About Ice Cream

— Ed Engoron, Co-Founder of Choclatique

Ice CreamI love ice cream! No ifs ands or buts about it. I am one of those “a pint is not enough” men. No matter what size the container, I can usually finish it in one serving. Okay, I have to admit, as I have gotten older, I do struggle a little with the gallon size. I also have to confess that it is a struggle to maintain my high school, athletic figure. Yeah, I’m sure you can imagine the guy who eats Choclatique chocolate all day has got to look like the “blob” that swallowed Hollywood. I digress…

I have been on the low carbohydrate Choclatique Q-91 diet since the beginning of summer. I haven’t had a “lick” of ice cream or much of anything else I love for over two months. I have lost about 16 badly needed pounds, but I still have another 12 to go. I get obsessive-compulsive about things like diets and nothing can even tempt me-even all of the great new luscious marshmallow flavors they are turning out of the Chocolate Studio this afternoon. If I can’t eat any ice cream at the moment, let me at least write about it.

THE BASE MIXTURE

Ice cream is a simple combination of dairy products, sweeteners, and flavorings. There are basically two kinds of ice cream: Philadelphia-style, which is made with various combinations of milk, cream, flavorings, and sugar; and custard-based, which is made with egg yolks, sugar, some milk, a lesser amount of cream, and similar flavorings. Custard ice creams, sometimes called French ice creams, are whipped before they are frozen. With the exception of the egg yolks in the custard ice cream, basically the ingredients for both are the same, although the proportions are different.

THE FAT’S WHERE THE FLAVOR AND TEXTURE ARE AT

Ice Cream SundaeWe all love ice cream that is smooth and velvety. Ice cream has to contain a certain amount of butterfat to be so smooth and creamy. The butterfat in ice cream comes from the milk products in the mixture, and the higher the butterfat content, the richer the ice cream. The amount of butterfat in commercial ice cream is regulated by the FDA. For vanilla ice cream, the standard is at least 10 percent; for chocolate ice cream, it is at least 8 percent. Many ice creams that you buy in the store barely reach that minimum, while others reach 15 to 20 percent. When making your own ice cream, you can increase the butterfat content even more, resulting in the smoothest ice cream you’ll ever eat.

If you’re making your own ice cream, here are the ratios you need to follow. There are three cups of heavy cream and one cup of half-and-half in most Philadelphia-style ice cream recipes. There are two cups of heavy cream, one cup of half-and-half, and four egg yolks in most custard-style ice cream recipes. These standards yield ice cream that far surpasses any of the commercial brands, some of which substitute chemical additives, gelatin, and other stabilizers to provide smoothness and body. We don’t believe in better living through chemistry.

ice_cream_kidSmoothness in ice cream is achieved only with some sacrifice. That same butterfat that makes the ice cream so tasty can also be a problem for people with high cholesterol levels. You could reduce the amount of butterfat in the ice cream by substituting half-and-half for the cream and milk for the half-and-half. The problem is that you’ll get an icier ice cream. The ice cream just won’t be as smooth. It tends, especially in home ice cream freezers, to become icy and granular when there’s too much water and not enough fat in the mixture. If you want smoothness, the only solution is to eat very, very good ice cream—and only eat a little bit of it. Ice cream that’s well made (or anything else, for that matter) need not be eaten to excess to be satisfying. In France they serve ice cream in tiny cones. The cones are perhaps an inch and a half in diameter at the widest point. They are perfectly satisfying.

OVERRUN—IS THAT JUST A LOT OF HOT AIR?

If you simply mixed up a batch of cream, sugar, and flavoring and then froze it, you would get a solid block that you’d have to chip at with a chisel. The mixture has to have some air added as it freezes. This is the second most important factor in making good ice cream. The air lightens the mixture and increases its volume while keeping the cream soft. Too little air makes a solid ice cream; too much results in frozen foam.

Some commercial ice cream makers use an air pump, which pumps air into the mixture as it is being frozen. Home ice cream machines do a similar process mechanically by stirring a small amount of air into the mixture with the beater as it freezes. To some extent you can control the amount of air being incorporated and thus control the density of your ice cream.

The percentage of air that is whipped into ice cream is referred to as “overrun.” The FDA has standards for the weight of ice cream, and these weights are a direct reflection of overrun. A gallon of commercial ice cream must weigh at least 4.5 pounds. The ice cream you make at home will weigh twice that. Some popular brands of ice cream advertise a low overrun—for example a 20% overrun. That means for every 100 ounces of cream mixture, they beat in enough air to produce 120 ounces of frozen ice cream. Try testing this yourself. Hold up two different containers of ice cream at once and notice which is heavier. The heavier one has the lower overrun, which means you’re getting more ice cream and less air for your buck.

