We’re always on the lookout for a new kitchen project. Some little challenge, or technique to master. Recently we enjoyed reading about how to make real, fair-dinkum, ice cream at home. Proper ice cream.
Not frozen mousse, or frozen meringue. If you don’t read The Food Lab yet, then you should add it to your bookmarks. He kind of ‘reverse-engineers’ food so that it can be made at home. His post on ice cream was great, so we decided to give it a go.
Normally when you freeze something the water freezes into big ice crystals. Ice cream is churned as it freezes to stop these big crystals forming. This gives ice cream its smooth texture and creamy mouth-feel. J Kenji Lopez-Alt figured that in order to get good ice cream at home you need to do two things—lower the water content so there are less crystals forming, and freeze the ice cream quickly, so the big crystals don’t have very much time to form.
He lowered the water content by making his custard base with evaporated milk, cream, sugar and egg yolks. Using evaporated milk instead of standard milk lowered the water content quite a bit.
Now for the fast freezing. Superchef Heston Blumenthal’s liquid nitrogen ice cream is a great example of this particular technique.
The liquid nitrogen is so cold that it freezes the ice cream almost instantly—no big crystals form and you have perfect ice cream in seconds. Heston has adapted his technique for the home kitchen (where liquid nitrogen is hard to come by) and he uses dry ice for a similar effect. As far as we’re concerned dry ice is still something that is hard to come by in a standard kitchen!
J Kenji Lopez-Alt decided that he had the perfect device already in his kitchen. Ice-cube trays are designed to quickly freeze water into convenient glass sized portions, so why not use them for ice cream?
It works too! When the ice-cream cubes are frozen you simply put them in a food processor and spin them up with some more cream. The ice- cream goes back into the freezer for a few more hours.
We tried this out last week and it works superbly. It’s a bit fiddly, and you have to make it well in advance of eating it, but the results are amazing. You get to add your own gourmet ingredients, so the ice cream is easily better than anything you would find in a supermarket.
You could make chocolate ice cream with real 70% Valrhona chocolate (available from Sabato) for instance. Or you could make vanilla ice cream with real vanilla beans (including all the tiny black seeds). Or you could try making your own niche flavours that would never make it onto the supermarket shelves. How about wasabi ice-cream? Or chocolate and chilli? Or Masala?
There is a recipe on the food lab article, and I do encourage you to give it a bash. You’ll be amazed at your ice cream! Make sure you pop back and let us know how you get on…
Karl & Fiona Summerfield