Friday, October 24, 2008

Homemade Ice Cream

A perfect storm of events blew through my kitchen this week and I’ve just been dying to come and share it here. The long and short of it was that we learned how to make ice cream, you see, and I’m pretty sure it has changed our lives forever. Homemade ice cream is divine, as you know, and puts all those silly, over-decorated and cleverly-named little cartons at the supermarket to shame. The thing is though, the last time I had the pleasure of enjoying homemade ice cream, there was an absurd amount of work involved. And I just don’t have that kind of time.

My extended family used to spend a couple weeks in a large and gloriously un-fancy beach house at Nags Head every summer, and sometime during my teenage years, my great-uncle tooled up in his travel trailer complete with good cheer and a cumbersome, hand-cranked ice cream maker from which he served up the creamiest of ice creams. He chose peanut butter, of all flavors, to regale us with, and I’ve dreamed of that sublime substance often and much over the past two decades.

A few years back, once I had gained a bit of confidence in the kitchen and was going through a phase in which long cooking projects appealed to me greatly, I mentioned to my mother that I was in the market for my very own ice cream maker. She obliged, of course, and within a few weeks proudly bestowed upon me a Krups machine she had picked up, in its original packaging, at a yard sale for a mere $5.

She’s the bomb, my mother.

I on the other hand, ungrateful little wretch that I am, put the machine in the pantry and promptly forgot all about it.

Look, life happens. I have an embarrassingly long list of projects I want to tackle, new tricks I want to learn, and goals I dream of achieving. And the good Lord willing and the river don't rise, I will get around to each and every one of these things in their own time (like when I no longer have two demanding little monkeys dangling from my kneecaps).

All justifications aside, there the machine sat, directly beneath an industrial-sized roll of paper towels that never gets used, and slightly to the left of my field of vision when I’m lounging in the doorway to the pantry, until a couple weeks ago when Little Miss Piggy speed-crawled her way in there to set her usual wave of destruction into motion. A few crashes and a startled screech from her later, I leaned over to rescue her from a tangle of baking supplies when The Boy Wonder shot between my legs, grabbed a box from the floor and began shouting about ice cream.

Eureka. The whole family has been aching for dessert during this October Eat Local Challenge and I had thus far been utterly stumped. Brownies were clearly out of the question, as were most of my cookie recipes. Fudge was out, walnut brittle wasn’t an option. I’m telling you, the month was beginning to drag. Ice cream, which hadn’t even occurred to me before this moment, could be made almost entirely with local ingredients.

And I’ve got to tell you, we were in pretty dire straits, me and the kids. I had run slap out of creative activities that held interest for all of us simultaneously, and we were really starting to grate on each others nerves. Something had to give.

Like I said, Eureka.

As it turns out, ice cream making has gotten much simpler over the years. These electric models require no repetitive hand motions and call not for rock salt. Five pure ingredients later (all organic, three sourced from within 100 miles and one obtained from an adjoining state), we had a flavor that bested even Haagen-Dazs. Hands on, the whole project probably takes no more than about 20 minutes. There is a considerable amount of waiting involved: the canister must be frozen 24 hours in advance (which is why I have now leased our canister some permanent shelf-space in my freezer), and then there are a couple steps in which mixtures must be cooled to room temperature and then chilled for an hour or so, but the final step, the one in which the mixture is poured into the automatic ice cream maker and left alone to do its thing for 40 minutes is the most fascinating of all.

We were entranced, all three of us. I meant to set things in motion and then find something with which to distract The Boy Wonder, but we were happy to sit silently and watch the most fascinating science lesson that can occur in a kitchen. Matter of fact, I will keep this trick in my arsenal for when I need 40 minutes of peace and quiet. Anything that keeps the kids parked in one place for that long without invoking the evil gods inside the television can’t be wrong.

Oh my shooting stars, did I mention the end resulf of this little activity? My, my, my. Rich, creamy spoonfuls of velvet; flavor so truly vanilla that it actually captures the essence itself, and the most luxurious mouthfeel you can glean from such a humble dessert. Consider me converted.

And did you have any idea these things could be picked up for $30? Need another nudge? Revel in the simplicity of the following recipe.


VANILLA ICE CREAM (adapted from the Krups La Glaciere instruction manual, serves about 8)
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups cream
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  1. Warm the milk in a small saucepan.
  2. In a separate medium-sized bowl, whisk the eggs with the sugar.
  3. Still whisking, slowly add warm milk to egg mixture.
  4. Pour mixture back into pan and heat slowly until thickened, about 10 minutes, stirring constantly. Do not allow the mixture to boil.
  5. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.
  6. Add cream and vanilla, stirring to combine.
  7. Chill in refrigerator until good and cold.
  8. Freeze in ice cream machine, according to manufacturer's instructions. In my machine, mixture is put into canister that had been frozen for 24 hours, then paddle and lid are attached, machine is plugged in and turned on, and then left alone to do its work for 20 to 40 minutes (until ice cream is desired consistency).


Stay tuned for further recipes, of course. My girlfriend Beth, who joined us on ice cream day, said something about mint chocolate chip as she was leaving and I haven't been able to get that deliriously beautiful idea out of my head since then. Smart woman, that Beth.


Mama JJ said...

Sarah, I'm so relieved to hear that you finally got your priorities straight---other things taking precidence over making your own ice cream? That was one serious mistake, girlfriend! But never fear, now that you've seen the light you'll be just fine. You're chugging down the right track. Not that you need me to tell you that, of course, because now that you've seen and tasted the wonders of homemade ice cream you will never, I repeat, NEVER, stray from the path again.

Will the Edy's fruit bars be able to exist with such stiff competition?


Ps. After this month, you gotta try peanut butter cup...

Mama JJ said...

Grr. I spelled "precedence" wrong, and I can't correct it. Forgive my obsessive compulsive-ness that is causing me to write this silly comment. Please.


Sarah Beam said...

Oh, JJ! Peanut butter cup? You're killing me. That sounds good enough to, um, eat.

annalitchka said...

So - now you have ANOTHER reason to consider getting a miniature cow! :-) :-)

I discovered a year ago that you can make ice cream from just THREE ingredients: half & half, sugar, and vanilla. It's not as thick as with the cooked eggs, but hey, it's pretty darn good. This was DA BOMB at my daughter's high school graduation party. You gotta try it.


Zoë said...

Oh my, I'm sad that I made yesterday's cream into butter because now I'm in the mood for ice cream! And I even have that canister waiting in the deep freezer...well, we'll just have to wait until the next time we go to the milk tank down on the farm!

TNKerry said...

This sounds so good and easy I am tempted to actually take out the ice cream maker that I got for my wedding 13 years ago.
However, I am not good at adapting and need some help. I didn't see in the recipe when you should add the cream and vanilla. Do you mix it in at the end before placing it in the canister?

Sarah Beam said...

Anne, I can't BELIEVE you had to go and bring those miniature cows back up. Now I'm dying to get one again. That's hilarious.

Zoe, you work on the ice cream thing because now I want to go and make butter. I've never done that before.

Sarah Beam said...

tnkerry, I owe you a 'whoops.' I am fixing that recipe now so that it is actually helpful.

Sarah Beam said...

tnkerry, I have fixed the instructions in the original post now, but yes, you are mostly correct. The cream and vanilla is added before chilling the mixture. I'm so glad you caught that.

Zoë said...

sarah, making butter is so easy...have you read mamajj's instructions? she's quite helpful. the only thing I do different is I don't let the cream sit out so long so my butter isn't sour. but do what you think you'd like!