Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Day 93 - Making Ice Cream

I have never made ice cream. A few months ago when I was planning out my “Tasty Tuesday” events through the summer months, I was sure to include making ice cream on the list. It was a simple task with a great result, and it fit the mold of a new experience. As a result, I knew it would be a great experiment to include in my “I have never...” journey. After a little thought, I figured I would add making ice cream to the calendar on one of the first Tuesdays in August. After all, August is supposed to be one of the hottest months of the year, and ice cream provides the perfect treat to cool down on a hot day. As my schedule day to make ice cream for the first time drew closer, I realized there were two problems with my plans. First, an unseasonably cool summer meant I would be making ice cream on a day that was likely to be in the mid-70s. Second, I didn’t have an ice cream maker. I knew I could deal with the first issue readily enough, but the second one posed a significant problem.

As a result, I set to work researching ways to make ice cream sans an ice cream maker, determined to find a way to make my “I have never...” event work. My research proved surprisingly difficult at first. Every recipe I encountered didn’t include essential ingredients to make ice cream (like cream), produced poor product, or required excessive legwork and time to complete the process. With my scheduled day to make ice cream quickly approaching, I spent several hours last night trying to track down a recipe that worked. Realizing my efforts were going nowhere fast, I asked Rachael for some help locating a recipe that would work.

After a few minutes of searching on Youtube Rachael stumbled upon several videos that provided some help, but still maintained the same weaknesses as the recipes I located in my earlier efforts. This pattern continued for some time until we finally came across a video that provided a simple recipe involving frozen fruit, honey, powdered sugar, heavy cream, and a food processor. The video provided a simple approach that appeared to produce quality results from little more than 20 minutes of work. Everything about the recipe and the instructions appealed to me, so I jotted down some quick notes, made an ingredient list, and finalized my plans to make ice cream for the first time.

On my way home from work today I stopped to pick up a few of the ingredients for my ice cream recipe before I headed home to start the process. All things considered, the ice cream making process seemed relatively straightforward, so I went into the task with a moderate degree of confidence I could pull it off. After eating dinner, I set all of my supplies on my counter and looked through my instructions one more time. As I stood in my kitchen with Buddy and Baxter at my feet I read the instructions aloud, counting the steps off on my fingers as I spoke, “Add one pound of frozen berries, add ½ a quart of heavy cream, add two tablespoons of powdered sugar, add a teaspoon of honey… and pulse that shit.  I can do this.”

The setup... Seems simple enough, right?
Convinced I had the process down, I committed to my task with a quick tear of my bag of frozen strawberries. I promptly dumped the berries into the food processor and moved to grab my jug of heavy cream. Proceeding, I poured half of the cream over the berries and grabbed my bag of powdered sugar. With a few scoops of a spoon I heaped the powdered sugar over the mixture of berries and cream, and grabbed a nearby bottle of honey. I drizzled the honey over the mixture and set the bottle on the countertop next to my other ingredients. Then, with a click of the food processor lid I moved to the final step in the process. “Pulse” I reminded myself as I looked over the buttons on the food processor. For the next few minutes I flipped the button into pulse position in short bursts and watched the mixture turn into a light pink blend of fruit, cream, and sugar. Realizing I was getting close to my final product, I removed the lid to find substantial chunks of strawberries still left unblended. In turn, I clipped the lid back in place and gave the mixture several more long pulses.

My effort yielded a smooth, creamy pink mixture that appeared to fall somewhere between ice cream and a smoothie. Fearful I had over-blended the ice cream, I moved quickly to remove the mixture from the food processor and place it in the freezer. Much to my surprise, the ice cream maintained a thickness much closer to store bought ice cream than I expected, but it was clear the extended exposure to room temperature had softened the mixture. With the food processor empty I placed the finished product in the freezer and turned back to the food processor. “I can do this one more time” I thought as I looked at the mess from my first attempt. Acting on a whim, I turned back to the freezer and whipped open the door and grabbed a bag of frozen mixed berries. Over the next few minutes, I completed the same recipe with the mixture of blackberries, blueberries, and strawberries. The result was roughly the same as my first effort, but it maintained a noticeably darker color thanks to the addition of blueberries and blackberries. Overall, both batches of ice cream looked great, but the true test would come in my first taste of the final product.

Given the texture of the ice cream when I completed each batch, I waited several hours to try the yield from my first attempt for the first time. With one scoop of each flavor placed in a bowl, I moved to my dining room and sat down at the table. While the cool night air didn’t provide the best environment for eating ice cream, I wasn’t about to let it stop me from enjoying the frozen treat... assuming it tasted good, of course. Without hesitation, I plunged my spoon into the strawberry ice cream, which provided subtle resistance to my scooping effort. With my spoon full, I lifted the ice cream to my mouth and bit down. The recognizable taste of strawberry ice cream immediately hit my tongue, which forced the corners of my mouth upward in a subdued, blissful smile. The ice cream wasn’t too sweet. It wasn’t too tart. It was simply strawberry ice cream, and it was delicious.

How did it turn out? ...Awesome.
Happy with my first bite of the strawberry ice cream, I moved to the mixed berry ice cream and picked up a scoop. Although the blackberries made the ice cream a little gritty, the flavor was well balanced like the strawberry blend, which left me equally pleased with the second effort. Over the next few minutes, I happily nibbled away at the remaining ice cream in my bowl, which left me with a full stomach and a contented state of mind. With that, I knew my first attempt at making ice cream was a success, and I knew I found a new, easy, and relatively inexpensive way to make a delicious dessert with little time and effort.

Although it was a straightforward task, I learned a lot from my first attempt at making ice cream. First, food processors are amazing little gadgets. Second, ice cream is surprisingly easy to make. Finally, making something so delicious with my own hands provides a much more rewarding and enjoyable outcome. In fact, I would go so far as to say that I thought the ice cream tasted better knowing it came from my efforts. Don’t get me wrong, it was delicious on its own, but knowing it was a product of my creation. Needless to say, I’m sure I will be making more ice cream in the future. Considering the ease with which I can make the stuff, I’m sure my wallet and my stomach will thank me for making the effort on those hot summer days.

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