Adventures in ice cream making

Last summer, I caught the homemade ice cream-making bug.  It started innocently at first, with no-machine vanilla ice cream.  Then I tried no-machine chocolate ice cream.  And then you can probably guess what happened...I bought an ice cream maker.

Store-bought ice cream is convenient and, frankly, often cheaper than homemade but there really is something magical about homemade ice cream.  It's just the freshest tasting ice cream that you can tailor for yourself.  I've already shared a couple of recipes that put my ice cream maker to good use: Philadelphia-style (no egg) vanilla ice cream and chocolate gelato - two of our household favorites!  This past Memorial Day weekend, I took some homemade vanilla ice cream and made a few ice cream pops for our cookout.  I have to tell you that ice cream balls like to melt very quickly!  But seeing the kids enjoying them made the work worthwhile!
I've been putting my ice cream maker to work since it's come into my life and I thought I would indulge myself with a little ice cream "show-and-tell" today.  After all, prime ice cream making and eating season is upon us!  So here's some of what I've been churning up, both hits and misses!
Vanilla Fudge Ripple Ice Cream
Let's start with vanilla fudge ripple ice cream.  Did you ever buy those little  clear dixie cups with vanilla ice cream and fudge at the bottom and top?  I used to love digging into one of those with a wooden spoon as a child and this is the grown-up, far better, homemade version.  You make the fudge ripple sauce separately, chill it, and layer it between layers of homemade vanilla bean ice cream to create the panda pattern swirl.  It is divine!  I can't get enough of that fudge ripple!

On the topic of vanilla ice cream, I bought one of those enormous Tahitian vanilla beans and made Tahitian vanilla ice cream with it.  Whoa!  Tahitian vanilla beans are seriously intense!  Have you tried it, and if so, do you like it?  It was too strong and sweet for me and my 7-year old; my husband really liked it though.  
Vietnamese Coffee Ice Cream
Now coffee is a popular flavor in my house - for my guys, anyway (I'm more Team Chocolate).  We adore this Vietnamese coffee ice cream because it's both tasty and easy to make.  You simply take very strong brewed coffee and combine it with condensed milk to create this rich, creamy, full-flavored coffee ice cream.
Vietnamese Coffee Ice Cream with Chocolate-Covered Espresso Beans
Make it a little more interesting by adding some chopped chocolate-covered espresso beans into that coffee cream.  Gotta get some chocolate in there somehow!  Ironically, I think I'm the one in our house who likes a ton of crunchy mix-ins in my ice cream!  The boys lean more towards purists.
Caramel Ice Cream
Fan of caramel?  Do what I did and try making homemade caramel ice cream.  Caramel is not generally one of my favorite flavors on its own but the homemade version was luscious, smooth, slightly salted - great for caramel enthusiasts.

Click on...There's more ice cream, gelato, and sorbet that I'd like to show you!

Philadelphia-style (no egg) Chocolate Ice Cream with Toberlone
After making and loving very-easy-to-make Philadelphia-style vanilla ice cream, I was excited to make the chocolate version after getting a blender.  Because the recipe calls for unsweetened chocolate, which is difficult to melt completely, the blender comes into play.  So I made Philadelphia-style chocolate ice cream, with chunks of chopped Toberlone.  

Even without eggs, this Philadelphia-style chocolate ice cream was super rich - I dare say, perhaps too rich and chocolaty even for the absolute chocoholic that I am!  I love intense chocolate but when it comes to ice cream, I want to keep the "ice" part of the ice-cream.  I prefer my ice cream icy and cold rather than like pudding.  I'd use less chocolate in the recipe next time and I think it would have been a far better idea to add some nuts (like chopped toasted almonds) instead of more chocolate to it.  I find that adding nuts not only adds great texture, it mellows or rounds out the strong, rich flavor of this chocolate ice cream.  
Maple Walnut Ice Cream
Then...there was my attempt at maple walnut ice cream.  When I was just a kid and living in Brooklyn, there was an ice cream parlor a few blocks from our apartment.  My brother used to take me there and buy me an ice cream cone.  I always went for chocolate or mint chocolate chip in a sugar cone.  Strangely enough, he always bought maple walnut on a cone.  I say, strange, because it seems such an exotic flavor for my brother, who, like me, tends to stick with the basics.  I used to sneak a few bites of his and I could understand why he loved it but I still wasn't willing to give up my favorites.

