At this time of year, who doesn’t love scooping a ball of store-bought ice cream on top of a slice of apple pie, a blackberry crisp or a peach galette?
But as decadent as those treats are, they don’t hold a candle to eating a dish of homemade ice cream and savoring its silky, satiny texture that’s enlivened by bright bursts of lemon zest and lime, fresh berries and mint.
“Ice cream made at home is better — its consistency pillowy, its flavor pronounced, its style up to us,” state the editors of Food52 in the introduction to a new crowdsourced cookbook, “Ice Cream & Friends.”
And once you learn the basic technique of making a custard base, the sky’s the limit on the different milks, flavors and add-ons you can play around with, from olive oil and cacao nibs to cucumber and lime.
That was the message conveyed by Maria deCorpo, chef/owner of mobile food truck Real Cool Frozen Treats, during a recent ice cream class at the Healdsburg Shed.
“Making ice cream, like a lot of cooking, is all about technique,” deCorpo explained. “We are going to learn the technique for a traditional, custard-base ice cream, and all the recipes are a variation on this recipe.”
The class, which explored making ice cream with cow’s milk, goat’s milk, and sheep’s milk plus a sorbet, drew ice cream lovers young and old. Longtime ice cream fanatic Cherry Cotter came all the way from San Francisco to pick up a few secrets from deCorpo.
“I have three machines at home — a Cuisinart, an Italian ice cream maker and a commercial soft-serve machine,” Cotter confessed. “I enjoyed learning the tips — how long you zbeat the eggs, and stirring the custard just until the foam disappears.”
To illustrate the basic technique, deCorpo made a Tangy Lemon Goat’s Milk Ice Cream on the stove, then churned it in her two-quart Cuisinart ice cream maker.
One of the takeaways from the class was the importance of investing in a high-quality ice cream machine in order to make churning easier and faster.
“Price really is a good indicator of quality,” she said. “Buy the most expensive one you can afford.”
Another important lesson imparted by deCorpo is that you should not be in a hurry to make ice cream, even if you do yearn to eat it.
“I like to make the ice cream base one day, then chill it overnight,” she said. “Then I churn it the next day. It needs to be very cold, but you can set it in an ice bath so that it comes down to 60 degrees … and after it’s churned, I chill it overnight.”
In a high-quality machine like the Cuisinart, the churning time should only take 20 to 45 minutes at the outside, until the custard base turns the texture of soft-serve ice cream. That means it is ready to go back into the freezer to chill down.
“If the ice cream doesn’t freeze or set up, you can always re-warm it, put it in the fridge, and refreeze your bowl and try again,” she said. “These ingredients aren’t cheap.”
When she’s buying fruit for ice cream, deCorpo will make deals on bruised peaches or berries, because she knows she is just going to puree the fruit, and she can get a better price for it.