I know, I know, but I just can’t help myself. Every year, when that frosty nip hits the air (you Northeasterners know the brand of cold that makes your ears ache and your skin feel like it’s a size too small for your hands), I always get this crazy craving for ice cream. Apparently I’m not the only one, since supermarket ice cream sales are at their peak during the winter months.
Ok, so reason has it that we’re all buying ice cream in the frozen foods section instead of the seasonal cone shop, but still it’s evidence that ice cream eating doesn’t wane when it’s cold. So, instead of brewing hot cocoa or baking bread, I’ve been tinkering with my ice cream machine and with excellent results. For those of you who are beginning to miss those melting days of summer, here’s a way to get a little taste. And for everyone else, stay tuned for next week – hot chocolate with homemade marshmallows!
Traditionally, ice cream is made with a custard base, which requires the tempering of egg yolks into a hot cream mixture. It’s a little tedious, a bit messy, and a lot time consuming since the custard base must be completely cool before it’s frozen.
I’ve always preferred Philadelphia-style ice cream, which nixes the eggs altogether, producing a clean, somehow colder and decidedly more refreshing dessert. It’s one of those fabulous win-win circumstances when what’s easier is actually tastier and, in this case, healthier!
A few months back, Melissa Clark did an excellent piece for The New York Times about egg-free ice creams and I just ate it up. But when a craving for a frozen treat hits, I turn into Veruca Salt and “I want it now!” The problem is that even with Philly ice cream, the recipes all call for heating the milk in order to dissolve the sugar, which makes perfect sense, unless you’re Ms. Salt. Not only is it imperative for the base to cool completely, it turns out that once milk has been heated, it takes at least 4 hours for the proteins to rehydrate and the fats to crystallize (in the professional ice cream making world this step is called “aging”). So no matter how cold your ice bath, a heated base won’t reach its full freezing potential unless it gets a good night’s sleep in the refrigerator, leaving the impatient eater out in the cold.
Luckily, I find my creativity most ably piqued when hungry. Hmm, how to dissolve the sugar without heating the milk? Well a simple syrup, of course! It would cool down quickly, combine like a liquid and the dairy goes into the ice cream maker straight from the fridge. Thirty minutes later, I had ice cream and I was happy.
Easiest Ice Cream Ever
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup milk
1 cup heavy cream
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon vanilla
- To make the simple syrup, combine sugar with ¾ cup water in small saucepot and whisk over medium high heat, just until sugar is dissolved. Pour into a large heatproof bowl and cool completely.
- Add milk, cream, salt and vanilla to the bowl and whisk to combine. Process in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions.
Tip – This base is awesome with any mix-in. I’m partial to crushed Oreos, but you can chop up leftover Halloween candy, drizzle in chocolate sauce or toss in fresh fruit; just add during the last 5 minutes of processing.
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