Chill out: Homemade ice cream can be traditional or exotic

07/28/2014 1:14 PM

07/31/2014 9:13 AM

Among ice cream lovers, there are two camps: those who like to stick with the tried and true, and those who like to venture into the unconventional.

The former need to thank the latter, because without their adventurous spirit, we wouldn’t have now-conventional flavors like rum-raisin ice cream and green tea sorbet.

Two new ice cream cookbooks have something for both camps.

The Ice Creamery Cookbook by Shelly Kaldunski falls along more conventional lines with recipes like Mascarpone-Hazelnut Gelato and Maple-Banana Greek Frozen Yogurt.

Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream Desserts by Jeni Britton Bauer goes out on the edge with Absinthe & Meringue Ice Cream or Wheatgrass, Pear & Vinho Verde Sorbet.

Both also have recipes for toppings, and dessert items that either pair well with ice cream (brownies, cobblers) or have ice cream as an ingredient (sundaes, ice cream sandwiches). Kaldunski offers recipes for homemade cones; Bauer suggests cakes that can be layered with ice cream, such as Stone-Ground-Grits Pudding Cake. But seriously, what cake isn’t improved by layering it with ice cream?

Kaldunski also uses the more traditional custard base, with egg yolks as the thickener. More of Bauer’s recipes don’t rely on eggs, using cornstarch and cream cheese as thickeners.

Kaldunski offers one vegan recipe (other than sorbets and granitas), Chocolate-Coconut Gelato, with coconut water and coconut milk. Bauer has developed a non-dairy base, which she calls Creme sans Lait, with almond milk, tapioca starch, cashew paste, coconut oil and vegan cream cheese, and recipes for five variations.

I’m accustomed to using a traditional custard base, so to me, that feels less complicated than Bauer’s recipes.

And although I’ll try almost anything — in the last few weeks, I’ve had rosemary sorbet and strawberry basil ice cream at a restaurant and an ice cream shop — I’m happier with the usual chocolate, vanilla, coffee and fruit variations. Bauer’s more exotic recipes call for a number of hard-to-find ingredients, including matcha powder, orange flower water, Amarena cherries, and essential oils like juniper and magnolia.

I chose three recipes from each cookbook — one each ice cream, frozen yogurt and sorbet. Most I tested on friends, but one, Limoncello Sorbet, I kept to myself, scooping out a little each night after dinner. Because I did this in July, when friends were loading me up with mangoes from their trees, two of my test recipes used mangoes.

I’ve been making ice cream at home for many years, usually custard-based blackberry, or peach ice cream like my grandmother used to make, or a killer nonfat chocolate sorbet.

For this assignment, however, I went out on the edge with Jeni — owner of an Ohio-based chain of ice cream shops — pulling together odd (to me, at least) combinations of mangoes with Manchego cheese and cantaloupe with tawny port, as well as a conventional mango frozen yogurt.

From Kaldunski’s book, I made Cinnamon-Brown Sugar Ice Cream, Limoncello Sorbet and Dulce de Leche Frozen Yogurt.

The biggest hit? Dulce de Leche Frozen Yogurt (although I think the Limoncello Sorbet would have been the favorite if I’d shared it). Biggest dud? Cantaloupe sorbet with tawny port — flavors that just didn’t go well together.

The Cinnamon Brown-Sugar Ice Cream was well-received, but friends said it might have topped the list if I had served it with apple pie. (Oh sure, and I bet they want caramel sauce, too.) The Mango Manchego Ice Cream was dubbed too rich and not sweet enough. Mango Frozen Yogurt turned out well enough, but it was overshadowed by the others.

I’d never made frozen yogurt, and the first thing I learned is that I’d been deluding myself by thinking that it was healthier than regular ice cream. Some but not all of the recipes from both books use heavy cream and full-fat milk as well as yogurt. In those recipes, yogurt seems to be included more for the tangy flavor it adds than to cut the fat content.

I used two kinds of machines to make the ice cream. One is an old-fashioned but electric one in which the cylinder containing the mixture is packed in ice and salt and churned. The modern one has a cylinder that must be chilled in the freezer beforehand, and doesn’t require ice or salt, so is not as messy. Both worked fine, although the older one chills the ice cream to a soft-serve stage that doesn’t require further freezing. Ice cream made in the modern one needed some additional freezer time.

Marjie Lambert is travel editor of the Miami Herald and author of eight cookbooks.

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