Monday, June 20, 2011
Tomorrow is the first day of Summer.
June 21st. It's the longest day of the year, the most hours of daylight, the most hours of gorgeous photography opportunities, the most time I can spend on the beach in 24 hours. You should eat as much ice cream as you can tomorrow. Eat it until you can't eat it any more. Hot fudge sauce is optional, but recommended. Unless there's a cone involved - that might be difficult but still possible.
I made you ice cream. From scratch, and....without an ice cream maker! I did.
Before we get to the recipe....let's talk ice cream science for a minute.
Ice cream is a magical thing. There is so much to know about it. My husband can tell you - he spent 2 years studying the chemistry behind it and earned a Masters degree from it all. Yup. My husband is a Master of Ice Cream. I picked a good one...
Ice cream is so much more than just frozen cream and sugar. It's a complex structure of fat crystals, air, ice, sugar and protein. Its appeal is mainly in its incredibly smooth and creamy texture. Now, many may believe that great ice cream has the least air, and that's not necessarily true - a bit of air provides for great structure and melting properties. Ever wonder why Haagen Dazs melts so fast? It has barely any air whipped into it. Ever wonder why the cheap-O ice cream doesn't melt at all? Too much air! It's practically a balloon. There needs to be a balance.
How about ice crystals? Ice crystals are very important. They need to be small for a smooth texture. That's why you can't just throw ice cream base in the freezer and cross your fingers. What you'll end up with is a soft, flavoured ice cube. No good.
That is what an ice cream machine is for - the blades continuously shave down the crystals as they form on the outside surface of the barrel. This prevents the individual ice crystals from getting too big. Sugar is important to bind water and lower the freezing temperature so that your ice cream doesn't turn into a solid brick in your freezer.
Ever have icy ice cream that feels grainy on your tongue? That's due to temperature fluctuations. Opening and closing the freezer door is a major culprit, and when you're serving up a cone, do it fast! Don't leave your tub out too long because anything that melts will re-freeze into large ice crystals.
Now after all this talk, I'm presenting you with an ice cream that I actually made sans ice cream machine! It's not utterly smooth, but it has the texture of a fudgsicle.
The key to trying to achieve small ice crystals is to freeze the base in a shallow metal pan - this will increase the surface area of the base that is exposed to cold air so that it freezes quickly. Metal is also a great heat conductor so it will also help it to freeze quickly. Now, the important fact is to get in there every 10 to 15 minutes with a fork or a hand mixer and scrape/mix up the base to break down all of the crystals. Continue doing this until it is almost completely frozen.
Oh! Another tip - make sure you chill the base thoroughly before freezing it. Leave it overnight in the refrigerator if you can. This is called aging and it improves the whipping qualities of the mix and the texture of the final product. As the ice cream base rests, the emulsifiers from the egg yolks migrate to the surface of the fat droplets in the milk and cream to give it a better structure.
Anyway, my husband was totally against me posting this recipe because I didn't use an ice cream machine which defies his entire thesis. However - he's eating it and it's almost gone. So, ya. Eat this.
PS - if you have an ice cream machine, go for it. It will be spectacular.