Category Archives: Ice cream

Strawberry ice cream

Ice cream is very important to me.  Its icy, creamy tentacles spread wide and deep through my family history. My father was an ice cream maker for a while, from when he turned seventy (seventy!) until about seven years ago. But we sold, and made, ice cream long before that.

For years now, I’ve made my own ice cream. And if you’re interested in some recipes I have one for the best chocolate ice cream in the world; mint choc chip ice cream; a rich vanilla ice cream; a lighter vanilla ice cream that uses whole (not just yolks) egg and soon I’ll put one up for possibly my favourite: almond praline. You can read about ice cream makers here and I now also make my own cones (see that cone in the picture? I made that). I know! Madness, but there you go.

The recipe for strawberry ice cream below, makes enough for about four people, possibly two helpings each. It’s hard to say as these days I double the recipe (super easy to do and you should double it too if you’re making it for a gathering as OBVIOUSLY you don’t have to eat it all at once) and that makes LOADS. And as here in England the weather has just exploded and the grass looks greener and all the flowers are bursting into vibrant life and the trees are popping their buds, it seems only right to celebrate with some gelato.

2 large egg yolks, freeze the whites for madeleines

75g granulated sugar

80ml milk, I always use semi skimmed, but don’t go lower than that, so full fat or semi skimmed

250g fresh strawberries, hulled. If you need to wash them first dry them carefully as water is the enemy of ice cream (you’ll get a ‘colder’ ice cream with water crystals if you’re not careful)

120ml double cream

As I’ve said before. You need milk and cream to make ice cream so don’t be tempted to leave one out.

Beat the egg yolks together with the sugar until pale-ish. Add the milk and place the lot in  a saucepan and stir well over a low to medium heat until it thickens. Do not allow to boil but be patient as this bit can take 5-10 mins and you will need the heat to be more than a candle’s worth to get it going. You’re not going for thick like a custard, but it needs to thicken. It will thicken even more as it cools. But don’t boil it as it may split.

Now put the strawberries and the custard mixture into a blender and blitz until really smooth and there are no bits left. Whisk the cream in a separate bowl until thick, slowly fold the cream into the custard mixture or vice versa, whatever works for you. Chill until cold. The colder it is the less work the ice cream maker will have to do. When cold put into ice cream maker.

That’s it. It’s ready to eat when it’s out of the ice cream maker but obviously it will be very soft, so if you like it to be harder then put it in a container, in the freezer, until such time as you intend to eat it.

Alternative Christmas ‘pudding’ ideas

Jamie’s Winter Pudding Bombe
My actual bombe

I don’t mean as a direct alternative to that dried fruit pudding English people have after Christmas dinner (which I now love, I actually made my own two years ago for the first time and make them a year in advance now). But I mean, something to eat for pudding on or around Christmas Day.

Chocolate Chestnut Rum Roulade

Every Christmas I make this amazing Chocolate Chestnut Rum Roulade. It’s an Icelandic recipe that I got from the Waitrose magazine twelve years ago. It is so good. I make it every Christmas and my eldest asked for it for her birthday this year. It’s really not that difficult, can be made ahead and put in the fridge.

Another thing I make is Jamie’s Winter Pudding Bombe. This is superb made in advance and stuck in the freezer. I do make some changes to this as the clementine he asks for just freezes solid (obviously) and I don’t find it very nice to eat. So I do his recipe but instead of the bits he asks for  I add some dark glace cherries, some candied fruits, some sour cherries soaked in marsala (I use marsala instead of vin santo throughout) and then some toasted pistachios and hazelnuts. I think you could easily customize this bit.

I also use home made vanilla ice cream because it’s tastier and cheaper.  The quantity in that recipe I’ve linked to make the perfect, perfect amount for this recipe.

Need I point out that you don’t use expensive panettone for this.

You can make it in advance, as I said, and then just turn it out when you want to serve it, and pour the chocolate over the top.

Annie Bell’s Blackout cake, as near to chocolate cake perfection as possible.

Lastly, for something that doesn’t look as festive but is really, really delicious. Annie Bell’s Brooklyn Blackout cake which is as close to chocolate cake perfection as I can take you. I guess you could make it more festive with gold leaf or something. I don’t know, up to you. It’s sensational however and once people start eating it they won’t care if it looks festive or not.

Do feel free to share your Christmas pudding alternatives.

update: mid January 2013. We just at the last of the bombe, which had been nestling in the freezer since I made it on 21st December. I thought you might like to see inside. It was still really really good.

