarily consumed in English speaking countries, with the United States being second only to New Zealand in per capita ice cream consumption (see chart). I can’t say that I have looked at all the ice cream cookbooks in the English language, but I have looked at most of the recent ones, tried a few recipes, and these are the two that I love: they both have great recipe after great recipe, and are both excellent books with which to curl up and read. An interesting contrast to these two books is Franny’s: Simple Seasonal Italian, not primarily an ice cream book, but with lots of ice cream (or rather, gelato) recipes.
Before considering these cookbooks, a few remarks on ice cream are in order. What I value most in ice cream is creaminess, and to get creaminess you need an ice cream maker. Yes, you will occasionally see instructions for making ice cream without an ice cream maker (Humphry Slocombe Ice Cream Book includes such instructions; they call this method “ghetto-style”), but real creaminess requires constant churning to break up the ice crystals that provide the grittiness in improperly frozen ice creams. The recipes in the three books in this post (and most other recent ice cream books) are for one to one and a half quarts; I strongly suggest using the Cuisinart ICE-21 Frozen Yogurt-Ice Cream & Sorbet Maker. It’s easy to use, easy to clean, and I have always gotten good results. Of course, if you really like old-fashioned rock salt and ice hand-cranked machines, be my guest. The other way to make ice cream is one I have never tried due to prohibitive set-up cost and paranoia over safety issues. However, any who has ever been around an adequately funded high school chemistry lab has no doubt experienced the liquid nitrogen ice cream making experience. The idea here is that liquid nitrogen cools the ice cream so quickly that the large ice crystals do not have time to form. There are now liquid nitrogen ice cream stores, so the next time I am in a city where such a store exists, I am definitely checking this ice cream out.
Ice cream is best when first made, although some prefer the ice cream to firm up in the freezer for a couple of hours. The three books discussed in this post all recommend eating the ice cream within a week, although I have certainly enjoyed the ice creams after several weeks in the freezer. Many of these ice creams can be quite hard right out of the freezer; taking them out ten minutes before serving is often a good idea. However, once these ice creams are out, they melt quickly. This is not so much the case with the ice creams (gelatos) from Franny’s, as these are made with the stabilizer xanthan gum. Ice creams made with alcohol or a lot of sugar are much softer, and are good straight from the freezer.
Humphry Slocombe Ice Cream Book by Jake Godby, Sean Vahey (the two founders of the store), and coauthor Paolo Lucchesi, is not a perfect book. My own complaint is that the front cover has a rectangular cutout framing the ice cream cone. These sort of cutouts are just made to be ripped. Other possible complaints with the book are significantly less substantial. With flavors such as “Here’s Your Damn Chocolate Ice Cream”, “Government Cheese”, “Jesus Juice”, and “Tranny Smackdown”, some readers might find the authors offensive. I had to put in a little effort to find them amusing rather than irritating, but I think that a less judgmental approach on my part will lead to a longer and happier life. Some people think the flavors are too weird. True, I will never try the foie gras ice cream, the candy cap (mushroom) ice cream or the salted licorice ice cream, but those are just my tastes. The miso peach and white chocolate lavender ice creams, which others might judge too strange, were great. Users of the book have complained about the amount of salt used; this is not an illegitimate complaint. Apparently the recipes were formulated with Diamond Crystal salt, a fluffy, voluminous salt, so if one is using some other salt, the ice creams may well turn out too salty. I had a salt issue with only one recipe, and I think it might have been another ingredient at fault. And then there is the problem with “Secret Breakfast” ice cream (page 34).
“Secret Breakfast” is a signature recipe of the ice cream store. It is a custard type ice cream with a liberal amount of bourbon and chunks of cereal cookies. The recipe as given in the book simply does not work. The first time I attempted this recipe, using the amounts of ingredients specified, I ended up with ice cream soup. Even after sitting in the freezer for some time, the soup was thicker, but still soup. So I pitched that batch. The problem was clearly in the amount of bourbon: half a cup of bourbon was enough to prevent freezing, at least at the temperatures I could achieve in my home. I reduced the amount of bourbon to one fourth cup, but the recipe still didn’t work. The “ice cream” was significantly thicker after being churned and left in the freezer overnight, but it was still too liquid. Finally, when I went down to two tablespoons of bourbon, I ended up with a very soft ice cream, too soft for my tastes, but at least something that could be called ice cream. There was, however, only the faintest taste of bourbon. At this point I gave up on “Secret Breakfast”, but this story is to be continued later in the post.
