As a kid, there was probably no sound of summer streets as alluring as the Pied Piper jingle-jangle of ice cream trucks. Good Humor had a little row of bells the white-uniformed driver would clatter, more a Pavlovian alert than a tune. Hearing the pre-recorded, vaguely nursery-rhyme-like song of Mister Softee, however, was both the mesmerizing harbinger and continuing soundtrack of summer. Though even as a kid I wondered how the Mister Softee driver maintained his sanity with that repetitive, almost baroque, plinkety-plink going on all day, for the brief moment that Mister Softee pulled up by the curb in front of our house, the song made us dance in anticipation of soft-serve ice cream in cones, shakes and sundaes.
If there was ever a summer for DIY ice cream, this is it. With a new generation of cheap, efficient ice-cream makers readily available during a time of serious scrutiny in personal finance, it turns out that a $40 ice-cream machine pays for itself shockingly quickly. It’s also incredibly easy; most machines on the market simply consist of a bowl you freeze before adding ingredients and mixing, no ice or salt required.
Then it’s just a matter of getting the proportions right. Your simplest ice-cream recipe has, by volume, a ratio of about one-part milk to two-parts cream, with a little less than one-part granulated sugar. The basic ice cream recipe I use for my one-quart ice-cream maker is one cup whole milk, two cups cream (you can substitute light cream/half and half), and three-fourths cup granulated sugar, with a splash of good vanilla extract. In all cases you want to heat the dairy and the sugar until the sugar dissolves before pouring the cooled mixture into your ice cream maker.
My most successful variations to date have been, somewhat surprisingly, the simplest: cinnamon ice cream (add about 2 tablespoons of cinnamon, which is far more than you’ll think you need, to the basic recipe); and avocado ice cream (add one diced-and-then-crushed avocado to the mix when the ice cream is almost totally frozen). In fact, my friend Colleen and I have been talking about making an ice-cream burrito from red bean, avocado, tomato and sweet corn ice-cream wrapped in a sugared tortilla. I think we’re both afraid of trying it out for fear that life afterwards would be all downhill. Read the rest of this entry »