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
- Warm the milk in a small saucepan.
- In a separate medium-sized bowl, whisk the eggs with the sugar.
- Still whisking, slowly add warm milk to egg mixture.
- Pour mixture back into pan and heat slowly until thickened, about 10 minutes, stirring constantly. Do not allow the mixture to boil.
- Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.
- Add cream and vanilla, stirring to combine.
- Chill in refrigerator until good and cold.
- 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.