The best ice cream of all in this book is “Open Hand Fluffernutter” (page 45). This is a peanut butter ice cream with a marshmallow swirl. I don’t know why—maybe it’s the extra fat from the peanut butter—but this is the smoothest, creamiest ice cream ever. I followed the book’s instructions for the marshmallow swirl: egg whites beaten with corn syrup. The stuff never got fluffy, but it was white and marshmallowy. I just stuck it in the freezer until I finished churning the ice cream, and it was then just right for a fold-in ingredient.
My second favorite ice cream from Humphry Slocombe Ice Cream Book is “Chocolate Smoked Salt” (page 50). This is a caramel flavored chocolate ice cream with salt. The caramel custard base, flavored with cocoa, is poured over chopped up dark chocolate. The effect of this is tiny, tiny, particles of chocolate, that actually complement rather than defeat the smoothness of the ice cream. You add smoked salt right at the end of churning. With the high sugar and salt content, this is a very soft ice cream, but not too soft, and it tastes so good!
Another favorite of mine is “Pepper and Mint Chip” (page 87). In the recipe headnote, our authors tell us that they “despise—with an utter burning passion—the bright-green mint chocolate chip ice cream.” I couldn’t agree more. All my children learned, at an early age, that if they ordered mint chocolate chip when we went out for ice cream cones, that I would not pester them for licks of their cones. The Humphry Slocombe ice cream is, however, what mint chocolate chip is supposed to be, and I adore it. Instead of harsh mint flavoring, you use mint: lots of pulverized mint (“mulch”, we are told) that, along with ground cubeb pepper, steeps in the custard base overnight. The chocolate chips are achieved by drizzling melted chocolate in at the last minute of churning. As long as you do not accidentally drop in too big a blob of melted chocolate, this gives the perfect size of chocolate particles. Interestingly, some tasters of this ice cream have told me that it tastes very minty; others have said just the opposite.
Vanilla ice cream does not get any better than “Tahitian V*nill@” (page 37). Maybe if I had used Tahitian vanilla beans specified in the recipe instead of Madagascar beans it would have been better. You do want to use vanilla beans, though. Vanilla beans are not cheap, but they do not have to be as crazy expensive as they are in stores if you buy them on-line. Once I finally got around to doing this, and my quarter pound bag of vanilla beans arrived, I felt so food-rich! Plus, my cabinet started to smell really good. This recipe calls for a small amount of malt powder; I used Horlick’s, less salty than Carnation.
I have already mentioned trying “White Miso Peach” (page 65) and “Roasted White Chocolate and Lavender” (page 76). Peach and miso go surprisingly well together. The lavender ice cream was not that popular since I am the only one in my family who likes lavender, but roasting white chocolate is an interesting technique, and one that I have seen elsewhere since making this ice cream. The one ice cream that was a failure (other than Secret Breakfast, to which we shall return) was the “Malted Milk Chocolate” (page 49). I am not that big a fan of malted chocolate, but the big problem with this ice cream was that it was too salty. I used Carnation malted milk powder here, when I probably should have used something like the malt powder sold by King Arthur. I have yet to get the King Arthur product, since I will have to order it, but, as mentioned above, have switched to Horlick’s.
Sweet Cream and Sugar Cones, by Kris Hoogerhyde and Anne Walker, the founders of Bi-Rite Creamery, and coauthor Dabney Gough, is the book that got me started making ice cream. The flavors of ice cream are more conventional than those in Humphry Slocombe, but no less delicious. Most of these ice creams, like the ones in Humphry Slocombe are custard based; however, the Bi-Rite custard base usually uses five egg yolks, as opposed to Humphry Slocombe’s three egg yolks. As a general rule, I would rather have three egg whites left over rather than five, and so I have not tried as many recipes from this book.
The prize recipe from this book, and the most popular flavor at Bi-Rite Creamery is “Salted Caramel Ice Cream” (page 61). The authors really want us to get this one right: they give detailed instructions, with illustrations, for making the caramel as well as the ice cream. With the high sugar and salt content, this ice cream stays soft in the freezer. [Go to the recipe.]
