Wednesday, July 30, 2003

Do-it-yourself ice cream lets you customize



By Sarah Fritschner
Gannett News Service

There are plenty of reasons not to make your own ice cream - Ben and Jerry's, Breyer's, Godiva.

But for every great flavor you can buy, there are 10 you can custom-make. Whatever great flavors come into the marketplace - and plenty do - there are always more original and more custom-made flavors and textures to be churned on your own counter or porch.

You can make it creamy and creamless by adding more egg yolks; you can make it creamy and eggless by using heavy cream.

You can play with the dairy content - substituting soymilk, or combining whole milk with half-and-half.

You can flavor it with your favorite fruit liqueur, liquor, fruit, nut, chunk or gummy bear. Make your praline with pistachios instead of pecans. Make your chips chocolate coffee beans instead of chocolate.

You can get butter-pecan at a store, but bourbon pecan is one great reason to make your own ice cream - better still if you can find salted pecans.

Kentucky colonel mint is more elegant and much richer than mint you find retail, and French chocolate lets you use your favorite eating chocolate.

Whether it's a summer Friday night ritual, company coming for dinner or a good excuse to clip back the mint patch, churning your own homemade ice cream has gotten easier and sometimes faster than ever.

Bourbon Pecan No-Cook Ice Cream

3 cups half-and-half

1/2 cup light brown sugar

1/4 cup sugar

11/4 cup broken pecan pieces

3 tablespoons bourbon

Combine half-and-half and sugars and blend or mix until sugars are dissolved. Stir in the pecan pieces and refrigerate until chilled, about one hour.

Pour the mixture into an ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer's directions until moderately set. Stir in the bourbon and continue freezing until the ice cream is firm.

Serve immediately or pack the ice cream into an airtight container, cover tightly with plastic wrap and freeze up to three days. Makes about 1 quart.

The Book of Bourbon (Houghton Mifflin; $25).

French Chocolate Ice Cream

1 ounce bittersweet chocolate, chopped

2/3 cup alkalized (Dutch) cocoa powder

2 cups whole milk

5 egg yolks

1/4 cup sugar

3 1/2 tablespoons honey

Put the chopped chocolate in a medium bowl and set aside.

Put the cocoa in a medium saucepan and gradually whisk in the milk until smooth. Place the pan over the medium heat and bring the mixture to a boil. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside.

Beat egg yolks and sugar until light pale and thick, about 3 minutes. Drizzle in half the hot milk as you continue to beat. Return the mixture to the pan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until it thickens and coats the back of a spoon (it should reach 175 degrees on a thermometer).

Remove from heat and pour into bowl containing chopped chocolate and stir until melted. Add honey and stir to blend evenly. Cool, then refrigerate until completely chilled. Freeze as directed by ice cream freezer manufacturer.

Serve immediately or pack the ice cream into an airtight container, cover tightly with plastic wrap and freeze up to three days. Makes about 1 quart.

Simply Sensational Desserts (Broadway, $35)

Kentucky Colonel Mint Ice Cream

11/2 cups (packed) fresh mint

3 cups heavy cream

6 egg yolks

3/4 cup sugar

Bring a small pan of water to a boil. Add mint leaves and boil 15 seconds. Drain immediately. Rinse with cold water until thoroughly chilled. Squeeze the mint dry, then chop it roughly.

Combine mint and cream in a heavy saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat.

Beat egg yolks and sugar until well-blended. When the mint-cream boils, remove it from the heat and add about 1/2 cup of that mixture into the yolk mixture and stir to blend. Then pour the entire yolk mixture into the cream and replace it over low heat. Stir constantly and, watching closely, heat the custard until it thickens and coats the back of a spoon (it should reach 175 degrees on a thermometer).

Remove from heat and strain (press down on the mint to squeeze it dry). Chill custard completely. Freeze as directed by ice cream freezer manufacturer.

Serve immediately or pack the ice cream into an airtight container, cover tightly with plastic wrap and freeze up to three days. Makes 1 quart.

Note: Think it needs a touch of bourbon? Add 3 tablespoons to the recipe when it goes into the ice cream maker. Feel free to lighten the mixture by substituting half-and-half for part of the cream.

Ice cream tips

Some ice creams are made with custards - that is, liquid cooked with an egg yolk-sugar mixture. Adding egg yolks enhances the smooth texture of a custard; cooking the egg yolks makes them ultra-safe. But many recipes don't require egg yolks.

A custard is said to "coat the back of a spoon" when you can draw your finger down the middle of the back of a custard-coated spoon and see a little silver trail of spoon remains with custard on both sides.

This happens when the custard reaches 175 degrees on a thermometer. Any higher, and the custard will curdle. (If yours curdles, put it through a fine-mesh strainer to remove the minuscule lumps of egg.)

In virtually any ice cream recipe, you can alter the liquid to be less or more fatty. That is, you can use whole milk, half-and-half and cream nearly interchangeably.

The texture of your final product might change to reflect the butterfat content however. Cream makes a smoother ice cream; milk makes it a little grainier. Use egg yolks for creamiest results.

Chill any ice cream mixture in the refrigerator before churning it into ice cream.

Always store it with plastic wrap pressed right against the surface and don't expect it to hold up more than three days.




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