June 30, 2010
Homemade ice cream made simple thanks to a few tips, techniques

stars.JPGI uncovered many tips and tricks while reporting my story on homemade ice cream. Now it's time to dish.

Those festive ice cream sandwiches gracing the cover of our Food & Wine section in today's Bee? They're amazingly simple to construct (and lovely to look at thanks to Bee photographer Lezlie Sterling) .

Bake your favorite cookie rounds, making sure it's large enough to fit a star-shaped cutter. Once the cookies have cooled (I let our peanut butter cookies cool on a rack for 30 minutes, then sit overnight in a zip-top bag), cut them into stars, leaving perfectly flat inner edges.

Heap your favorite homemade or store-bought vanilla ice cream in the center of one star, and place another star cookie on top. Flatten the cookies a little, so the ice cream squishes out the sides. Use a butter knife and follow the line of the cookie's edge, shaving off extra ice cream as you go.

Freeze for about 30 minutes to harden before serving.

Follow the link below for more tips and a recipe for chocolate gelato.

Another easy homemade ice cream idea comes to us courtesy of Williams-Sonoma. They've come up with one of my favorite innovations this summer: ice cream starters.

The powdered starter comes in vanilla, chocolate or strawberry and each $12 cannister comes with two 1-quart packets. Just add the starter to cream and milk, stir and pour into an ice cream maker and hit "on." A great solution for when your short on time or patience.

One more homemade ice cream tip: be sure to store your ice cream in a freezer-safe container. Skimping will only mean hard, ice crystal-laden sorbet, frozen yogurt or gelato (a stellar recipe for chocolate gelato is included below). The best freezer-safe vessels I found were OXO's "TOP" ($7) and Sterilite's "Ultra Seal" ($3.99) containers.

Classic chocolate gelato
Prep time: 25 minutes plus churn time recommended by your ice cream maker.
Serves: 8 (makes about 1 quart)
This recipe is from "The Ciao Bella Book of Gelato and Sorbetto" by F.W. Pearce and Danilo Zecchin.
Note: The prep time does not include the 4-hour to overnight chill time for the custard or the 2-hour freeze time before serving.

2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate (about 60 percent cacao), finely chopped
4 large egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar

In a heavy-bottom saucepan, combine milk and cream. Place over medium-low heat and cook, stirring occasionally so a skin doesn't form, until tiny bubbles start to form around the edges and the mixture reaches a temperature of 170 degrees F. Turn off the heat and whisk in cocoa powder. Add chopped chocolate and stir or whisk until chocolate is completely melted and mixture is smooth.

Meanwhile, in a medium heat-proof bowl, whisk egg yolks until smooth. Gradually whisk in sugar until it is well incorporated and mixture is thick and pale yellow. Temper egg yolks by very slowly pouring in hot milk mixture, whisking continuously. Return custard to saucepan and place over low heat. Cook, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, until custard is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon and it reaches a temperature of 185 degrees F. Do not bring to a boil.

Pour mixture through a fine-mesh strainer into a clean bowl and cool to room temperature, stirring every 5 minutes or so. To cool custard quickly, make an ice bath by filling a large bowl with ice and water and placing the bowl with the custard in it; stir custard until cooled. Once completely cooled, cover and refrigerate until very cold, at least 4 hours or overnight.

Pour the custard into the container of an ice cream machine and churn according to the manufacturer's instructions. Transfer to an airtight container and freeze for at least 2 hours before serving.

For cayenne chocolate gelato: Add 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper or to taste to Chocolate Base before churning. Try a variety of chiles - chipotles for a smoky touch or ancho chiles for a milder, fruity flavor.

For dark chocolate gelato: Use a chocolate with 70 percent cacao, such as Valrhona, in the chocolate base. For the ultimate chocolate experience, increase the amount of chocolate up to 6 ounces.

Milk chocolate gelato: Use milk chocolate in the chocolate base and reduce the amount of sugar to 1/2 cup and the cocoa powder to 1/4 cup.

Per serving: 321 cal.; 6 g pro.; 35 g carb.; 20 g fat (12 sat., 5 monounsat., 1 polyunsat., 2 other); 155 mg chol.; 50 mg sod.; 2 g fiber; 22 g sugar; 53 percent calories from fat.

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