The “Crème Fraîche Ice Cream” (page 38) had a great flavor. There are easy directions for making your own crème fraîche, which you then use with some additional cream to make a custard base; this is flavored with just a little lemon. The texture, however, left something to be desired. This was, I think, my fault, so I intend to try this recipe again as the flavor was so good. In the first place, my crème fraîche never thickened the way it should have. The house might have been too cool, and the type of buttermilk I was using was not the best type to turn cream into crème fraîche. The bigger problem, though, was that the freezer container for the ice cream maker was not cold enough. I should have left it in the freezer for at least 24 hours, but I was in a hurry, and used it too soon. These, I think, are the reasons that the ice cream turned out too grainy. The ice cream froze up very solidly; this is definitely one that needs to sit out before being served.
The crème fraîche ice cream was particularly good with “Blueberry-Lemon Sauce” (page 150). You cook down most of a pint of blueberries with sugar and lemon zest until the berries have popped , and then add the rest of the blueberries and some lemon juice. I cooked it a tiny bit more after adding the whole berries. For some reason, I did not see sugar listed in the simple three-ingredient ingredient list, so I thought I was being innovative when I sprinkled in a little sugar. As it turned out, my innovation was in using a lot less sugar than the recipe called for; this was okay, since the ice cream was plenty sweet itself.
“Malted Milk Chocolate Ice Cream with Bittersweet Chocolate Chips” (page 82) was an interesting recipe. The recipe called for no sugar. Of course, there was sugar in the milk chocolate, as well as the chocolate chips, and the malted barley extracts in the malted milk powder (Carnation, as suggested in the recipe) contributed sugars, but I was expecting more. I read the recipe carefully, in case the absence of sugar from the ingredient list was a typo, but it did not seem to be. The ice cream was quite good, and sweet enough, but not that sweet. This ice cream also froze very solidly.
“Cheesecake Ice Cream” (page 41) did not live up to my expectations. I love cheesecake, but this ice cream did not particularly remind me of cheesecake. It just seemed to be a rather humdrum vanilla ice cream.
Franny’s: Simple Seasonal Italian, by Andrew Feinberg and Francine Stephens, owners of the Brooklyn restaurant Franny’s, and coauthor Melissa Clark (last seen in this blog slumming with Paula Deen), is not an ice cream cookbook at all, but a restaurant cookbook. There is, however, an extensive collection of gelato recipes. So what is the difference between ice cream and gelato? Max Falcowitz discusses this in Serious Eats, but his bottom line is that gelato is just Italian ice cream. The difference between the gelato recipes in Franny’s and the ice cream recipes in the previous two books is that instead of egg yolks, xanthan gum is used as a stabilizer. (I found xanthan gum at Whole Foods Market.) The argument is that egg yolks muddy the flavor, whereas xanthan gum allows the pure flavors of the essential ingredient to shine through. Why use a stabilizer? The stabilizers promote creaminess, and extend shelf life. From my observations, an ice cream with xanthan gum will thicken up more quickly, and melt less rapidly. Ice Cream Geek goes into more detail. But, I found, xanthan gum is like a sharp knife or a sleazy realtor: used properly, it can be quite useful, but quit paying attention and it can really mess things up.
“Chocolate Sorbetto” (page 301) is a very intense chocolate experience. Unlike David Lebowitz’s Chocolate Sorbet, which has received a certain amount of attention in the food world, the chocolate in this sorbet comes only from cocoa powder. The ingredients are simply sugar, water, cocoa powder, and salt with an eighth teaspoon of xanthan gum, an appropriate amount. I, however, prefer a good chocolate ice cream to this chocolate sorbet. It reminded me of a very high class fudgesicle.
My grandmother’s favorite ice cream flavor was pistachio, so I was thinking of her when I picked “Pistachio Gelato” (page 289) as a recipe to try. The recipe called for an inexplicably large amount of xanthan gum: 1½ teaspoons. I was suspicious, but still being a novice with xanthan gum, I used the full amount. Maybe, I thought, there was something in pistachios that made this amount necessary. But within five minutes of putting the gelato base in the ice cream maker, the base had completely solidified, and was stationary as the paddle churned fruitlessly through a pocket of air. I am not sure that this was what was supposed to happen. The ice cream froze up rock solid in the freezer. Once I softened it up enough to scoop some out, the gelato was a lovely pale green color with an equally lovely pistachio taste. The texture was not ideal; whether this was due to the excessive xanthan gum or insuffuciently ground pistachios, I do not know.