For his birthday last Fall, I thought I'd surprise him with homemade maple walnut ice cream since we can't seem to find it anywhere anymore.  I based my creation on a combination of recipes from David Lebovitz and Ciao Bella so it was sort of an ice cream/gelato combination.  Sadly though, my homemade version came far short of that maple walnut ice cream I remember my brother loving.  My major mistake was using Grade A maple syrup instead of the stronger, Grade B, maple syrup, which I wasn't familiar with.  I ended up with something closer to a sweet cream ice cream with walnuts since the maple flavor just wasn't prominent enough.  So lesson from me: use the darker "Grade B" maple syrup if you're making maple walnut ice cream!
Vanilla-Flavored Frozen Yogurt
Now let's step away from ice cream for a moment, shall we?  I've also made vanilla frozen yogurt.  For a while, I was addicted to Red Mango fro yo.  A new shop opened in our town and I quickly got hooked onto the tang of that ice-cold yet creamy frozen yogurt.  My obsession with it has calmed down a bit but I still enjoy it on occasion now.  So I tried making frozen yogurt at home.  The trouble with homemade is it hardens when you freeze it so it's not the fluffy smooth texture that we know and love from all favorite fro yo shop.  

Ironically, my 7-year old one son and 5-year old niece were fans of this.  Not so surprising with my niece, who loves frozen yogurt and tang, but my son is not a big fan of fro yo and he asked for seconds and thirds of this.  Go figure!  I made this frozen yogurt using plain full-fat yogurt.  Next time, I'm going to try 2% Greek yogurt.
Chocolate Sorbet
Aah...sorbet!  Of course, I had to make chocolate sorbet!  I'm actually pretty proud of this one.  I learned from my chocolate ice cream experiences and looked at a few recipes and decided not to use too much chocolate (I guess, occasionally, there is such a thing as "too much chocolate").  

I wanted to make sure I had a rich chocolate sorbet but not too rich and that it would still be refreshing and cold.  I ended up with  that - a rich, chocolaty sorbet that was still icy and fairly light.  This is a winner!  [Recipe at the end of the post.]
Lemon Sorbet
Naturally, I moved on to lemon sorbet.  It's refreshing and perfect for summer.  My one complaint about homemade lemon sorbet is how rock hard it is after freezing.  The chocolate sorbet has the advantage of the fat in the chocolate making it smoother and far easier to scoop out.  But for lemon lovers like myself, lemon sorbet is a classic and never a bad thing.

Interestingly, I just watched an episode of America's Test Kitchen this weekend where they made raspberry sorbet and addressed my very complaint.  Their solution involves using low-sugar pectin, corn syrup, and partially freezing some of the sorbet base to mitigate the problem!
Mint Chocolate Chip Gelato with Chocolate Bits ("Stracciatella Style")
Now, this is one of our family favorites that I've made several times and hope to do so for years to come.  It's mint chocolate chip gelato.  The base peppermint gelato recipe comes from the Ciao Bella cookbook and I took David Lebovitz's recipe of adding melted dark chocolate to the gelato just as it's finished churning to create the bits of chocolate "chips".  It's absolutely my favorite way of adding chocolate bits into ice cream or gelato.

I am a huge fan of gelato!  Not only do you usually use less cream so it's lighter/lower in fat, I really think the flavor comes through more intensely for the same reason.  This recipe is quite easy, as it uses peppermint extract.  It's just delicious; my family and I love this one!  [Recipe at the end of the post.]
Cocoa Nib Ice Cream
One last experiment I'll share with you today.  It's cocoa nib ice cream, a recipe I picked up from Alice Medrich that intrigued me.  You steep cocoa nibs in the cream, milk, and sugar mixture to infuse it with a delicate chocolate flavor.  It was really very interesting, with a unique flavor that was somehow delicate yet strong.  It has a chocolate undertone but almost a caramel-like note to it too.

