My experience with making ice cream over the years has ranged from astonishing success to abject failure.
I’ve made sweet-corn ice cream at the height of summer. It was delicious. Same with cherry-bourbon, lemon-buttermilk and so on.
Then there was that one time I had a big summer party. By the time we heated up the kitchen making cobbler and opened the freezer door repeatedly to get ice for cocktails, the canister of my churn had started to thaw. Durn churn!
Or maybe the custard wasn’t thick enough. Or maybe both.
Whatever the case, I ended up with a liquid mess that wouldn’t even qualify as soft-serve. Shame and humiliation.
So imagine my delight when Ligaya Figueras, the AJC’s senior editor for food and dining, sent me a couple of new books on ice cream, including Food52’s “Ice Cream & Friends: 60 Recipes & Riffs” (Ten Speed Press, $22.99), which contains — wait for it — recipes for no-churn ice cream.
To be sure, the Food52 effort includes all manner of instructions for fabulous-sounding frozen treats that require an ice cream maker. Plus recipes for waffle cones, homemade sprinkles, brittle and other killer toppings.
Are you ready for Tomato-Peach Sorbet, Coffee Frozen Custard and Carrot Cake Ice Cream? How about Saltine Cracker-Brownie Ice Cream Sandwiches, S’mores Ice Cream, or Earl Grey Ice Cream with Blackberry Swirl?
Being a peanut freak, and a time-pressed goober at that, the No-Churn Peanut Butter Curry Ice Cream sure caught my eye. (It’s as easy as pouring stuff in a bowl, mixing with whipped cream and freezing.) So did the Bourbon Prune Velvet, which uses an old-fashioned technique of mixing cooled meringue with whipped cream.
I made both to smashing success without ever flipping the switch of my trusty-not trusty Cuisinart.
And I got a little crazy with the toppings, too, even adapting the Cayenne-Spiced Peanut Brittle and the Salted Maple Honeycomb Candy from the Food52 book. (No worries, though: If you want toppings, they can be as easy as chopped nuts, toasted coconut, whipped cream and cherries, and chocolate and caramel sauce straight from the jar.)
Of course, Atlanta has a whomping scoopful of ice cream shops that churn frozen treats the old-fashioned way. I love Morelli’s Ice Cream. (Have you tried their Marzipan Cherry Almond?) I’m crazy about Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams. (The flavors are so lovely; sometimes, there’s even Atlantic Beach Pie, which is lemon ice box with saltine crust.)
Of course, I’m always eager for something new. Having heard terrific things about Decatur’s Butter & Cream, I decided to stop in one day for a chat with owner Stacy Wisniewski and general manager Henryk Kumar, hoping they’d be kind enough to share a recipe.
These people make seriously good custard-based ice creams. (A custard ice cream, if you don’t know the terminology, requires the addition of eggs.) I had many OMG moments tasting my way around the Cashew Creme Brulee, Sunday Brunch, Butterscotch Brownie, Freckled Chocolate and so on.
But the one that really stopped me cold was the Cardamom-Vanilla Bean. Gently perfumed with aromatic spice and soothing vanilla, it seemed just right for hot weather and totally perfect all by itself.
Wisniewski and Kumar graciously agreed to share their recipe, and it turned out like a dream.
To brush up on custard ice cream — which involves cooking the dairy, tempering the egg yolk, adding it to the dairy, cooking to a custard stage, straining, curing and then churning — I looked at the other new book Figueras gave me, “Hello, My Name Is Ice Cream: The Art and Science of the Scoop” by Dana Cree (Clarkson Potter, $25).
In this rigorously researched yet accessible book, Cree shares her ice cream know-how with crystalline clarity, spelling out the components of ice cream, the importance of texture agents, the processes and machinery, and her thoughts on using natural ingredients to impart color (which she believes arouses taste).
She also shares recipes for classic concoctions like Vanilla Ice Cream and Milk Chocolate Frozen Yogurt and clever inventions like Popcorn Ice Cream, Donut Ice Cream, Bubblegum Ice Cream, Peach-Sweet Tea Sherbet, and Mango Lassi Frozen Yogurt. She even makes ice cream from toasted hay and burnt toast.
It’s an essential book for people who want to learn the hows and whys of ice cream, and how to make add-ins that melt in your mouth rather than crack your teeth. I plan to spend more time with “Hello, My Name Is Ice Cream” when I’m ready for an ice-cream deep dive.
For now, I’m pretty happy with this no-churn thing. It’s just so easy to lick.
And I’m eager to taste my way around town, on the prowl for Thai rolled ice cream, treats frozen with Arctic blasts of nitrous oxide and time-tested styles of ice cream, sorbet, gelati, frozen yogurt and other frosty treats. (Stay tuned for that Go Guide story, coming in August.)
Meanwhile, Kumar tells me Butter & Cream will be opening a second parlor, in Roswell, in early July. I just might stop by to see what sort of surprises this duo of purists has whipped up.
I’ll be sure to give you the scoop.
Recipes for churned and un-churned ice cream
Here are recipes at three levels. The cardamom-vanilla is a classic custard style and requires an ice cream maker. The Bourbon Prune Velvet does not require churning, but you will need to make an easy meringue. And the Peanut Butter Curry requires nothing more than mixing whipped cream with other ingredients and freezing. Just be sure to stock up on cookies, nuts, candies, fruits, sauces, sprinkles and any edible doodads of your liking.