“Plum Sorbetto” (page 299) is the best non-dairy ice cream-like desert that I have yet made. It is simply plum purée in sugar water with a little bit of lemon juice, salt, and, of course, xanthan gum. The authors are back to a reasonable one eighth teaspoon. The color was brilliant, the taste was very plummy. The texture was not as smooth as it could have been, but I rather expect a little bit of granularity in fruit sorbets. [Go to the recipe.]
We now return to the whiskey ice cream from Humphry Slocombe. As the reader may have guessed, the way to turn bourbon into ice cream is: xanthan gum! After my previous failed attempts to get ice cream, I learned that on the Humphry Slocombe store website was a correction to this recipe: they claim that the amount of bourbon should have been ¼ cup and not ½ cup. This I find hard to believe: these Humphry Slocombe guys do not impress me as people who would only use ¼ cup of bourbon instead of ½ cup. It’s not as if the smaller amount of bourbon worked that well either. I think that they translated their commercial recipe into a home recipe, but did not test it adequately. Their commercial recipe probably worked with the larger amount of bourbon because either they can freeze to colder temperatures, or they use some sort of stabilizer. I modified the recipe, using ¼ teaspoon of xanthan gum, and a whole third cup of bourbon. It worked! [Go to the recipe.]
The whiskey ice cream has chunks of a cereal cookie: “Corn Flake Cookies” (page 129 in Humphry Slocombe), a chocolate chip cookie-like base with cereal instead of chocolate chips. I reduced the amount of sugar and used Uncle Sam cereal instead of corn flakes. Any non-sugary cereal would work; if fact, most sugary cereals would probably work too. As an ice cream fold-in the cookies should be on the well-done side, although the 30 minutes in the oven suggested in the recipe is clearly too long, even for crisp cookies.
After making lots of ice cream, it starts to become apparent that all sorts of things can be churned and frozen. I attempted a mango-coconut milk concoction, which was acceptable, but had room for improvement. I did come up with an excellent and very simple strawberry ice cream, the recipe for which was on the Facebook page and is now below. [Go to the recipe.]
One problem remains to be solved. If you are making a custard based ice cream, using three or more egg yolks, what is to be done with the egg whites? Supposedly egg whites can be frozen; I am only now trying that and have yet to thaw the whites and see if they will still whip up. There are people who eat egg white omelets, although to me that sounds slightly repulsive. My solution to the egg white problem is: meringues. Perfect meringues are not chewy, nor are they dry all the way through. There should be a crisp shell, that dissolves in the mouth with a nice stinging sugar taste, and a soft marshmallowy interior. My grandmother liked to top her meringues with ice cream and strawberries. I like them plain. [Go to the recipe.]
Whiskey Ice Cream
Adapted from Jake Godby, Sean Vahey, and Paolo Lucchesi, Humphry Slocombe Ice Cream Book
1⁄2 cup butter
1⁄3 cup sugar (white)
1⁄3 cup brown sugar
1⁄2 teaspoon baking soda
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
1 cup flour
1 cup Uncle Sam cereal (or any other non-sugar cereal)
Ice Cream Base
2 cups cream
1 cup milk
2 teaspoons salt
1⁄4 teaspoon xanthan gum
3 egg yolks
1 cup sugar
1⁄2 teaspoon vanilla
1⁄3 cup bourbon
1⁄2 cup cereal cookie chunks
To make the cookies, preheat the oven to 350° and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Cream the butter with the sugars, then beat in the egg. Stir in the baking soda and salt, and then the flour. Finally, stir in the cereal. Drop spoonfuls onto the lined baking sheet. Bake for 8-15 minutes, depending on where on the chewy to crispy scale you want your cookies and on how hot your oven cooks. Cookies for folding into ice cream should be crispier.
For the ice cream base, mix together the cream, all but a few tablespoons of the milk, the salt, and the xanthan gum in a heavy saucepan. Heat just until bubbles start to form on the edges. Meanwhile, beat together the egg yolks, the rest of the milk, and the sugar. While the cream is heating, you should also prepare an ice water bath: Fill a large bowl about half way with ice water, and find a smaller bowl that will fit into the larger bowl. When the cream mixture is hot, stir a little into the egg yolks, then a little more, then a little more. Now add the yolks back to the cream and cook, stirring all the time, until the mixture starts to thicken. Do not let this come to a boil!