Something to go with all that ice cream?

I love serving something special with ice cream.  It just makes it a bit more special.  If you're looking for ideas, may I suggest:

Almond-butterscotch tuiles shaped into serving bowls or plates for your ice cream.
Crispy tuile "cigarettes"
Langues de Chat (Cat's Tongue cookies)
Phyllo cups
* Or how about making an ice cream crepe?


Recipes:

It wouldn't really be feasible or wise to post each of these ice cream recipes on the blog.  My ice cream handbook of choice is David Lebovitz's The Perfect Scoop, and I also really like the Ciao Bella Book of Gelato & Sorbetto.  That said, I couldn't resist sharing the recipe for two more of our favorites today.  I hope it inspires you to turn on your ice cream maker or to just make time for  ice cream breaks, whether you make your own or not.


Chocolate Sorbet
Based slightly on The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz*, also inspired by other recipes since as this one from Cooking Light

*I started with the recipe from the The Perfect Scoop but this is fairly different.  That recipe calls for 6 ounces of chocolate and 3/4 cup of cocoa.  I knew I wanted clear chocolate flavor but I didn't want my sorbet to be super-intensely rich, or pudding-like, so I toned down the amount of chocolate and added a touch of instant espresso powder.  I eliminated the use of a blender, which is an added bonus.  I looked at several recipes and what I ultimately made resulted in a refreshing, cold sorbet with plenty of chocolate flavor.

- Makes approximately 1 quart - 

2 1/4 cups water
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
Pinch of salt
2 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped 
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a large saucepan, bring water to a boil.  Add sugar, cocoa powder, espresso powder, and salt.  Lower the heat and cook for 5 minutes on a low simmer, stirring or whisking frequently.  Remove mixture from the heat and stir in the chocolate and vanilla until chocolate is fully melted.

Chill the mixture thoroughly (as in overnight) and then churn according to your ice cream maker's manufacturer instructions.  You may need to lightly whisk the mixture before pouring it into the machine to loosen it a bit.  Transfer sorbet to a freezer safe container and freeze for at least an hour or so before serving.


Mint Chocolate Chip Gelato
Mint gelato recipe from the Ciao Bella Book of Gelato & Sorbetto, "Stracciatella" style chocolate chips from David Lebovitz

- Makes approximately 1 quart - 

2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
4 large egg yolks
2/3 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon peppermint extract*
4 ounces semisweet chocolate, melted

*You can first try using 1/2 teaspoon of peppermint extract if you like.

In a large saucepan, heat milk and cream over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until bubbles begin to form at the edges (the temperature should be around 170 degree).  

In a medium size heat-proof bowl, whisk the egg yolks together.  Then, whisk the sugar into the yolks until the mixture thickens and looks pale yellow in color.  Temper the egg yolks by slowly adding some of hot cream and milk mixture into the yolks while whisking continuously.  (I usually add a couple of ladles, roughly 3/4 cups of the hot mixture into the yolks.)  Scrape the custard into the saucepan and cook over low heat (do not bring to a boil).  Cook, stirring continuously with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, until the custard is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon.  It should reach a temperature near 185 degrees.

Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a large bowl.  Let cool to room temperature, then refrigerate overnight or until the custard is very cold.  Right before churning in your ice cream maker, gently whisk in the peppermint extract.  

To create the chocolate "chips", drizzle the melted chocolate into the gelato during the last minute of churning (literally right before you're ready to turn off the machine).  This creates the shredded bits of chocolate, or "stracciatella".  If large pieces of chocolate forms or gets stuck to the dasher, use a rubber spatula to break up the chunks as you transfer it into your storage container.  





