June 7, 2011

We Are All Probably Screaming for Ice Cream Right About Now...

Chicago just went from cloudy, rainy, damp, and 40-something to hot, humid, and 90--in about a week. That's nothing new around here, a city that can see a 40-degree spread in a single day. But I've gone a little crazy lately with making ice cream and sorbet in order to debunk the heat, and I need to share the fun!

If you don't have a countertop ice cream machine, now would be a great time to get one. Most quality brands are $50 to $70 for the season, and many companies are offering rebates right now. I own both a Cuisinart 1-1/2-quart Ice Cream and Sorbet Maker and the freezer attachment for my Kitchen Aid stand mixer. Both work really well and require only an overnight freeze of the mixing bowl. If you have a deep freeze or chest freezer, you can just store your freezer bowls in there all the time. Unfortunately, I cannot report on the old-fashioned ice-and-rock-salt electric or hand-crankers, as I've never worked with one, but I highly recommend a small electric one if you have the cabinet or counter space. They're affordable little workhorses (I've had my Cuisinart for more than 10 years), and you can purchase additional freezer bowls so that there's always one frozen and ready to go, making it easy to freeze multiple flavors at a time. It has recently gone through a redesign, and Cuisinart has also since introduced a 2-quart version, which I highly recommend. Most ice cream recipes, especially when adding mix-ins, tend to "enlarge" through the churning process, and so it's nice to have the extra bowl capacity. The Kitchen Aid attachment is pricier, but for those of you who already have a 4- to 6-quart stand mixer parked on the countertop, it's nice to just be able to purchase an attachment instead of a whole new machine. Please note though, with small electric makers and attachments, ice cream requires an additional setting time in the freezer for a couple of hours or overnight. I have heard from ice-and-rock-salt owners that you can eat it right out of the bucket when churned. Just know that those machines require purchasing the special salt and having lots of ice on hand to get started.

My favorite books on the subject include The Ultimate Ice Cream Book: Over 500 Ice Creams, Sorbets, Granitas, Drinks, and More, by Bruce Weinstein, and The Perfect Scoop: Ice Creams, Sorbets, Granitas, and Sweet Accompaniments, by David Lebovitz. I've actually lost count of the number of recipes I've done from the Weinstein book. Even the mix-ins (he provides sometimes up to 10 variations of several of the recipes) are amazing crowd pleasers. Favorites around here from that book include the ice creams cheesecake, corn (yes, kinda crazy but GOOD!), key lime pie, green tea, coffee, peanut butter (add some chocolate chips--he doesn't suggest it, but mini-chocolate chips are a great mix-in), peach, pumpkin, and white chocolate. And the sorbets banana, honeydew, and coconut. Weinstein provides two types: standard custard-style (heavy on the eggs, so very rich) and egg-free Philadelphia-style, which is much lighter and often has less sugar. Just a warning though... Philadelphia-style requires at least overnight in the freezer after churning, to make sure it's frozen solid enough for scooping. This most likely has to do with the lack of eggs, which provide a lot of structure and intensity to custard-style ice creams. Lebovitz's is a little more gourmet, with things like pear caramel and goat cheese, but he offers a lot more sauces, toppings, and mix-ins than the Weinstein book. Both authors take cooks through the custard making process rather efficiently, and you can churn/freeze according to your maker's manufacturer's directions. I am not as well-versed on gelato (which contains more milk than cream and is often viewed as lower in fat content as a result), and neither book really tackles that subject. I might be able to include an addendum to this entry, after I take the gelato class I enrolled in at Canady Le Chocolatier later this month. So stay tuned...

Both the Weinstein and Lebovitz books include sorbet and granita recipes, sauces, cookie recipes for making ice cream sandwiches, and lots of other ice cream accompaniments. I've been cooking out of the Weinstein book for as long as I've owned my little Cuisinart, and I'm nowhere near done with everything I could make out of it!

If you're a cone lover like I am (the extra crunch of a sugar cone really makes the treat for me), you might want to consider getting a pizzelle or waffle cone maker. You will need to purchase cone rollers (most pizzelle makers don't include them but some waffle cone makers do) in order to make cones, or you can make (rather large!) ice cream sandwiches.

I'll leave you with an absolute must this season--hot fudge sauce! This is an easy recipe that cans and freezes well, and reheats perfectly. You can even steep spices (cinnamon sticks, ginger) or herbs (lavender, basil, orange or lemon zest) in the heavy cream at the heating stage to add flavor. So go on... scream for ice cream! You deserve a cool blast this already-hot summer!

Hot Fudge Sauce

3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons sugar
1/3 cup light corn syrup (Karo makes a 33% less fat version)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a microwave-safe container, heat the chocolate and butter in the microwave on half power in 30 second intervals until melted. Set aside to cool.

Heat cream in medium saucepan over low heat. Add sugar and corn syrup and stir until sugar dissolves completely. Add cream mixture to melted chocolate and return to pot. Continue to heat mixture over low heat, stirring constantly. Add the vanilla and serve hot. Makes about 1 cup. Can be pressure canned or frozen for later use.