Now strain the custard base into the smaller bowl. Add the vanilla and bourbon. Put the smaller bowl into the larger ice water-filled bowl, and let it cool, stirring occasionally. When all the ice melts, cover the the custard base, and refrigerate until thoroughly cold.
Prepare the cookie chunks by breaking up the cookies. I do not like to use crumbs, as I think they compromise the texture of the ice cream; I use marble sized cookie chunks. Now freeze the ice cream in the ice cream maker. During the last minute of churning, add the cookie chunks. Transfer to a container that has been chilling in the freezer. Press some parchment paper onto the top on the ice cream, cover the container, and store in the freezer.
Salty Caramel Ice Cream
Adapted from Kris Hoogerhyde, Anne Walker, and D. Gough, Sweet Cream and Sugar Cones
13⁄4 cups cream
3⁄4 cup sugar
3⁄4 cup milk
1 teaspoon salt
5 egg yolks
Warm the cream by waving it or by heating gently on the stove. Do not let it boil. Prepare an ice water bath by filling a large bowl about half way with ice water, and find a smaller bowl that will fit into the larger bowl.
In a heavy saucepan, add a few tablespoons of sugar, and melt over medium high heat. When the sugar starts to brown, add a little bit more sugar, stirring gently. Continue until 1⁄2 cup of the sugar has been added, melted, and has turned to a dark amber color. Now pour the cream into the sugar. Some of the caramel may solidify; just continue to heat and stir, but do not let the mixture boil. Add the milk and salt.
Beat the egg yolks with the remaining 1⁄4 cup of sugar. Add a little of the hot cream and milk mixture, and beat to combine. Add a little more, then a little more, thoroughly mixing together. Now add the egg yolks back to the cream mixture. Cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture just begins to thicken. Strain into the smaller bowl, and place the bowl in the ice water bath. Cool, stirring occasionally. When all the ice in the ice water bath melts, cover the custard base, and refrigerate it until the base is thoroughly cold.
Adapted from Andrew Feinberg, Francine Stephens, and Melissa Clark, Franny’s
2⁄3 cup sugar
1⁄8 teaspoon xanthan gum
2⁄3 cup water
11⁄2 pounds purple plums
Juice of 1⁄2 lemon
1⁄8 teaspoon salt
Heat the sugar, xanthan gum, and water until the sugar is melted. Remove from the heat. Peel and pit the plums. Blend the sugar water, plums, lemon juice, and salt. Strain. Chill completely, then freeze in the ice cream maker. Transfer to a container that has been chilling in the freezer. Press some parchment paper onto the top on the sorbet, cover the container, and store in the freezer.
Strawberry Ice Cream
16 ounces strawberries
1 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
11⁄4 cups cream
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Blend the strawberries, condensed milk, and cream. Strain. Chill thoroughly. Freeze in the ice cream maker, drizzling in the balsamic vinegar in the last minute of churning. Transfer to a container that has been chilling in the freezer. Press some parchment paper onto the top on the ice cream, cover the container, and store in the freezer.
4 egg whites
Pinch cream of tartar (optional but recommended)
1 cup sugar
Pinch salt (optional; I usually forget this)
1 teaspoon vanilla
The ingredient list is easily scaled to however many egg whites you want to use: for every egg white, use ¼ cup sugar and ¼ teaspoon vanilla, and scale appropriately the sizes of the pinches.
Preheat the oven to 250º-275º. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. The secret to good meringues is the oven temperature. My oven cooks at a cooler temperature, and I have found that 275º is just right for me. The lower temperature might be better for a different oven. Too high a temperature, and the meringues are chewy (but some people prefer chewy); too low a temperature, and the meringues dry out too much.
Beat the egg whites until foamy. Add the cream of tartar, and then add the sugar gradually, beating until stiff peaks occur. This is best done in a heavy duty standing mixer, but a hand-held mixer also works. You could even use a whisk or egg beater if you have patience. Add the vanilla.
Scoop the egg whites onto the parchment paper. I use a small ice cream scoop; you could also just use spoons. I then like to push down the center of the meringues to make a cup-like depression; I think they cook more evenly this way.
Bake in the oven for about one hour. The meringues should pull off the parchment paper and be ever so slightly colored.