35 comments:

  1. I found that using a tablespoon of vodka (or other alcohol) into my fruit sorbets keep them plenty soft. It was actually a suggestion in my ATK cookbook. I'm surprised they went all fancy with their corn syrup/pectin stuff. It's not enough alcohol that you should have to worry for your son. You can't taste it, and that comes from me (I dislike alcohol). I like the recipes you shared, and all of the pictures! So many good ideas!

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    1. Yes, thank you for the tip! I was vaguely thinking about it but have never tried that. Thanks also for pointing out that the flavor wouldn't be noticeable and it's not enough to worry about for kids. My son really likes (smooth) ices and sorbets like this so it's a shame not to able to make good ones. I was a little intimated by all the pectin, corn syrup AND pre-freezing ATK was talking about on the show. It's probably not a ton of work when you break it down but I was not encouraged by all the steps!

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  2. Oh, Monica. You are making it so difficult for me to hold back on buying an ice cream maker! It is a slippery slope. :) I have quite a collection of machine-less recipes but I know its not the same. The Vietnamese Coffee Ice Cream with Chocolate-Covered Espresso Beans is a flavor I could eat a tub of on my own!

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    1. Oh...beware, Wendy! I resisted for so a long and while homemade ice cream is certainly awesome, I warn you that having an ice cream maker will lead to excessive ice cream consumption. Be sure to have others to share with! : )

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  3. Wow, thanks for sharing all these ice cream ideas Monica. I love ice cream and after buying an ice cream maker three years ago, I'm not sure why I haven't used it up until just a few months ago. I love experimenting with all the different recipes out there too but haven't tried making gelato or sorbet yet. All your great pictures and ideas are definitely inspiring me to try more flavors:) The chocolate sorbet and mint chocolate chip gelato recipes sounds amazing!

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    1. Thanks, Kelly! I've found a handful of recipes so far that I really love. I think I make Philadelphia-style vanilla the most often but also love the recipes I listed here as well as chocolate gelato. Too good sometimes...

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  4. Holy moly, this is an amazing collection of homemade ice creams!

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    1. haha! Thanks, Dorie. I am actually amazed I remembered to snap pictures of these things over the course of the last year as I've made them...

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  5. Monica, I got my ice cream maker last year, and enjoy making frozen yogurt...I yet have to try to make ice cream and sherbet...your recipes just came handy for the warm weather :)
    Have a great week!

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    1. Happy ice cream making and eating, Juliana! : ) It's smart of you to stick with frozen yogurt...I wish I had such restraint.

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  6. OK, I am VERY hungry for ice cream after reading through this -- and it's first thing in the morning! :) I'm very interested in the caramel ice cream - yum!

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    1. Any time of day works. For my birthday, I always want an ice cream float or ice cream with hot fudge. I love it and wish I could eat as much as I used to! That caramel ice cream is super smooth and creamy.

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  7. oh my goodness; SO MANY ICE CREAMS!!! isn't it fun trying to get your bearings with it, though? My ice cream maker busted a few months ago, and i am in the midst of getting a new one; so frustrating when it's totally ice cream time right now. :)
    i'm team vanilla, but you're right; tahitian vanilla beans are potent, for sure. and i love the chocolate sorbet! i bet i would like the caramel too...something about caramel ice cream is lovely to me, and i'm not a huge caramel fan either. i had the same experience with a fro-yo attempt: i used 0% greek yogurt (chobani) and it does harden. the flavors were lovely, so i was going to try the 2% once i get my new one. love this post! getting an ice cream maker is sort of like learning a whole new way of "cooking" since you have to find your bearings and learn how much flavors mute down (or don't) once you freeze something. once you get the hang of that, and you find an ice cream base that you like the best, you're golden.

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    1. You're right, Shannon. I found a few flavors we love but not everything works and you're always thinking about how to tweak some recipes. I want to try making fro yo with low-fat greek yogurt. I saw a recipe for 2% that I might try but then again, I've been eating greek yogurt all by itself lately so maybe I should just go for the good stuff and have ice cream if I'm going that route.
      The caramel is so smooth - the benefit of all that sugar. It's great to pair with dessert, for sure. I'm glad I only bought 1 tahitian bean because it is too strong for my taste...

