Monday, July 15, 2013

July: National Ice Cream Month!

No, it's not a photo from deep space, it's homemade ice cream!
Far be it from me to let National Ice Cream Month pass without at least a cursory celebration here at the Capsule. These two surprisingly sophisticated choices seem both out of tune with the ‘80s and my childhood tastes, so I’m guessing they’re contributions from my mother.

Mom loved (and still loves) her hand-cranked ice-cream machine. No one else in the family is as enthusiastic, mostly because it is hard work to make ice cream in her hand-cranked ice-cream machine. As much as I love homemade ice cream, I also enjoy leisure, so I upgraded to an electric version. Fortunately, the first of these recipes doesn’t require any kind of machine; don’t let a lack of one stand in the way of you and homemade goodness.

Due to the number of steps and chilling, homemade ice cream does require some advance planning, but it’s not overly complicated. Both of these recipes start with a cooked custard (a combination of eggs, sugar and either cream or half-and-half), so if you’ve ever made homemade pudding you will feel right at home. Then it goes for a spin in the ice-cream maker, spends some time in your deep freeze and voila! Dessert!

This custard is coating the back of my spoon -- perfect!
First up is Cheesecake Ice Cream: As I suspected, this one must’ve been Mom’s. Either that, or I was reading Parade magazine back in 1979. (Possible, but unlikely.) A milkman’s dream come true! It contains yogurt, cream cheese and half-and-half. You’ll get your calcium if nothing else. The “plain” vanilla version is divine, but I opted for the blueberry swirl, which jazzed up the ice cream and added some needed sweetness. Cheesecake ice cream is tangy, no mistake about it. But it’s also pretty and elegant. Gosh, 1979! I never knew you were so classy!

Doesn't hurt to strain your custard -- see the little eggy bits?
Next up is Homestyle Pistachio Ice Cream, which prompted one of my more vivid ice-cream related memories. My mom’s cousin John David came to stay with us when I was about 11. What made this memorable was not so much that we made homemade pistachio ice cream (which we did) but that we went with John David to the grocery store to buy the ingredients. Oh, and did I mention he drove us there in his talking car? Yes, John David was driving one of those wood-paneled Fords that were going to usher in a new era in computer helpfulness. A Tron-like voice warned us if the door was ajar, or our seatbelts weren’t fastened. My brother and I could have stayed in that car all day, opening our doors the slightest of cracks to start the electronic warning, snapping and unsnapping our seat belts.

Cheesecake Ice Cream with Blueberry Swirl
But the craziness didn’t end there, because once we got to the grocery store, John David paid for the ice-cream ingredients with traveler’s checks, a move I felt both urbane and unheard of at our local Albertson’s.  I nearly floated out the talking car and would surely have failed to fasten my seat belt if it had not reminded me.

At that point, I hardly needed pistachio ice cream to round out my ultra-sophisticated day, but, back from the store, we forged ahead with Mom’s hand-crank, and, what seemed like hours later, sat down to rich and creamy goodness.

This Homestyle Pistachio is a truly winning ice cream. For starters, the custard is a delicious, un-”vanilla” vanilla that is both smooth and rich. If you want to stop right there, you’d still be rewarded. But the addition of the pistachios somehow makes the entire concoction that much creamier, even while adding a mildly salty crunch. (A drizzle of hot fudge, while not totally necessary, would make this even more wicked.)

There's no reason to leave either of these ice cream recipes in the past. Choose one or try both, and you’ll be celebrating in style!

Cheesecake Ice Cream with Blueberry Swirl
2 egg yolks
1 cup sugar, divided
1 cup half-and-half
2 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese or Neufchatel (low-fat cream cheese)
½ teaspoon grated lemon rind
½ teaspoon grated orange rind
1 tablespoon lemon juice
½ teaspoon vanilla
1 pint plain yogurt

In heavy saucepan, beat egg yolks with ½ cup sugar; beat in half-and-half. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, just until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Do not boil. Remove from heat; chill thoroughly.

Beat cream cheese until light. Add remaining sugar, lemon and orange rinds, lemon juice and vanilla, continuing to beat until smooth. Add yogurt and chilled egg yolk mixture; beat smooth. Freeze in an ice cream freezer as directed by manufacturer. Or freeze in flat trays, then beat with rotary beater or in food processor. Makes about 2 quarts, 16 servings.

Blueberry Swirl
½ cup water
¼ cup sugar
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries, unsweetened
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

Combine water and sugar in a saucepan; bring to a boil; stirring to dissolve sugar. Dissolve cornstarch in lemon juice; add to pain, stirring until thickened. Add blueberries and cinnamon. Boil for about 2 minutes, mashing the berries slightly with a potato masher or the back of a large spoon. Remove from heat; chill thoroughly. Swirl into the soft Cheesecake Ice Cream after removing it from the ice cream maker. Freeze firm.

Homestyle Pistachio Ice Cream

1 cup half-and-half
¾ cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 egg yolks, beaten
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup chopped, natural California pistachios
2 teaspoons finely grated orange peel

Heat half-and-half in saucepan; stir in sugar and salt. Pour a small amount of hot half-and-half into egg yolks, stirring constantly. Return yolk mixture to half-and-half; cook and stir over medium heat about 5 to 10 minutes or until thickened and creamy. Do not boil. Cool. Stir in vanilla and heavy cream. Chill. Pour into freeze container; follow manufacturer’s directions for freezing. Add pistachios and orange peel when almost frozen; freeze until firm. Allow ice cream to stand at least 2 hours in freeze to mellow flavors. Makes 1-1/4 quarts.

·      Considering how much ice cream I’ve eaten in a celebratory fashion already this month, I opted for the low-fat cream cheese in the Cheesecake Ice Cream. Did not miss the fat.
·      I also used low-fat plain yogurt. See above.
·      Both of my ice creams churned for 25-30 minutes until a “soft serve” consistency. Both will require at least two hours in the freezer to firm up. They will also freezer harder than a store-bought ice cream. I think due to lack of preservatives. So plan to take them out a little ahead of dessert time to allow them to soften enough for easy scooping.

Why Don’t You …
·      Go crazy with some Cheesecake add-ins? The options are as endless as the menu at the Cheesecake Factory itself: Chocolate chips, crushed graham crackers, strawberry jam, crushed Oreos … As with the Blueberry Swirl, add these in to the soft serve, then freeze firm.
·      Let me know what you’re going to do with all your egg whites. Pavlova? Face mask?
This is the hilarious article on the flip-side of the Cheesecake Ice Cream recipe. Remember, it's from Parade magazine, 1979. This man is enjoying the audio revolution that was the book on tape. Look at the lengths the poor man had to go to simply to listen to War and Peace during his commute. That tape machine is taking up half his dashboard! Too bad he didn't have my cousin John David's talking car!

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