INGREDIENTS—ONLY THE BEST WILL DO

It pays to use only the best ingredients. Why spend all that time and effort to make something that is second rate? If you want second-rate ice cream, you can find that easily at the store. Go that route and along with second-rate taste, you’ll get junk like homogenizers, stabilizers, and emulsifiers; corn syrups instead of sugar; and artificial flavors instead of real flavors. The freezing process tends to bring out all the imperfections in ingredients. If you compromise on quality here, you’ll taste it later.

FOOD SAFE & FLAVOR

Remember that in making ice cream, you are working with dairy products (milk, half and half and cream) and eggs that when not totally fresh, can have higher counts of bacteria and possibly get you sick.

If you are going to use the freshest cream, half-and-half, and eggs, you should be using only real vanilla or vanilla extract. Vanilla reinforces the flavor of the cream and gives the ice cream its characteristic dairy taste. It also enhances the flavor of chocolate ice cream. Phony vanilla just doesn’t cut it and it leaves a metallic aftertaste.

If you’re using chocolate, it should be the best. We recommend using Choclatique Private Reserve Dark Chocolate (64%); Choclatique Prestige Milk Chocolate (32%); or Choclatique Snowy White Chocolate (33%). For cocoa, use Choclatique Red Cocoa Powder. It is a light, Dutch-process cocoa that still gives a nice, warm brown color and enhance the chocolate flavor.

ORTS, CHIPS, BITS, PIECES, TEXTURIZERS AS INCLUSIONS

Strawberry Ice CreamInclusions are those things (fruits, nuts and chips) that you can add to ice cream to give it that Ben & Jerry’s texture. I prefer to only add frozen inclusions. Adding room temperature inclusion may develop ice crystal in the ice cream and delay the freezing process. At the very least make sure anything you add is well refrigerated. And always start with the coldest mixture of dairy products.

You can add in unsalted nuts, dried fruit, chocolate Choclatique chocolate chips, fresh candy or crisp cookie pieces. These are added just before the ice cream is packed for hardening in the freezer.

THEM NEW-FANGLED MACHINES

Ice cream is made by stirring the cream mixture while it freezes. The mixture has to be cold, stirred constantly and not too quickly, but at a pace that allows the cream to freeze without becoming solid and without separating. For the home, there are basically only a three kinds of machines.

Old-Fashioned Hand-cranked Ice Cream MakerThe old-fashioned hand- or motor-cranked machine is essentially a canister that is held within a larger bucket. By turning the crank, you are able to turn the canister, which has a beater, or dasher, inside it to stir the cream. Between the canister and the bucket, you pack in layers of crushed ice and salt. The salt keeps the ice cold. Salt lowers the temperature of the ice while melting it, thus making a very cold casing around the canister to help freeze the cream.

Ice Cream MachineIf you don’t want to make a production out of it at the 4th of July picnic and mess with all the salt and ice, then the frozen core machine is just what the doctor ordered. The core is pre-frozen in your freezer. Then just fill the bowl with the cream mixture and turn it on. It will yield between a pint and a quart in about 20 minutes.

Ice Cream MachineIf you want to spend about a zillion dollars, there is yet another type of machine available—the self-freezing variety, with a canister inside the machine and with the freezing coils wrapped around the canister. It is a mini electric freezer with a small compressor and everything. The cream mixture is stirred inside the canister as it is frozen, without need for salt or ice. The big advantage of the self-freezing machines is that they are quick, easy to clean and virtually foolproof. Most people can’t make a mistake.

PACKING IT IN

Mmmm....Some people like to eat the ice cream fresh, right from the bucket. Others like to chill it to make it quite hard. When ice cream comes from the ice cream making machine, regardless of the type of equipment, it is light and fluffy and at about 17ºF. When you pack it in containers to store in the freezer, it hardens (if your recipe is good, the ice cream should remain creamy and smooth). The best storage for ice cream is about 0º to -10F°. Pack it tightly in airtight containers and top the ice cream with a layer of food film, tapping it down to cover the surface. Place the cover on top of the container on to seal. Label, date and rotate. Just because it is kept in the freezer doesn’t give it the shelf life of plutonium.

When ready to serve, take your ice cream container out of the freezer and place it in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes to slightly soften. If you can’t wait, put it in the microwave for about 15 seconds at 50% power.

So here we have presented some simple tips to eat healthfully, stay fit and above all have fun in your kitchen.

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