Churn About is Fair Play
August 9, 2005

In addition to my pizza crust quest, I'm also continuing my intriguing exploration of homemade ice cream this summer. Well. It's intriguing to me and to the people at Mathra's work, who keep asking what my flavor of the week will be. When some friends of ours heard that we got an ice cream maker this summer they could relate. Sort of. "Oh!" they exclaimed, "We got an ice cream maker a few years ago. Yeah, we made ice cream for about a month and we haven't used it again." That's not going to happen, my friends. It's just not. First of all, ice cream is ridiculously easy to make when you've got one of these things. Second of all, it's ICE CREAM! If you got eggs, sugar, creamy stuff, and some flavorings knocking about, how can you NOT make it, like, ALL THE TIME?! I will prove them wrong. Oh, yes. I will prove them wrong.

Last week's attempt took the fruit that seems to spell (and smell) summer. No, not peaches. Strawberries! Strawberry ice cream reminds me of my dad. Back in the day, he ALWAYS used to order strawberry milkshakes at McDonalds. He never deviated from that flavor. Even when it wasn't McDonalds and there was thirty-one or thirty-two flavors to choose from, he wanted strawberry. We used to tease him for his lack of imagination but as I've gotten older, I've found that I actually crave strawberry ice cream. It's weird because it's not the most interesting of flavors. I mean, it's not Cookies and Anaconda Fudge Bark Rippled Monkey Butt made with stuff found only in the rainforests or anything, it's just...strawberry. Along with chocolate and vanilla, it's one of the primary colors of the ice cream flavor spectrum. But I love it and I made it.

I bought a few pints of sweet-smelling strawberries from Whole Foods, picked over and threw out the bruised and underripe ones, sliced them, and macerated them in lemon juice and sugar for a bit. Just as before, I made the custard base for the ice cream and chilled it. This time, I managed to chill the base overnight without checking every twenty minutes to see if the temperature had dropped to 40 or below. It's easy not to be impatient when you're asleep. Of course, I managed to dream ice cream dreams all the livelong night.

It's fantastically easy to leap out of bed at butt-crack o'clock when you've got ice cream to churn. Then again, I'm weirdly enthralled by the churning process. Maybe it's because, contrary to my popular belief, the churning stage takes less time than every other stage of ice cream making. I always thought that ice cream had to be churned for days before it finally became ice cream, but I guess that's only in Laura Ingalls Wilder's world. Note to Stephanie: you don't have chop wood to survive the long Minnesota winter, beat off the wolves at the door, or wear that ugly patchwork dress anymore either.

Churning only takes 25-35 minutes but what happens in that short amount of time is fascinating.

liquid

Here we are in the liquid state as the custard has just been added to the already churning ice cream maker.

creamy

About 15 minutes later, you can see the thickening liquid starting to catch hold on the side.

strawberries and creamiest

In the last 5 minutes of churning, the macerated strawberries and accumulated juices are added.

The result was mixed (no pun intended). The strawberry flavor was there and it was bursting. What disconcerted me was how frozen the strawberries got in the final freezing (post-churning) process. Sure, most strawberries in commercial strawberry ice cream are frozen. A bit. But these strawberries were crunchy, ice crystally, and they just weren't right. I'm sure it has something to do with the strawberries having so much liquid in and around them when they were added to the churn. Maybe the answer is to use freeze-dried or dehydrated strawberries that have all the liquid squeezed or systemed out of them. I'm not sure on the science, but I heartily wish Alton Brown would add a fruit ice cream episode to his other two ice cream episodes.

My third flavor was After Eight ice cream. It was simple. I just added peppermint oil to the custard and churned the ice cream with coarsely chopped After Eight mints. It was a huge hit and declared my best flavor yet.

I'm going to tackle coconut next and I'm a bit nervous.

In other news...

I raved about Saffron's Thai Grilled Chicken and my Big Night at Region. Damn, that Region is something entirely else. I'm going to regret having to go back to San Francisco and leave it behind.

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