Thursday, July 16, 2009

Ice Cream Misadventures

Between the amazing peaches and cherries that have been showing up at Costco, farmers' markets, and even my local Jewel(!), we've been eating a lot of fruit recently, and when I stumbled onto a two-dollar ice cream maker at a garage sale on a particularly balmy lunch-hour, I instantly thought of making a great peaches and cream or cherry with mascarpone*.

But the two-dollar ice cream maker's motor died halfway through the first batch of nectarine I made and I ended up finishing it by spinning the metal drum by hand and holding the dasher. Needless to say the end result was not smooth and creamy. Once it was cured--stored in the freezer overnight--it was hard like a rock and full of ice crystals. Not very pleasant to eat, even if we allowed it to thaw for quite a while before digging in.

I had the taste for this project at this point, though, so I started researching. Everything I looked at for less than around forty bucks seemed cheap and chintzy and I figured that the motor on these cheapies would quickly burn out as well.

So when I came across the ice-cream maker attachment for the KitchenAid stand mixer, I figured, ok, that makes more sense, since it uses my KA's motor. (I have one of the older KA's, which are gems. )

After debating the pros/cons of spending $75 on something that's just an attachment, when all these full-on, freestanding appliances can be had for fifty or less, the next round of produce was upon us and my romantic notions of making some beautifully creamy fresh fruit ice creams motivated me to dip into my gifts/bonuses mad money account, and I doubled up on the shipping by including a copy of the new Wilco cd. Splurge!

I went looking for more nectarines or peaches in the midst of a trip over to Babies 'R Us for more childproofing stuff (Nora is into everything these days), but I found some organic strawberries that just smelled great at Fresh Farms, I spun up a batch of strawberry ice cream.

We were in a rush to eat dinner, get the ice cream made, and get out of the house for Henry's camp carnival, which is a pretty huge event here in bucolic Park Ridge, Illinois (an officially-designated Tree City, USA), so I didn't think to take any pictures.

The main issue was that I didn't allow the mixture to chill thoroughly before using the KA attachment to freeze it. Also, forgot to think about the mixture expanding while freezing, so I totally overloaded the bowl. And THEN added a bunch of chopped strawberries for good measure. Then, while it was spinning, I read the instructions where it said not to overload the bowl. Duh.

So it never quite fully froze. After about 50 minutes, it had a light, frothy, mousse-like consistency, and tasted great (I added a few drops of balsamic vinegar for tang), but it was barely cold and not at all smooth and creamy. Pressed for time, I dumped it into tupperware containers, threw them in the freezer, and headed out for an evening of bouncy slides and rubber chicken toss.

I knew it was going to be bad when I put it away, and it was. Very hard and crunchy, even after it softened and I mashed it around with my spoon a lot. Not good.

I'm holding out on any assessment of the KA ice-cream maker attachment at this juncture, because I just went about the whole thing all wrong. The ice cream mixture should always be well-chilled and allowing it to sit overnight is good for flavor development as well, so rushing the process the way I did was a boneheaded mistake. Overloading the well didn't help and, since I've never done this before, I'm just randomly pulling recipes from the web.

Anyone have a good ice cream base recipe? Maybe one that includes a measure for fruit or fruit puree? The peach one I made with the doomed garage-sale ice cream machine was interesting because it involved making a simple syrup, and then using the hot simple syrup to cook the egg yolks while running in the stand mixer. This technique seems easier to me, plus there's less risk of curdling than the traditional method involving tempering the egg yolks with the hot cream, then returning that mixture to the pot to finish cooking.

I'll try it again a few times over the next couple weeks and we'll see how it goes. As I write this, it occurs to me that I'm following Ruhlman and Leibowitz on Twitter, but it never occurred to me to check Ratio, or Leibowitz's ice cream book. Duh again. Learning process.

*ugh. huge pet peeve, here. The endless inability to pronounce the name of this soft, creamy fresh cheese. Mas-car-, folks, not mar-ska-. And don't get me started on Chee-pohl-tay.


Carolyn said...

I'm in PR, too! So funny. We almost made it to the carnival, but then I had a sick kid... Oh well, next year. Well, now I'll be looking for you around town!

Cynthia said...

LOL this reads like a sitcom episode :) I've always wondered how the ice cream maker attachment was, and I'll probably wait on buying it until you give it the green light.

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