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  8. I did some ice cream making last summer but I really hope to get more into it in the next few months! That mint chocolate gelato is calling to me!

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    1. We love that mint choc gelato since we love peppermint. It's really clean-tasting and not heavy at all. Delish!

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  9. wow So many delicious ice cream!! I can't wait to try every single one. Maple walnut has got to be my favourite!

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    1. David Lebovitz has a really good recipe in his book...I think it'd be wonderful if you follow the recipe instead of messing with it like I did! Make sure to go with Grade B maple syrup for real maple flavor. : )

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  10. I'm a fan! I love making and eating ice cream. I've been looking for a good coffee flavored ice cream - so I am certainly intrigued. That sounds so easy!

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    1. Hi Tricia - that Vietnamese coffee recipe by D. Lebovitz is a real shortcut. I made it a couple of times and it's just a matter of making double-strength coffee (or using espresso) and mixing it with the condensed milk and some half and half, etc. No eggs or custards to cook!

      I think cookies & cream will be my next flavor! My son and I have been talking about it...somewhere in a fro-yo place, it says cookies & cream is America's favorite flavor...I think I'll use oreos. : )

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  11. Mmmm, homemade ice cream, so tasty! My most recent was fresh mint ice cream...both a great way to use fresh mint and SO delicious - really different than mint ice cream just made with peppermint flavoring!

    All your ice creams look great, I'm especially in love with that lemon sorbet, just looks super refreshing and delicious!

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    1. Yes, ice cream infused with fresh mint is amazing. I'm afraid of using the wrong kind of mint and it tasting like toothpaste. The peppermint gelato with the extract is surprisingly tasty and, again, easy to make! Same with coffee...steeping is on my list but the Vietnamese one is a shortcut that also makes a very good ice cream.

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  12. Chocolate and coffee are my favorite flavors in ice cream. Homemade ones must be 1000 times better. ;) Thanks for sharing the two chocolate ice cream recipe. Have a great rest of the week Monica.

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    1. Do you know Ben & Jerry's "coffee coffee buzz buzz buzz" or something like that? That's one of our family favorite ice cream flavors when we think chocolate & coffee...it's coffee with giant chunks of chocolate in it. Ironically, at home, the boys seem to prefer the plain (no mix-in) ice creams.

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  13. Omg looks so tasty, I need to get an ice-cream maker! Homemade always tastes much better than store-bought.

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    1. Ice cream makers are dangerous yet wonderful things!

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  14. Wow! That's an amazing collection of homemade ice creams! Total yum!

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    1. Thanks, Kiran - I've been putting that little ice cream maker through the paces.

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  15. Yum.....this is definitely a post that's a feast to my eyes. :) I agree with you, there's something special about homemade ice cream. Even though it's more expensive to make at home, I still prefer it that way as I know I'm using quality ingredients and making it to suit my family's taste. I'm drooling over all your scrumptious ice cream and sorbets. I make most of the flavors except maple! Can't wait to give that one a try. Thank you so much for sharing. :)

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    1. Thanks so much, Amy! I made cookies 'n cream this weekend! : ) I wish I'd gotten that maple walnut flavor right...need that Grade B syrup!

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  16. Ever since I started blogging and was convinced to buy an ice cream maker, we rarely bought ice cream from stores. So easy to make and delicious. I love that we can control the amount of sugar goes in and the quality of ingredients are nicer too. I'm planning to make vanilla next since it's basic yet never made from scratch. :) Thank you for sharing your recipes!

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    1. Nami, I think we all tend to stick with our favorite flavors. I thought I'd be able to have fun with mix-ins for homemade ice cream but my husband and son seem to like the ice cream plain. Go figure! I do want to make green tea and red bean ice cream at some point. Homemade is fantastic even if it takes some planning and work.

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  17. With blogs like this around I don't even need website anymore.
    I can just visit here and see all the latest happenings in the world.

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