DIY ICE CREAM SECRETS

By Gillie Easdon  |  Photos by Jeffrey Bosdet

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Ice cream is a treat indelibly linked to summer, from the siren call of the ice-cream truck to the old-fashioned scoop shop or beachside custard-cone shack. The ice-cream cone first became a sensation at the 1904 World Stage Fair in St. Louis, Missouri. However, the roots of this irresistible pleasure are many and reach back as far as the fifth century BC in Greece, where Athenian markets served snow mixed with honey and fruit. Other early sightings take us to Persia in fourth century BC, with a chilled dessert of rosewater and vermicelli, served with ice mixed with saffron and fruits. Ice- and saltpeter-chilled milk, rice and syrup appeared in China around the second century BC. From all corners of the globe, people have long been drawn to the tender rhapsody of sweet icy comfort.

It’s even more intriguing knowing that there was no refrigeration during those times and that the procurement of a cool treat required more than a bank card and an undeniable hankering.

10 STEPS TO DIY ICE CREAM MAGIC
To learn how to make my own icy comfort, I visit the home of Autumn Maxwell, the owner, creative pulse and “Ice Cream Lady” of Cold Comfort, famous for its artisan ice cream.
“I’m in the business of making people happy. That is the absolute best part of my job,” Autumn says.  

Since it’s early summer and the small local strawberries are perfection, Autumn guides
me through the process of making a strawberry ice cream with cracked pepper. We’ve gathered the following ingredients:

• 3 1/2 cups fresh strawberries, washed, hulled and sliced in a medium bowl
• 1/2 cup organic cane sugar to cover strawberries
• Shot of tequila blanco, gin or vodka (optional)
• 3 egg yolks
• 1/4 cup organic homogenized milk
• 1/2 cup organic heavy whipping cream for saucepan
• 1/4 cup organic cane sugar for custard
• Pinch sea salt
• 1/2 cup organic heavy whipping cream for cold bowl
• 10 ice cubes
• Juice from a whole lemon
• Freshly cracked pepper to tasteFour ripe strawberries

Step 1 : Prepare the strawberries. Measure the 3 1/2 cups of fresh strawberries onto a cutting board and sprinkle them with a 1/2 cup of organic cane sugar and a shot of tequila (which is optional). Then macerate them with a fork, setting them aside for later.

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Pro Tip from Autumn: “If you don’t have nice squishy, red-fleshed local strawberries, don’t bother! It’s all about the strawberries. If the strawberries are poor-quality, white-fleshed, hard or underripe, the ice cream will not deliver.”

Step 2 : Separate 3 egg yolks into a small bowl, discarding the whites. Autumn holds the Terra Nossa organic yolks in her hand as she separates the eggs for the custard, letting the whites seep into a bowl beneath her glossy fingers. I prefer to crack the egg in half and pass the yolk between the half shells until the white has fallen away. Take your pick. Autumn then slips the yolks into a bowl with the elegant familiarity of something she has done many, many times. The whites are donated weekly to supplement the scrambled-egg breakfasts at Our Place, one of two charities she’s been supporting for years (the other is CFUV, UVic’s radio station).

Step 3 : Start the custard. Pour 1/4 cup homogenized milk, the first measure (1/2 cup) heavy whipping cream, 1/4 cup sugar and a pinch of salt into a saucepan and heat it on medium-high to dissolve the sugar as well as scald the custard to steaming. Don’t let it boil. (Autumn is using dairy from Avalon and salt from Vancouver Island Salt Co.) Also known as a crème anglaise, the French custard sauce provides the base for traditional ice cream.  “Something a grandma on a farm in France would make,” Autumn says.

Step 4 : Whisk yolks until smooth. Steadily pour about 1/2 cup of the heated custard from the saucepan into the yolks.

Step 5 : Once blended, put the egg blend back into the saucepan. With the heat on medium, stir back and forth until it is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon (less than a minute).

Step 6 : Pour the custard through a sieve into a new bowl nestled in a well-ice-cubed larger bowl with the second measure of heavy cream, stirring every five minutes until cold.  

Step 7 : Purée the strawberry mixture. Add about 3/4 cup of the strawberry purée to the custard along with half the lemon juice. At this point, Autumn recommends tasting the custard. Add extra lemon juice or a little extra cream if it’s too sweet. (The remaining strawberry purée will be used as garnish later, just before adding the fresh-cracked pepper.)

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Step 8 : Cool the custard in the fridge. You could proceed to the next steps in as few as two hours, but Autumn generally leaves the custard in the fridge overnight. It will be set, but as a thick liquid, not firm. The custard needs to be cold to spin properly in an ice-cream maker.

Step 9 : Once your custard is cold (about two hours), remove it from the fridge. Pour it into your ice-cream maker or other ice-cream-making equipment, according to the manufacturer’s guidelines. Ice-cream makers are varied and very specific. Autumn uses a KitchenAid mixer with an ice-cream-maker attachment.

Step 10 : When ready, scoop into bowls or cones. Garnish with the reserved strawberry mash for brightness and add a twist of freshly cracked pepper. You can also store your ice cream in an airtight container and keep it in the freezer until you’re ready to serve.

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FLAVOUR EXPRESSIONS
Ice cream is Autumn’s creative outlet.  “I have always been into flavours, food and scents … I wanted to be Willy Wonka as a kid,” she admits, with a sparkle in her eyes that, for an instant, invokes Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka, one of her childhood crushes. In fact, Cold Comfort’s innovative and certainly “Wonka-ian” portfolio of flavours ranges from Vic PD, a coffee ice cream with caramelized donut croutons to 10-Herb Ice Milk, with herbs including mint, oregano and catnip, to olive oil with balsamic-honey ripple.

MIX IT UP
Doing a mix-in with a plain custard base (just skip the strawberries or substitute with another fruity purée) is an easy way to create your own ice-cream flavours. Chill a large metal bowl in the freezer or set it up in an ice-water bath. Transfer the plain ice cream to this bowl when it’s fresh out of the machine and gently fold in your desired ingredients. Try some of the following:
• mix in cookie dough — try peanut butter cookies for an original take
• add in twists of homemade dulce de leche
• mix in chocolate-covered pretzels
• swirl in a cherry-bourbon sauce

THE MIX MASTERS
Thinking of getting an ice-cream maker? From hand-cranked to motorized, there are plenty of options to get your chill on.

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The Donvier Ice-Cream Maker uses no electricity or ice — its freezer bowl and hand-cranked paddle do the work. It doesn’t require strenuous cranking, only intermittent turns of the paddle, but the bowl does require pre-freezing, so you’ll only be able to make a one-litre batch at a time. (Penna & Co. $110)

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The KitchenAid Ice-Cream-Maker attachment is a great addition to the classic stand mixer and is easy to use. Its bowl must also be completely frozen, with a recommended 15 hours in the freezer before use. (Capital Iron, $150, attachment only)

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Cuisinart’s Pure Indulgence Frozen Yogurt, Ice Cream and Sorbet Maker has a powerful motor for smooth, creamy treats. Its double-walled container should be chilled in the freezer for at least six hours before use. Bonus? The easy-open lid makes mix-ins a no-brainer. (Hudson’s Bay, $130)

So whether you create your own Wonka-ian mix, make this delicious strawberry with cracked pepper or head to the nearest parlour, treat yourself with ice cream this summer.