For melt-in-your-mouth goodness

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Close your eyes. Think cold. Think creamy. Think how good a dish of ice cream would taste right about now.

But before you head off to the grocery store, take a brief stroll down Memory Lane. You're a kid on a hot summer's day. A kind of sweaty, always hungry kid sitting on the front porch. Your dad comes out, carrying what looks like a wooden bucket.

"Hey!" he calls. "Anyone for ice cream?"

Need he even ask? Your mom brings out whipping cream, sugar, chopped peaches so juicy they practically stain your T-shirt without even touching it. She pours everything into the silver canister. Your dad layers rock salt and ice around it and starts turning the crank.

"Oh, please, let me!" you and your brother beg.

Dad relents. You take turns churning until ... your ... movements ... get ... slower ... and slower as the ingredients magically thicken into ice cream. So Dad takes over.

Finally, he pulls out the dasher, and you kids take turns licking the cold stuff off. Then - horror of horrors! - Dad puts the lid on the canister, layers more ice and salt around it and says the ice cream needs to harden.

But when the longest 30 minutes on earth end, you're glad you waited. Ahhhh! Homemade ice cream!

Sharron Marston remembers. Her dad worked for a dairy in Oklahoma, so she and her sisters grew up eating homemade ice cream. Even in the winter, she remembers, they would stand over the floor furnace, eating homemade ice cream.

Marston and her husband don't eat many sweets these days. But when she gets an occasional hankering, she still makes ice cream. It's pretty good, too. Last year, her vanilla-bean flavor won the State Fair of Texas' Best of Show in the ice-cream division.

"It's expensive to make homemade ice cream," she says. "One vanilla bean is $5.59. But I think it's better. I think everyone should experience it at least once or twice. Homemade anything tastes better than what you buy."

You won't get any argument from Bruce Weinstein. Although he never had it as a kid, he has more than made up for lost time. As a young adult, he tried Julia Child's recipe for chocolate ice cream and hasn't stopped churning since. The result of his delectable work is "The Ultimate Ice Cream Book" (William Morrow and Co. Inc, $15).

"Why make your own when you can buy it?" he asks. "Because you can get exactly what you want. I find it frustrating to go to the store and I'm in the mood for something and Ben & Jerry's wild flavors are not what I want. I want almond ice cream, or coffee ... but all they have is coffee banana raspberry ripple fudge. How about just banana ice cream? So I make it myself."

His banana ice cream recipe includes variations, as do his other 74 basic flavors. For instance: Banana Candy Bar, Banana Coconut, Banana Cookie, Banana Daiquiri, Tropical Banana Crunch.

He obviously doesn't stop at vanilla. His book includes his tested recipes for - to name but a dishful - Mango, Marmalade, Maple, Mint, Oatmeal, Lavender, Nutmeg, Saffron, Rice, Rhubarb and Red-Bean ice creams.

That's not counting the two he tested and deemed delicious ... but figured most people wouldn't want to try: Roasted Garlic and Black Pepper ice cream.

"People are afraid of making ice cream," he says. "They just don't realize how easy it is."

Homemade ice cream can be made by one of two methods: custard, which uses eggs; and "Philadelphia," which doesn't.

Mix the ingredients as the recipe recommends. If you use eggs, be sure the recipe calls for them to be cooked. Otherwise, you run the risk of food poisoning. Most recipes require ingredients to be refrigerated at least 30 minutes and sometimes overnight.

Put the combined ingredients into the stainless-steel canister. Then place that in the ice-cream maker. If using electric - which works quite nicely, albeit a bit noisily - plug it in, then layer rock salt and ice around the container. If using manual, start cranking.

When the ice melts, add more layers of salt and ice. After 30 minutes or so, check the consistency. If it looks like mashed potatoes, remove the dasher and put the canister into the freezer compartment of the refrigerator for about an hour to harden the ice cream. And while that time may seem like eons, the resulting taste should bring a smile to your frozen lips.

Vanilla Ice Cream

Makes about 2 quarts or 16 servings

2 (14-ounce) cans sweetened condensed milk

1 (14 1/2 -ounce) can evaporated milk

1 cup whipping cream

2 teaspoons vanilla homogenized milk (see note)

Combine condensed milk, evaporated milk, whipping cream and vanilla in an ice-cream canister. Add enough homogenized milk to reach the fill line inside canister. Freeze according to manufacturer's instructions.

Note: For chocolate ice cream, substitute chocolate milk for homogenized milk. Or, use the new chocolate condensed milk.

Per serving: 306 calories (38 percent fat); 13 grams fat (9 grams saturated); no fiber; 53 milligrams cholesterol; 119 milligrams sodium; 40 grams carbohydrates; 276 milligrams calcium

Cheesecake Ice Cream

Makes about 1 quart or 8 servings

1 cup sugar

4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

1 large egg

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

3/4 cup milk

2 teaspoons fresh lemon or orange zest, grated

1 1/2 cups heavy cream

3 graham crackers, crumbled

Beat sugar and cream cheese together until smooth and creamy. Beat in egg and vanilla. Set aside.

Bring milk to a boil in heavy, medium saucepan. Slowly beat the hot milk into the cheese mixture. Pour it all back into the pan and place over low heat. Stir constantly with a whisk or wooden spoon until custard thickens slightly. Be careful not to boil, or the egg will scramble.

Remove from heat and pour mixture through strainer into a large, clean bowl. Allow custard to cool slightly, then stir in lemon zest and cream. Cover and refrigerate overnight, or until cold.

Stir the chilled custard, then freeze in 1 or 2 batches in ice-cream machine according to the manufacturer's instructions. Add crumbled graham crackers when the ice cream is semifrozen. Allow the machine to mix in the crackers. When finished, the ice cream will be soft but ready to eat. For firmer ice cream, transfer to a freezer-safe container and freeze at least 2 hours.

Per serving: 336 calories (61 percent fat); 23 grams fat (14 grams saturated); no fiber; 106 milligrams cholesterol ; 94 milligrams sodium; 30 grams carbohydrates; 72 milligrams calcium

Fresh-Fruit Ice Cream

Makes about 1 1/2 pints or 6 servings

3 cups half-and-half

1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk

1 cup pureed or mashed fresh fruit

1 tablespoon vanilla

Combine all ingredients. Put in freezer container and freeze according to manufacturer's directions.

The analysis uses strawberries. Per serving: 462 calories (42 percent fat); 23 grams fat (14 grams saturated); 1 gram fiber; 75 milligrams cholesterol; 163 milligrams sodium; 57 grams carbohydrates; 386 milligrams calcium

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