Writing about this most happy of subjects: ice cream, is an attempt to shake off a very bad case of what I guess are called Monday blues.
Although I feel ridiculous writing about ice cream in this weather. I’m in Suffolk and it’s grey and cold. I’m back in 4 ply cashmere, last night we lit a fire, I have loads of stuff to do that I’m optimistically lumped together in an ‘in tray’ formation (the most useful thing I ever ever read was “we all die with a full in tray so don’t try to clear it”) and I feel as creative as a piece of plain, economy photocopy paper.
So, ice cream cones. What, you may be thinking, is the figging point of making your own? Well, you may live somewhere where you can easily buy those nice sugar cones. I don’t. And last year my local supermarket, Waitrose, seemed to have a run on decent ice cream cones and for weeks and weeks all you could get were a) awful wafer cones or b) awful wafer cones in the shape of a teddy’s head. This is very serious when you are an ice cream maker’s daughter. You cannot serve good gelato in such a receptacle.
Also, I am slightly obsessed with what goes into stuff and if I can make things at home and control the ingredients, then I will. And there is always a deadline to be avoided..I’m involved in a very grown up, serious piece at the moment and when things get a bit de trop for me, I retreat into the whimsy of baking and making. Not least because I have an almost pathological need to achieve. Something. Anything. Even if it’s ‘just’ stepping back and looking at a pile of ice cream cones which I’ve just made, whilst upstairs, there are 1,000 words that remain quite, quite unwritten.
I had, somewhere in the back of the cupboard, an old pizzelle iron/maker. Pizzelle are small waffle biscuits with a fancy pattern on them. You can also roll them up into a mini cone shape. Pizzelle irons are not easy to find in the UK which is a shame. So, because I thought it would be really frustrating for you, me banging on about how to make your own ice cream cones using something you can’t buy here, I bought a waffle cone maker from Lakeland. I know, so kind of me. [Disclaimer: I get press discount at Lakeland and have done for nearly 16 years.]
So, first and briefly, the machine. It’s £29.99 which isn’t cheap and only you can gauge whether it’s really worth buying it. We eat a ridiculous amount of ice cream in this house so for us, yes it was. It isn’t anything fancy and I can’t tell you if it’s the BEST ice cream cone maker on the market because it’s not a big market.
I can tell you this though: ignore the instructions that come with it as they are crap. If you use the plastic cone shaper that they send you, you will end up crying as it makes for a giant-aperture cone. Just chuck it in the bin. You can roll them by hand, it just takes a bit of practice. Also ignore the recipe that comes with it makes an insane amount.
How to make plain ice cream cones, the definitive recipe after weeks of testing:
This makes about 20 cones.
75g very soft butter
125g caster sugar
300ml of water/milk. I use 250ml water, 50ml of milk. (I’ve also used unsweetened almond milk and it’s worked just fine.)
250g plain flour (for variations such as wheat free, see below)
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
a pinch of salt
Cream the butter and sugar together. Then add the egg and vanilla extract. Mix together. Add the flour and salt and finally add the water/milk in a steady stream, mixing as you go. Beat well. You need to have a fairly thick but runny batter. If it’s too thick you’ll end up with cones that don’t cook, too thin and they’ll break easily once cooled. So don’t be afraid to experiment. It’s doubtful you’ll need less liquid that I stipulate however. I’m aware I’m sounding very bossy in this post.
Put the waffle maker onto maximum. Don’t even bother with the lower temperatures: waste of time.
I use about two soup spoons of batter. Close the waffle iron down. It takes 3-4 minutes (more like 4 but check after 3) until done. They are done when they are golden in places and dry looking. You will need to experiment a bit with what works for you.
When done, lift out with a spatula. You now have approximately ten seconds to shape your cone or it will set hard. If you’ve cooked it right, you will be able to shape it into a cone just using your hands. I lay mine flat on a chopping board and roll. Not too tightly rolled, or you’ll end up with hardly any room to put the dollop of ice cream. Not too large or you’ll need 2,000 calories worth of gelato to fill it up. It does take practice. Hold it in shape with your hand for a minute, and pinch the end (otherwise ice cream will drip through when you put it in). The cone be hot but you sort of get used to it. Or I did. That’s it, set to properly cool on a wire rack. It does take a bit of time to make them but I find it quite meditative.
They store in the infamous ‘airtight container’. They keep for a week or two, probably longer but they never last that long here.
As above but replace 30g of flour with cocoa powder and up the sugar to 135g. I found these took only 3 mins.
Yes really! These are really tasty actually. Same as above but do half plain flour and half wholemeal. And healthier too.
Substitute the normal flour for rice flour. You can also make them chocolate wheat free versions by using 135g sugar instead of 125g, then adding 30g cocoa powder and using only 220g of rice flour.
Substitute the normal flour for rice flour, the butter for coconut oil (slightly less: 70g) and the milk for almond milk. These taste totally delicious, and make a very crisps cone; they need slightly longer cooking (3-3 and a half minutes) because of the coconut oil. And, I think because the mixture is thicker, they spread out less and make smaller cones. I really like these.
Remember, generally: the more liquid you add, the thinner you can get the cones. This is great if you want a very fine cone but it will break more easily.
Home made cones are a bit more fragile than shop bought ones, so handle them carefully.