Ice cream cake

Very yummy ice cream cake

When I used to go to Italy, up to Salsomaggiore Terme, provincia di Parma, where my father is from, we used to go to Pasticceria Tosi on Sunday to buy little cakes and pastries (a very common tradition in Italy). In the fridge/freezer display there would always be ice cream cakes.

They seemed impossibly luxurious and I can still see myself looking in at them.

When I saw this recipe by Bill Granger in the August edition of Waitrose magazine, I knew I had to try it (unfortunately I can’t find a link to it on the Waitrose site). He calls it tiramisu ice cream cake. Of course, being Italian, I cannot call it this.

I adapted it quite a bit, halving the proportions, adding more sponge fingers, less chocolate and taking out the Kahlua that Granger asks for (I haven’t got any in my cupboard and I’m not going to spend £17 on a bottle of it to keep in said cupboard, but if you have some, do use it, maybe half and half marsala or all Kahlua, up to you). I know this recipe may seem imprecise, but the beauty of it is that you can add more or less of something you like/don’t like.

This is what I did:

65ml espresso/strong black coffee
30ml marsala (or use sherry)
Nearly a whole packet of sponge fingers (about 170g)
Some vanilla ice cream, I used about half of one batch of this home made stuff
About 50g of grated dark chocolate

I lined a small loaf tin (about 6″ x 4″) with some parchment paper. Then I started layering up the dessert.

Mix the coffee and marsala together in a small dish. Individually dip the sponge fingers into it. Don’t linger or they will fall apart. Lay the fingers down on the base of the dish, break some up if they don’t fit but end up with a base of soaked sponge fingers.

Now layer with vanilla ice cream, then grated chocolate. Grating chocolate is possibly one of my least favourite jobs EVER, as the chocolate ends up going everywhere and sticking to the grater. So I didn’t use loads, you can use more if you like. I probably should have used my grater attachment on my food processor, but I don’t like to use it for what I consider small jobs..

Then  just keep going. Dip the sponge fingers in the mixture, ice cream, grated chocolate. Until you run out of space. I ended up with a layer of sponge fingers as I like them, Granger says to end up with a sprinkling of chocolate.

Cover with cling film and put in the freezer. Take out for about 30 mins before you need it and keep it in the fridge. It slices beautifully and my eldest loved it (although I need to point out that it DOES HAVE ALCOHOL IN IT and it is ILLEGAL TO GIVE ALCOHOL TO A CHILD UNDER THE AGE OF FIVE). I gave my youngest a separate bit with no booze in it.

Afterwards it struck me that if you preferred you could layer these up individually in little ramekins or some lovely little glasses and freeze them individually.

If making for a large party, double the recipe above and use a big old square tin. Granger recommends 26″ square but use your common sense. No reason you couldn’t make this in a loaf tin like I did just a bigger one.

Light ‘n’ fluffy vanilla ice cream

Never underestimate how hard it is to be a food photographer.

There are two people I discuss ice cream making with. My father and my friend Lucy. Recently Lucy told me about an unassuming little recipe she had come across for vanilla ice cream that was different to the way we usually made ice cream: instead of the custard method (which uses just the yolks of the egg), it used the whole egg. This was of particular interest to me as I make lots of ice cream and my freezer is overflowing with egg whites. There are only so many madeleines I can make.

This vanilla ice cream recipe is also great because it’s quick, easy and makes a lovely light vanilla ice cream that scoops straight from the freezer and children, in particular, seem to love. I would probably go with my more luxe version if the ice cream were being served at a really posh dinner party, atop, say, some exquisite piece of patisserie.

I’ve adapted the recipe slightly (lowered the sugar from 100g to 80g and slightly changed how you make it).

4 eggs, separated
80g icing sugar
teaspoon of vanilla essence
300ml double cream

Get three large bowls. Separate the egg yolks and egg whites into a bowl each. Put the cream into the third bowl.

Add the vanilla essence to egg yolks. Do it NOW or you will forget and without it, you have Fior di Latte ice cream, not vanilla. Add the sugar to the egg yolks too.

Take an electric hand held whisk. Whisk the egg whites until stiff. Then the cream until it holds itself properly, like a well trained ballerina. Finally the egg yolks, sugar, vanilla essence.

Now gently fold the cream into the egg yolk mixture and finally the egg whites. Put in ice cream maker. If yours is very small, you may have to do this in two batches. I have a Magimix and I put it all in, it comes right up to the top but it reduces as it’s being made.

