Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Melted: The Summer '07 Ice Cream Challenge Rundown

This summer I balanced an ambitious ice cream-making project with marathon training. I think I fared alright in both, though I'm kind of off ice cream for awhile, and I've got two purple toenails.

As I tore through dozens of eggs, countless quarts of heavy cream and more cups of sugar than I care to tally, here is what I learned:

1. Experimentation is good, though the results may not be.
2. Plan ahead; ice cream takes time, unless you want to sip it through a straw.
3. You can't really go wrong on a French-style ice cream. Heavy cream + milk + eggs = deliciousness, no matter the flavor.

Now, a look at the good, the bad and the ugly.

The Good

Mint Chip. I came out of the gate with an iconic flavor that lived up to its reputation, and then flew past that reputation. Real mint chip ice cream is not green. It looks more like vanilla than anything minty. Cool and crunchy, not overly minty, but surely refreshing.

Sour Cream Ice Cream with Brown Sugar Strawberry Swirl. There's a nice tang from the sour cream, and folding the strawberries in by hand produces a very pretty ice cream, with pink swirls throughout. Book club declared it delicious.

Blackberry Sorbet. Made from greenmarket blackberries, this sorbet had that perfect sweet-tart combination that I love in frozen desserts.

Orange Szechuan Peppercorn Ice Cream. One of the most interesting flavors of the summer, this ice cream was creamy and citrus-y, with just a hint of heat that you feel on the roof of your mouth after you've swallowed the ice cream.

Peach Ice Cream. A yummy swirl of peaches and cream. Mom & I used a cookie scoop to serve the ice cream in tiny pastry cups she found at a gourmet store.

The Freaking Awesome

Butterscotch Pecan. A "home run" French-style ice cream that includes a tablespoon of Dewar's and chopped buttered pecans.

Coconut Cornstarch Ice Cream. Despite the unappetizing name, this ice cream is fabulous. Cornstarch prevents crystal formation--which results in that grainy texture--by soaking up water, so there's less water present to make big crystals. The addition of some toasted coconut at the end of the churning added a pleasant crunch.

Toasted Almond Gelato. My one foray into the world of gelato yielded a rich and delicious ice cream that was so good I made a second batch the next day.

The Bad

Blueberry Ice Cream. I diplomatically wrote, "I give this ice cream points for uniqueness" and commended its Violet Beauregard-esque color. I was being nice. I didn't really care for this weird flavor.

Chocolate Gooseberry Ice Cream. At the end of the summer, one container of ice cream remains in my freezer. It's this one. And I plan on giving it the heave-ho tonight. Something about this flavor combo was just wrong. This is an example of experimentation gone badly; the recipe called for raspberry, but the market was out of them, so I stupidly opted for gooseberry, the "it" fruit of the summer. Mistake.

The "Eh"

Chocolate Espresso Sorbet. The folks at my cocktail party lapped this up, but I prefer my sorbets fruity.

People keep reminding me summer's not officially over until September 23, so in that spirit, I agreed to make a last flavor. The results of the survey in which I asked readers to vote for the flavor are in, and the winner is... Ginger, with 45% of the vote. Mint Chip came in second, with 27%, and I'm sorry to say Turd Berry only garnered one vote (gee, who could it be?).

Thank you to all who participated in the grueling challenge of sampling all these homemade ice creams. With a site like this out there, I know you can go elsewhere for your cravings, but I'm glad you stuck it out with me. Much love!--S


Anonymous said...

Lynn -- Check in on your blog from Chicago -- after tasting that peach ice cream. Here's a related news item that might be handy for serving the last icecream of the summer at the office. Best, Uncle Marc

NEWS ITEM: Voice-stress ice-cream dispenser increases portions for the miserable

Demitrios Kargotis unveiled his Mr Whippy machine at the Ars Technica festival in Linz. It's a self-serve frozen custard machine that doles out portion sizes based on the amount of misery it detects in a voice-stress analysis. The sadder you are, the more ice-cream you get.

Employing voice stress analysis of the user's answers to specific questions, varying degrees of unhappiness are measured and the counteractive quantity of ice cream is dispensed: The more unhappy you are, the more ice cream you need.

Deena Danielle said...

i feel left out, having only sampled the chocolate espresso sorbet (which for the record i thought delicious). hmph. i learned my lesson; im gonna start lurking around your kitchen more often!