Wednesday, October 16, 2013

best ice cream in the history of the world; no machine required

It's too bad that I'm not an expert on SEO, so I could get this post to come up first in any ice cream-related google search (not because I want to be famous, but because it is in the best interest of all other humans to find this information).  It is the sum of all that anyone needs to know about making ice cream, not because of its comprehensiveness (though I haven't typed the rest of it yet - I may get carried away in that direction), but because of its perfection.  If you knew only this, it would suffice.  

Obviously this is not a post about craigslist furniture (well, my mind is convoluted; sometimes it only seems that way.  But unless I get distracted by furniture before I finish typing, it is what it appears to be: a post about ice cream).  I don't remember when I got on the ice cream kick...oh, yes, I do.  I read a post about apricot ice cream at the lovely Reclaiming Provincial blog (my love for this name, and this blog, is unbounded; it doesn't even bother me that the lady is a vegetarian.  Not that there's anything wrong with [many] vegetarians, but I love meat.  Happily, however, I can easily imagine how either chicken or bacon, or both, can be added to all of her savory recipes).  And then I made the apricot ice cream.  The flavor was a revelation - it was extraordinary.  I am making it again every apricot season.  But the ice cream was a rock.  At the time I concluded that my lack of an ice cream maker was to blame, but intervening discoveries have suggested that actually it needed egg yolks.  

So I started looking for an ice cream maker.  I happen to know that (like bread makers) people buy them thinking they will use them often, and they use them never.  For this reason I actually first concluded that I didn't need one.  I don't own a bread maker, and would immediately get rid of one if it were given to me for free; and I make more bread than anyone I know.  And clearly electric ice cream makers came along many moons after ice cream.  I concluded they were for lazy people and sissies, and I would make perfectly good ice cream with the old-fashioned implements I already had (for truly, what can you not make with a wooden spoon and a sharp knife?  Good puree, that's what.  Buy an immersion blender.  Seriously).  I tried several methods of making delicious ice cream sans appliances (first I tried freezing the mix on a cookie sheet and constantly agitating the edges with a whisk as they froze.  Didn't work.  Then, I tried a recipe that used only whipped heavy cream and sweetened condensed milk.  That worked about 10% better - not adequate.  Still hard as a rock).  Then I decided that ice cream makers had a use after all, and someone who had bought one and never used it and realized it took up a lot of space would have donated one to a thrift store, or offered one on craigslist (see?  It relates!), and I started looking.  But I didn't find one.  (They are, I suppose, expensive enough that people will hold onto the belief in their ice cream-making future for a long time.)  

Then I discovered I had AmEx rewards points.  I don't know where they came from, since I haven't had a rewards card (that I know of.  Maybe that Delta AmEx I canceled...?) in a long time.  But I had a lot of them.  So after brief miserly hoarding and then meticulous searching of my options (which were simultaneously splendiferous and oddly limited), I bought mostly presents for other people.  But also...the KitchenAid ice cream maker attachment.  (And saved half the points just in case I need them later.  You never know.)  Because my darling husband bought me a big fancy KitchenAid for my birthday a couple of years ago.  I would never have bought one for myself; I am genuinely happy with my wooden spoons.  But it's bizarre how fast it can make cookies.  While I am wandering about the kitchen gathering my vanilla and my brown sugar, the dough is mixing itself.  And then, as soon as I'm done gathering things and putting them away again, the cookies are done.  It's surreal.  

Anyway, since it already has a big giant mixing motor, I figured I might as well rely on that for ice cream-churning purposes.  The freeze bowl attachment is not cheap ($80 or so on Amazon), but it makes two quarts of ice cream, and I figured that was about the most I would really want to make at once.  It has to be frozen for at least fifteen hours before it can be used, and also the ice cream base has to be refrigerated for a good number of hours before it can be churned.  And then additionally frozen after that.  And all the ice cream worth eating is made with custard, which means slowly heating and stirring an egg mixture.  And also, the raw materials for this process cost more than even the fanciest grocery store ice cream - even if you assume that your precious time is free.  So this is a time-consuming process.  And as a dessert, it is not cost-effective.  Even my most decadent baked desserts are cheaper.  The real reason to make your own ice cream (if you do it regularly) is to be insufferably pretentious about your cooking ability.  And I'm not sure that's good for my character (I'm pretty pretentious already), so I have decided that my ice cream maker attachment will travel; my girlfriends who have KitchenAids are welcome to borrow it, and it can make the rounds.  But it was good to have it so that I could learn to do this, because I think it's valuable to develop my culinary skills and understanding.  

