I love ice cream and yet it’s not something I indulge in frequently. I found some research that says Americans consume about 15 quarts of ice cream per person per year — the most in the world. Fancy that. I don’t know why I don’t eat it more. Maybe it’s because the containers take up so much room and my freezers (yes, I have two freezers) are always packed to the gills. Yes, that’s most likely the reason. I do have an ice cream maker, tucked way back on a shelf, that I bust out on occassion. Every time I do, I’m most impressed with the results so should do it more often. With a recent gift of 8 zillion amazing peaches, you can bet I dug it out. It was time for peach ice cream, one of my very favorite things.
Many years ago, one of my employers sent me to ice cream school. Yep, you read that right. Ice Cream School. Penn State has a very impressive agricultural college and within the Dairy Program, they offer one week short courses on all the technical aspects of making ice cream. I was sent to figure out our recipes; we were having all kinds of textural problems during production. As I sat through the daily lectures, I’d look around – I was surrounded by product engineers from all the big companies. Dreyer’s, Breyer’s, Haagen Daz, Blue Bunny. There were a few folks like me – some small scoop shop operators, people interested in learning more before starting small businesses, folks from small artisinal companies like me. But we were definitely outnumbered.
During the week, we discussed such fascinating topics as the thermodynamics of the rapid hardening freezer system. We reviewed complicated formulas on how to achieve smooth texture and optimal mouth feel. The concept of overrun – how much air is churned into the product – was covered at length. We discussed flavoring elements and even mixed our own vanilla extract compounds for flavoring. One day, we did an intensive blind taste test of 14 kinds of vanilla ice cream and absolutely noticed differences. By the end of the course, my head hurt there was so much information kicking about. But the one thing that was never really covered, at least to the extend that I wished, was the differences between the types of ice cream. Sure we glossed over it but I didn’t feel that we got diffinitive explanations on the difference between gelato, sorbet, sherbert, french ice cream, frozen custard, philadelphia style and such.
A while later, I realized why. It’s complicated. To nail down a definitive explanation is difficult because sometimes things vary, cross over and repeat themselves. But I’ll try.
– American style ice cream: there is no single definition as it may or may not contain eggs and can be made with cream, milk or a combination and typically has a milkfat level of at least 10%.
– Philadelphia style ice cream: ice cream made with no eggs. Great because you don’t have to chill the base before churning.
– French style ice cream: ice creams containing a cooked egg or custard base. Needs to be chilled for a few hours before churning.
– Frozen custard: ice cream made from an egg custard, sometimes known as “French style”. Most delicious and rather rich, it seems to be most popular around Wisconsin which makes sense. In Milwaukee, I particularly recommend Leon’s though Kopp’s certainly has it fans. If you’re in Chicago, Scooter’s is the place to go.
– Gelato: made from whole milk, sugar, sometimes eggs, and natural flavourings. Gelato typically contains 7-8% fat, less than ice cream’s minimum of 10%. To confuse matters more, fruit based mixtures containing no dairy, though technically sorbetto, are often called gelato too.
– Ice Milk: contains less than 10% milk fat and is made from a milk base (rather than cream).
– Sorbet: made with fruit, water, sugar and sometimes flavored with things like wine or liquors. Contains no dairy usually but maybe an egg white.
– Sherbet: similar to sorbet but containing a small amount of dairy for a creamier texture
– Granita: a semi-frozen mixture made from sugar, water and various flavorings though it differs from sorbet in the method. The mixture isn’t processed in an ice cream maker, rather it’s poured into a pan, frozen, then scraped with a fork every few hours to break up the ice crystals.
– Semifreddo: meaning “half cold” in italian it is a semi-frozen dessert usually made with folding equal parts of ice cream and whipped cream together for a kind of frozen mousse.
What recipe do I use? All of them. It really depends on what I’m in the mood for, what ingredients I have on hand and what flavor and/or texture I’m going for. Sometimes it just depends on what recipe is closest at that particular moment. That said, I do I have a soft spot for frozen custard. The rich texture and silky mouthfeel just about sends me over the moon. I decided to find a peach version and started searching. When I came across the a recipe at epicurious.com, I thought I’d give it a try. Two cups of cream and 6 egg yolks? Yeow but was there a better way to use my beautiful farm eggs? I think not.
The custard method is pretty easy and uses a standing mixture to beat the eggs and sugar to a thick, light yellow mixture. Then the hot cream is slowly poured in, while mixing, and the whole concoction is poured back into the saucepan to cook a minute or so longer. The mixture is thick, uncutous and utterly delicous as is but then a pureed mixture of peaches, lemon juice and sugar that’s been slow cooked on the stove is poured in and elevates this to a whole other level. This is quite simply fantastic. Yes it is super rich but it has that texture that I just love and can’t really describe any better than saying it’s slightly chewy. And that’s a good thing.
STRESS BAKING THERAPY FACTOR: THREE SPOONS UP. Is there anything more comforting when you’re depressed than a pint of delicious ice cream, a stupid romantic comedy and a spoon? Oh, I think not my friends. And it’s even better when you make your own. Now, I have nothing about Ben & Jerry’s. I love Ben & Jerry. But having some of this ice cream stashed away trumps anything coming out of Vermont and most certainly some square box of crap that was on sale at The Jewel. This may have a lot of cream, eggs and sugar but no wacky crap you can’t pronounce. And you made it yourself. That’s at least worth a merit badge.
PEACH FROZEN CUSTARD
Makes about 1 1/2 quarts. This recipe, based on one I found on epicurious.com, is unbelievably rich, decadent and utterly delicous. The bourbon not only compliments the peaches but the alcohol keeps it from getting too hard in the freezer but you can certainly leave it out if you prefer.
For the peaches:
2 pounds of fresh or frozen sliced peaches (do not peel if fresh)
½ cup sugar
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
For the base:
2 cups heavy cream
3 Tablespoons sugar
6 large egg yolks
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon bourbon
- for the base: Bring cream and ½ cup sugar just to a boil in a heavy saucepan, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat and keep hot, covered.
- Beat together yolks, salt, and 3 Tablespoons sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at high speed until tripled in volume and thick enough to form a ribbon, 3-4 minutes in a stand mixer.
- Reduce speed to low and add hot cream mixture to yolks in a slow stream, then transfer custard back to saucepan.
- Cook over moderately low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until custard is slightly thickened and registers 170°F on thermometer (do not let boil). This will happen very quickly and you will have a very thick custard.
- Pour the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a large heatproof bowl, discarding solids.
- Let custard cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally.
- For the peaches: While the custard cools, prepare the peaches. In a heavy saucepan, combine the peaches, sugar and lemon juice.
- Bring the mixture to a boil, covered, over high heat, stirring – about 10 minutes.
- Reduce the heat to low and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, for about 30 minutes more.
- Purée the hot mixture in a blender (careful!) until smooth.
- Pour the peach mixture through a sieve into the custard, pressing on the solids. Discard any solids.
- Cool the mixture to room temperature, stirring occasionally, about 45 minutes and for best results, chill for a few hours or overnight.
- Stir in the bourbon and freeze the custard in ice cream maker according to the manufacturers directions.
- Transfer to an airtight container and put in freezer to harden, at least 4 hours.