Cooking · Food & Drink · Kitchen garden

The joy of ice cream…

In recent years I’ve not been much of a fan of ice cream, all too often it can taste too sweet and manufactured.

Having said that, on a hot summer’s day I head straight for a sugar-laden Mr Whippy if the opportunity is there (it must be the legacy of growing up in a seaside town).

Back in the day I spent a summer working in an ice cream shop in Cromer – my hometown. I can honestly say it was one of the best jobs I’ve ever had. Very rarely do you meet a customer who is in a bad mood. Generally they’re looking forward to the food you’re going to serve them and, if the sun’s out, everyone’s buoyant.

We served Mr Whippy ice cream as well as a selection of traditional set ice creams in a variety of flavours but most importantly we also made candy floss and doughnuts – yes, doughnuts.

The doughnuts were cooked to order and my greatest invention to date by far is Mr Whippy atop a freshly made ring doughnut – sheer bliss!

In the days when I used to go to sea crab fishing, the return to shore – after all the chores were complete – was a cooked breakfast from the Lifeboat Café followed by a Mr Whippy.

Anyway, I digress.

In August last year I made my first ice cream – strawberry and buttermilk. I made it as part of my entry for the Norfolk Home Cook of the Year competition (I was a finalist).

The first attempt was made without an ice cream machine – the resultant ice cream was flavoursome but grainy. The next batch involved borrowing a machine from a friend – the ice cream still had the same delicious balance of sweet fruit and slightly sour buttermilk but was smooth. I enjoyed experimenting with the concoction so much I got an ice cream machine and it’s by far one of my best investments – it’s constantly in use, which is saying something for someone who has previously declared to not enjoy ice cream very much. I’m now hooked.

Since then I’ve made a variety of ice creams, mostly from homemade ingredients, which makes the experience all the more satisfying:

  • Lavender
  • Lavender and honey
  • Grapefruit and basil (Diana Henry recipe)
  • Watermelon
  • Cucumber
  • Hay
  • Coffee and cardamom (Diana Henry recipe)
  • Gooseberry
  • Raspberry ripple
  • Walnut
  • Christmas pudding

My favourite by far is the cucumber. I had a glut of cucumbers in the greenhouse last year and thought that the freshness of fruit might work well with the richness of the cold cream – and it did, it’s a wonderful palette cleanser.

Last week I made raspberry ripple ice cream. Growing up, this was my joint favourite flavour alongside mint choc chip. I made the raspberry sauce from some of last year’s berries I found in the freezer and swirled it through thick, homemade vanilla ice cream. I’d forgotten how wonderful the combination of sharp fruit and creamy base is. It’s going to be made continuously in our house I think!

A few days ago it was the turn of walnuts. We have numerous trees that keep us in walnuts throughout the year and I’m always looking for new ways to use them. I wondered if the ice cream would pick up the flavour to a high enough degree as the taste of walnuts can be quite subtle, but I infused chopped walnuts in a milk base overnight and the taste profile is incredible. The ice cream is thick and creamy and the perfect walnut colour. The walnuts that were infused in the milk base are mixed back into the ice cream once it’s churned to add texture. It seems to be the gift that keeps giving, it’s tastes intensely of walnuts in a very sophisticated kind of way.

There have been results that haven’t worked as wonderfully though:

  • The watermelon ice cream, although refreshing retained that dryness that the fruit can bring to the palette. I think this would work better as a sorbet.
  • The lavender and honey was far too sweet although the amount of honey added was minimal. Lavender ice cream is joyous unadulterated.

And so the ice cream experiments continue, next up it’s hazelnut on the recommendation of a friend.

I’d love to know what flavour ice cream is your favourite, or the most unusual one you’ve ever tried. Let me know and I’ll try making it!

 

 

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