You can of course have this on its own. Make tiramisu with it, it goes great with a fruit salad. Or fold in some chocolate coated popping candy for something a bit Heston.

The best chocolate ice cream in the world.

There is no easy way – unless you’re a professional food photographer in which case you’d be using anything other than actual ice cream – to photograph chocolate ice cream without  making it look like…something else…
See? Here is the same ice cream but photographed at night, by artificial light after we’d had some. See how glorious moussey it looks? That’s how it tastes if you eat it not long after making it. Even a few days’ later it’s still delicious.

I hesitate not in saying this is the best chocolate ice cream you can get. I mean, very probably my dad’s chocolate ice cream was better. And his chocolate chestnut ice cream was damn brilliant. But aside from that, you can search high, you can search deep but you won’t find a better, simpler, chocolate ice cream recipe.

I know because believe me – credemi – I’ve tried.

And, how sweet that this recipe didn’t come from some vast volume of ice cream recipes. I didn’t steal it from a gelateria, or my dad’s shop. It was in the fold out pamphlet of recipes that came from my Panasonic ice cream maker.

I’ve doubled the quantities, because the original made about two portions’ worth (how is it that doubling it seems to make more than double if you see what I mean?). If you can, make this in the morning for eating in the evening. That way it will have had a chance to set a bit, but not go rock solid. It will never be that good again although of course, like all ice cream, it will keep in the freezer for weeks/months.

This last batch I made was using eggs from our own chickens. Coincidence or not it was the best I’ve ever made. So tasty I wanted to eat the whole lot.

You will need:

4 egg yolks – freeze the whites to make madeleines or macaroons or friands another time
100g granulated sugar
160ml of milk – I use semi skimmed and it’s always been fine
2tbsp cocoa powder – I always use Green and Black’s
100g good plain chocolate – I always use Waitrose Continental  (70%), the packet looks unassuming (black with a vanilla coloured banner across the middle) but don’t be fooled, it’s superb chocolate
240ml of double cream, although I have just chucked the entire 300ml tub in there as this is what Waitrose’s comes in and 60ml of cream left in a tub is of no use to anyone.

Beat the egg yolks and sugar together until pale. Do this in a heat proof bowl or a bain marie. You can do this by hand using a little whisk. Don’t be a cissy. You don’t need an electric whisk.

Mix the milk and cocoa powder together to make what looks like a birruva mess. Add this mixture to the egg mix. Place the heat proof bowl over a pan of simmering water (or put the bain marie on the stove if you’re posh and have one, a bain marie that is). Stir until it thickens.

When it’s done, take off the heat and chuck the chocolate in and stir gently but firmly. You will have at the very least broken this into pieces, or if you can be bothered, cut it into smaller pieces. I never can be bothered and it goes in in big, chunky, pieces and it’s fine. You get the occasional shard that doesn’t melt but I quite like that as it’s a bit choc chippy in the final ice cream.

Put it aside to allow to cool – whilst it’s doing this cover the actual surface with a layer of baking parchment. Because I’m posh, I have ready cut circles for just this purpose. Whisk the cream until it’s thick and stir into the chocolate mixture. Refrigerate for a couple of hours before placing in your ice cream maker.

This is no time to be wailing that you don’t have an ice cream maker. YOu’re not taking this seriously enough. You need one. When it’s done decant into a suitable freezer container and freeze.

Eat with abandon and try to forget about the fact that you don’t have a pension. If you eat enough of this ice cream, anyway, you probably won’t live that long.

Mint choc chip ice cream

 Mint choc chip ice cream. I know this isn’t the best picture in the world but it was hard to get a six year old to keep still. It’s presented in a mini cone. 

Here’s the gelato in a bowl. See how delicate the colour is? You can also see I have a LOT of stainless steel in my kitchen!

This is my current favourite ice cream. I would never buy mint choc chip ice cream, because it’s just not my thing, but this home made version is, I promise you, delicious. Unless you really hate the taste of mint, but even then I’d urge you to give it a try.

You can easily leave the chocolate out, but together this makes for a near perfect ice cream in my blog. Which this is.

I tend to make my ice cream in small quantities as the fresher it is, the nicer it is. By all means double or treble the amounts, it’s easy to do. This makes about half a litre, which I find is ample for four greedy people.

