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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.

DeCorpo only adds in the solids — fruits, nuts, and caramel — at the end of the churning process, so that they do not interfere with the incorporation of the air. If you’re using a low-fat milk, such as goat or sheep’s milk, it may take more time to churn.

“The fat content is about 30 percent less than cow’s milk,” she said. “You can add heavy cream or whole milk to get a better texture.”

Whatever milk you use, however, the ratio of liquid to egg always stays the same.

“The egg gives it the creamy, velvety mouthfeel,” she said. “I’ve used almond, hemp and coconut milk, and I like the coconut milk best with coffee and chocolate and fruit flavors.”

For the Tangy Lemon Goat’s Milk Ice Cream, deCorpo heated up the goat’s milk with the cane sugar, then zested a lemon and added it to the milk in order to help draw out its essential oils.

Then, while she was waiting for the milk to come to a scald — just under a boil — she separated the eggs, then added a tiny bit of sugar to the yolks before she whisked them to help them “ribbon down off the whisk.”

“Keep whisking until they turn a pale yellow,” she said. “But don’t turn your back or walk away from the milk.”

Once the milk reached a scald, she added the vanilla. Then she took a small portion of hot milk into the egg yolks, to temper them. Then she turned the heat off and added the egg mixture into the milk.

Then she turned the heat back on, and with a rubber spatula, moved it along the bottom of the pan to keep the mixture from sticking. You need to keep stirring until the bubbles nearly disappear and the mixture coats the back of the spoon.

“Be patient, and don’t turn the heat up,” she said. “You can use a thermometer to make sure the eggs do not curdle. It should not go above 170 degrees.

You know it’s done when the bubbles almost disappear and the mixture has reached a silky, satiny texture.

“Add the lemon juice at the very end, so that it has a bright, lemony flavor,” she said. “Then strain the mixture through a strainer.”

If sorbet is more your style, deCorpo included a recipe for a Strawberry and Rosewater Sorbet that could also be poured into popsicle molds before it is churned. If you like your sorbet chunky, you don’t even have to strain it.

For her popsicles, deCorpo also likes to combine the flavors of fresh peaches with fresh ginger and lime juice, and strawberries, Meyer lemon and Thai basil, and thinly sliced and sugared cucumber with lime and mint. For elite sporting events like the Ironman and the Gran Fondo, she also makes a sugar-free popsicle with apple sauce, apple juice and ginger.

If you don’t have an ice cream churner, you an also make a granita from a puree of fresh fruit and water that you pour into a shallow Pyrex pan.

“Every hour, for six hours or so, scrape the fruit with a fork, then put it back into the freezer,” she said. “At the end, you can pack it into a container. It’s a healthy, fruit-based dessert.”

The following recipes are from Maria deCorpo of Real Cool Frozen Treats. She likes to use organic cane sugar and often adds a pinch of the sugar to the egg yolks to help them come together. She also tastes the ice cream before she churns it and adds a pinch of salt to heighten the flavors, when necessary.

Tangy Lemon Goat’s Milk Ice Cream

Makes 1 quart

1 quart goat’s milk

1 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

— Zest and juice of one lemon

4 large egg yolks

Bring goat’s milk, sugar, vanilla and lemon zest just to a boil in a small heavy saucepan on medium heat, stirring occasionally.

Lightly whisk the egg yolks in a medium bowl, then add half of the hot milk mixture in a slow stream, whisking constantly to temper. Pour back into saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until custard coats the back of a spoon and registers 170 degrees on an instant-read thermometer (do not let boil). Pour custard through a fine-mesh sieve into a large bowl and add the lemon juice, stirring to blend.

Chill custard, stirring occasionally, until very cold, from 3 to 6 hours or overnight. Freeze custard in an ice cream maker, until it looks like soft-serve ice cream, and then transfer to an airtight container and put in the freezer to firm up.

Gianduia is a type of Italian, hazelnut chocolate. Hazelnut Butter is available at Shed and other specialty markets.

Gianduia Ice Cream

Makes 1 quart

4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine

4 ounces milk chocolate, chopped fine

2/3 cup Hazelnut Butter

1/2 cup hazelnuts, toasted, skinned and chopped fine

2 cups whole milk

2 cups heavy cream

1/3 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

8 large egg yolks

Combine all ingredients except egg yolks in a small, heavy saucepan. Bring to a simmer and cook until chocolate is melted and mixture is just about to boil. Stir occasionally.

Lightly whisk egg yolks in a medium bowl, then add half of the hot milk mixture in a slow stream, whisking constantly. Pour back into saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until custard coats back of spoon and registers 170 degrees on an instant-read thermometer (do not let boil). Pour custard through a fine-mesh sieve into a large bowl.

Chill custard, stirring occasionally, until very cold, 3 to 6 hours or overnight. Freeze custard in an ice cream maker, until it is the consistency of soft-serve ice cream, then transfer to an airtight container and put in freezer to firm up.

Haverton Hill Creamery makes a sheep’s milk that is available at Shed and other specialty markets.

Salted Caramel Sheep’s Milk Ice Cream

Makes 1 quart

For caramel:

1 cup sugar

1 cup heavy cream

1/2 teaspoon Maldon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For ice cream base:

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 1/4 cups fresh sheep’s milk

3 large eggs

Heat 1 cup sugar in a dry, 10-inch heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring with a fork to heat sugar evenly, until it starts to melt, then stop stirring and cook, swirling skillet occasionally so sugar melts evenly, until it is dark amber.

Add 1 cup cream (mixture will spatter) and cook, stirring, until all of the caramel has dissolved. Transfer to a bowl and stir in sea salt and vanilla. Cool to room temperature.

Meanwhile, bring sheep’s milk and remaining 1/4 cup sugar just to a boil in a small, heavy saucepan, stirring occasionally.

Lightly whisk eggs in a medium bowl, then add half of the hot milk mixture in a slow straem, whisking constantly. Pour back into saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until custard coats the back of the spoon and registers 170 degrees on an instant-read thermometer (do not let boil.) Pour custard through a fine-mesh sieve into a large bowl, then stir in cooled caramel.

Chill custard, stirring occasionally, until very cold, 3 to 6 hours or overnight. Freeze custard in an ice cream maker (it will still be quite soft), then transfer to an airtight container and put in freezer to firm up.

Strawberry and Rosewater Sorbet

Makes 1 quart

3/4 cup water

3/4 cup sugar

2 pounds fresh strawberries, stemmed and rough chopped

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon rosewater

Heat water and sugar in a small heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring, until sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat and cool syrup completely.

Puree strawberries with cooled syrup in a food processor until smooth, then force through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl. Stir in lemon juice and rosewater.

Chill, stirring occasionally, until very cold, 3 to 6 hours or overnight. Freeze in an ice cream maker, then transfer to an airtight container and put in freezer to firm up.

Staff writer Diane Peterson can be reached at 521-5287 or diane.peterson@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @dianepete56.

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