All this sounds like a long explanation of why no one should ever make ice cream.  But there is a reason to make this ice cream, I'm telling you.  First of all, it does not require an $80 appliance.  In fact, this morning when I tried valiantly to cram the ice cream base into the freeze bowl, it made a godawful mess.  I spent a good half an hour cleaning it up (mostly because I decided to lick everything first), and as soon as I got more than an inch of the mix into the freeze bowl, it stopped working.  See, when the ice cream base goes into the freeze bowl, it's supposed to be a liquid (that you can pour).  This was a solid, even at refrigerator temperature (I checked, and I did not accidentally freeze it in the colder part of the fridge.  It's just so thick that unless it's heated, it's a solid).  So it was extremely hard to get it into the bowl without mashing it into the sides of the mixer (that part I did not clean with my tongue, by the way).  And pointless, because it was impossible to churn it, and it did not need churning anyway.  And then when I tried to get it off the dasher and into a container, it wouldn't go, so I wasted a lot of it (or would have wasted it, except for licking the dasher, and the spatula...).  

It would have had a perfect, luxurious, silky ice cream consistency - truly, perfection - if I had crammed the whole business into the freezer hot from the stove.  Which I suggest that you do.  You may thereby avoid 15 hours of pre-freezing the bowl, 8 hours of chilling the mix, half an hour of churning (as I said, both impossible and unnecessary), and then 2-3 hours of additional freezing (plus cleaning all the pieces, and the countertop, and your face and arms), and go straight for 2-4 hours of freezing instead.  And your ice cream will be perfect.  

And why, exactly, does this particular ice cream base not need these steps that are usually required for nice, soft ice cream?  Well, you read the recipe, and see whether you can guess.  

You will need: 

3 cups heavy cream
8 oz. (two bars) unsweetened baker's chocolate
1-1/4 cups sugar
6 egg yolks 
4 tsp. vanilla

And that's it.  You can see why it doesn't need churning, right?  Extremely low water content.  Insanely high fat content.  You couldn't turn that into a block of ice if you wanted to; it wants to be ice cream.  Do not bother to substitute milk for cream, or milk chocolate chips for baker's chocolate, by the way.  If you want uninteresting ice cream, buy a carton on sale for $2.50; it will be better than what you can make with those ingredients, because the company has a churning machine the size of your house.  There's no point making your own ice cream to achieve a flavor that's already sold.  If you're going to take the time, make fabulous ice cream.  

By the way, I didn't specify the flavor.  It's dark chocolate ice cream.  It's actually dark brown, and so rich that I don't think children would even like it.  It's amazing.  Here's the how-to: 

In a microwave-safe bowl (I used Pyrex), put 1 cup of the cream (approximately) and all of the baker's chocolate, after you smash the baker's chocolate into smallish pieces.  (Try leaving it in the package and hitting it repeatedly with a hammer.)  Microwave 1 minute on high, swirl around, and then another minute on high.  While you're at it, put the remaining cream (approximately 2 cups) in a good-sized sauce pan over low heat (well, or medium heat.  My stovetop runs quite hot).  Then separate the six egg yolks and put them in a good-sized mixing bowl; save the whites for another recipe.  Beat the yolks briefly, then add the sugar and incorporate that well (by hand is sufficient).  Once the chocolate is done microwaving, stir it patiently with a rubber spatula until it's completely combined and melted.  Check to see how your cream is doing.  You want to "scald" it, not boil it.  If it's hot enough to almost-burn a finger dipped in it, it's done.  Once the cream and chocolate are both done, pour amounts of them by turns into your egg mixture, and mix thoroughly.  Once they're all combined, pour the whole mess back into the sauce pan.  Heat it on low, stirring constantly with your spatula.  Once the mixture is steaming and producing small bubbles at the edges, it's done.  Move it off the hot burner, add the vanilla, and stir.  Then pour it into relatively shallow sealed containers, and pop them in the freezer.  After 2-4 hours, you will have absolutely fantastic ice cream.  

If this sounds like a lot of work, spend some time googling ice cream recipes.  It's about half an hour of prep work and you're done.  For made-from-scratch ice cream, that's nothing.  

And I repeat - this is the best ice cream that ever has been.  So good, and so rich, that even a little bowl will be plenty; even for someone with a crazy sweet tooth, with a compulsive habit of eating past the point of satiety and into real sickness.  (Not that I know anyone like that.)  Fortunately - have another gander at those ingredients.  I want to be up-front about this: this is not diet food.  On the other hand - for anyone who can't eat gluten (but can eat dairy, OBVIOUSLY), this will make you feel deprived of nothing.  And it's actually quite high in protein and antioxidants.  

It's sad that this post will never go viral, because I am a very harsh critic of my own work (and I hope I regularly make clear that I understand the difference between something I'm excited about because I didn't think I could pull it off and something I'm excited about because it is objectively amazing, without needing to grade on a curve in view of my limited abilities), and I am telling you - this is a life-changing recipe right here.  It is superlative.  Yes, yes, it's maybe $12 for not even a half-gallon of ice cream, and it would make you sick (and fat, and hyperactive, and glucose-intolerant) if you ate it frequently.  But no one is going to make this every day.  For when the boss comes to dinner, or you want to try a fun new recipe with your girlfriends, or for someone's very important birthday, or when life has been too much and there needs to be some bright (and chocolate-filled) spot, it is what you need.  

 Make the ice cream.  You'll thank me.  

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