375ml of cream and milk. You need cream AND milk. Don’t be tempted to use one or t’other because to make ice cream you need both (i.e. not just this flavour). This has something to do with the way the fats mix up and interact. Don’t ask me cos I never listen properly when my dad tries to explain it to me in the same way that I still don’t really understand about what that white powder is he’s given me to put into sorbets. Because I never have whole milk in the house, but I nearly always have double cream, I tend to use 250ml of double cream and 125ml of semi skimmed milk. If you have more or less of one or t’other don’t worry. I’ve also done it with 300ml double cream and 75ml semi-skimmed milk. You get the idea.
15g mint leaves. Don’t be tempted to use anything else, such as mint flavour. Urgh, forget it.
70g caster sugar
1 egg
50g 70% cocoa chocolate if using

In a blender or food processor (I use the little chopper attachment on my Braun MultiStick thing), blend together the milk, cream and mint leaves. The mint leaves should go down to tiny pieces, but don’t over do it or the cream will curdle (however, you’d have to be really stupid to go this far). Pour the whole lot into a sauce pan, and bring to just below boiling point. Turn down the heat and simmer for 5-10 mins. Don’t let it boil, stir it a bit. You’ll see the cream/milk mixture become infused with the mint colour and it will go to a lovely green colour. However, it won’t be that lurid dark green pretend-mint-colour you get in shop bought ice cream. Think Farrow and Ball hues instead.

Turn off the heat and let it cool for a bit. Now you can either strain it so that the leafy minty bits stay out or leave them in. Try both and see how you prefer it. Obviously one will give you ice cream speckled with tiny green bits, one won’t. Perhaps if you’re adding the chocolate then having the mint in as well might be overkill.

Whilst that’s cooling, get a heat-proof bowl (important) that will fit over the sauce pan (important) and take the whole egg (not just the yolk, which is usual in custard-base ice cream) and whisk up with the sugar until it’s light and thick. Then slowly mix in the (sieved if you’re going to) milk/cream/mint mixture into the egg/sugar mixture. Pour some water into the pan which just had the milk/cream/mint mixture in (doesn’t matter that it’s dirty you’re not drinking it) and place the bowl containing the ice cream mixture on top. The idea is to make custard, so stir as the water underneath boils, and keep stirring until the mixture coats the back of a wooden spoon, which it will do pretty quickly really. Whole process should take about 5-10 mins. Now you’re done, so take the bowl off the sauce pan, let it cool for a few minutes then cover the actual surface with cling film/baking parchment. The reason you need it to touch the actual surface is so a skin doesn’t form.

Let it cool for about an hour, then put it in the fridge. You can keep it for up to 24 hours before making ice cream but once it’s cooled right down in the fridge (say a few hours) then you can whack it in the ice cream maker.

Once that’s churning, chop the chocolate really small. I sort of semi shave it. When the ice cream has finished, you can just stir through the chocolate. The ice cream will be pretty soft still as all ice cream out of an ice cream maker is soft-ish. Either eat it now or put it in a freezer container and let it harden up more for later.

If you want to read about ice cream makers you can do so here.

Ice-cream makers

Those that know me in real life will know that my father opened up an ice-cream shop when he turned 70. As you do.

I wrote about him, and ice-cream for The Economist’s Intelligent Life magazine. If you look carefully at the collage you can see a picture of me in a school photo, and one of my dad by the round pond in Kensington Gardens, holding me next to our giant pram (actually I think it may be my sister, but I couldn’t find many pictures of me with my father because, being the second child, the novelty of taking pictures of me had obviously worn off).

He sold the business about four years ago. But I’ve kept the ice-cream making going on a domestic scale, inspired by the creations my father made.

Making ice-cream is really easy. I’d say “you don’t need an ice-cream maker” but let’s face it, you do. If you want to pour your ice-cream into a container, put it in the freezer, and then take it out again every few hours to break up the ice-crystals, then please do so. But if you do that you’ll think making ice-cream is as real faff and will, quite understandably, just go and buy it in the supermarket.

But I like making my own ice-cream for two main reasons:

1) I am nearly always avoiding a deadline
2) I  like knowing what’s gone into it. Because ice cream really doesn’t need the input of things like xanthan gum and emulsifier.

Ice-cream makers come in two types. Ones that cost about in the £40 range, with these you need to pre-freeze the bowl; or ones that cost about £300 and have an inbuilt freezer. These are the pros and cons:

Pre-freeze ones:

  • take up less space
  • are cheaper

BUT

  • you need to either be organised to put the bowl in the freezer (to pre-freeze it)
  • so you need to have room in the freezer to do this
  • the capacity is often less than those of the bigger, more expensive models
  • they tend to take longer to make the ice-cream

Built-in freezer ice cream makers:

  • are quicker
  • have a bigger capacity
  • require no pre-freezing of the bowl

BUT

  • they take up a lot of space on the counter top
  • are very heavy so really you need to keep them out, because also..
  • when you move them you have to then keep them level for 24hrs
  • can be very noisy, although remember they’re fast so you only need put up with the noise for about an hour.
  • some of them need priming of the bowl with alcohol

The best ice-cream maker on the market, that sort of straddled the two, was the Panasonic BH-9441P. It was a brilliant little machine that didn’t look bad either. But the beauty was that it was battery run, so no need for pre-planning. You just made your ice-cream, popped it into the machine and stuck the whole thing in the freezer. It cost about £35 and I recommended it many times but it’s no longer easily available and the demand for it has pushed the price up to over £50 when you can buy it.

Philips, Magimix and Cuisinart all make models of the former for about £40 (with the odd model costing nearly double that), and they get good reviews. Have a look on Amazon (which is what I would do) before deciding which one you get. Remember that if you have a food mixer, you can often get ice-cream maker attachments to go with them. I have no idea how they work.

Because we make ice-cream regularly in our house we have three models:

two Panasonics because I bought one for my dad when he ‘retired’ and have since nicked it back from him.
one Cuisinart Professional Ice-cream maker.

 The Cuisinart Professional Ice-cream Maker. A distinct lack of buttons to press but a lovely machine.
 

The latter is the one we use most now because since we swopped our giant American fridge freezer for a smaller freezer/fridge freezer I rarely have the room for my Panasonic. The Cuisnart PIM is very beautiful, rather monolithic and stainless steel. I mention this because I think it’s important how they look, but not so important that looks is everything. I very carefully researched it before buying it. It needs no priming. It’s super simple to use. In fact when you get it (if you do) you might be disappointed with the number of buttons to press. There aren’t any, just a timer dial to turn.

You have a little bucket (1.5l capacity) which you put the ice-cream mixture into, then attach the arm/lid and turn the clock timer to how long you think it’ll need (maximum an hour but it stops automatically if it’s ‘done’ before then and there’s nothing to stop you running it for longer if it still needs it, just put the timer back on) and that’s it. It has a plastic churner turner that turns as the machine freezes the  mixture.

It’s very noisy however. The noise doesn’t bother me so much as all my kitchen appliances can be hidden with stainless steel shutters so that buffers the noise somewhat. Then you take the bucket out, decant the ice cream into a freezer container and put it away to harden up/for later.

Home made ice cream is very soft when just made. Lots of people don’t realise this and think it’s not done properly. You can absolutely eat it straight out of the machine and it’d make a great after dinner-party dessert justlikethat.  And this is how I rather like it. It’s very velvety and you can really taste the flavours. I made a ricotta ice cream recently which was so tasty out of the machine. It’s very dangerous however as you can eat LOADS like this.

So be careful.

Or you can freeze it and it makes a lovely made-in-advance dessert, so one less thing to think about when you have guests. It keeps for ages in the freezer.

The  machine is not cheap: about £250, although you might be able to pick up a very good second hand model for less. It comes with a five year guarantee. The Gaggia Gelateria is another model that some friends have, but I’ve never used it so can’t comment on it with any authority. If you have it let me know.

I’ll post up some ice-cream recipes up another time as I’ve spent years trying to finesse some of them. Note: I didn’t like the recipes that came with the Cuisnart. In fact finding good ice-cream recipes is a bit of a bug-bear of mine. I am an absolute snob about it and only consider it to be proper ice-cream if it’s made from a custard (egg yolks, milk, cream, sugar) base. (Obviously you can also make frozen yoghurts and sorbets which is a different thing.)

I’m lucky because my father can get me ‘tasting cones’ (tiny cones) from his ice-cream industry contacts. This means that if you have children coming, or just people who work in the fashion industry who don’t each much, they can have a miniature ice-cream cone. But for everyone else, serving home made ice cream in a sugar cone is a lovely way to finish a meal, however posh the rest of it was.

Update February 2015: I wrote the avoe nearly five years ago now. I now have lots of ice cream recipes on this blog. I still use my ice cream maker regularly in the warmer months, although have also now got some recipes on here (see link) that don’t need them. The Panasonic ice cream maker comes and goes; sometimes you can buy it, sometimes you can’t. Heston Blumenthal has also brought out an ice cream maker as part of his Sage range which is meant to be very good, although I’ve never tried it. And the Cusinart Professional which I have (although it’s been redesigned), is now available, new, for under £200.