Jul 1, 2015

Historic Flavors Of Summer Ice Cream

Ice cream is great any time of year but Summer is by far the best! A walk in the sunshine and you soon want a thirst-quenching, cream icy cream treat especially if you are visiting one of the many tourist attractions that are open this time of year.

In fact many tourist attractions sell their own ice cream either from their own ice cream parlor, from a little cute kiosk or even from an ice cream truck that parks up nearby. All kinds of places do this, from medieval castles to animal and theme parks.

This gorgeous looking purple ice cream was a cone treat I bought whilst visiting a brilliant outdoor spectacle in France. Stuntmen and actors dressed up as medieval knights fought each other whilst a medieval story played out behind them. Amazing!

Violet flavor ice cream

The place? Puy du Fou (pron pwee dew foo) in France.

Puy Du Fou Medieval Battle

Another historic site I once visited in summer was Rocamadour where, halfway up the steep and ancient hill climb of hundreds of steps, I found an ice cream parlor! I couldn't believe the amazing ice cream they sold there - prune gin, goats cheese, saffron and walnut were 4 that I particurlaly remember. All the ice cream was locally made too and the lady at the ice cream counter was only too happy to let me sample as many as I wanted. Such was her pride and delight in sharing her passion for great ice cream.

Amazing ice cream flavors at Rocamadour parlor

My tub of goat's cheese ice cream

So if you are ever in France and can visit Puy du Fou or Rocamadour, don't get carried away just by the history and spectacle ..... remember the great ice cream they serve up :)

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May 15, 2015

Ice Cream Parlors - Creme De La Creme!

If you are out and about and really fancy some ice cream, what do you do?

Some people might head for the nearest store and buy a tub of B&J's or Haagen-Daz. Speaking for myself I would have to be desperate to do that!

Nope, I would look for the nearest ice cream parlor. I'd Google it on my iphone or ask a local passer-by for a recommendation. This is something I've done a lot over the years. What's more I regularly ask friends to let me know if they discover a great ice cream parlor and send me a photo.

The end result is that not only do I, my family and my friends get to experience great ice cream parlor 'finds' but you also get to share in them - like today!

Above is a seaside ice cream parlor in France. Designed specifically to attract families, the parlor chose to invest in some wonderful ice cream themed furniture and display items. The specially made ice cream cone chairs are brilliant! The big ice cream cone is a clever idea too - not only is it a trash can that entices kids to use it but it enables them to see the parlor from way down the other end of the street!

Above is a parlor that takes a different approach. Again in france, this is a village bakery and coffee shop which also makes its own ice cream. It has a lovely sense of relaxed style with its beautiful small olive tree featured on the decked terrace. So different to the one above but so appropriate in its context.

I've eaten at both these parlors and the ice cream was equally delicious but the latter made a bigger feature of ice cream sundaes with sugared whipped cream and homemade cookies stuck on top! So it gets my family's vote :) Read more about French ice cream here.

At the other extreme, this next ice cream parlor (below) is not one I've eaten at but it's where my friend Ann loves to take a break in the heat of the day sometimes after shopping. It is in Thailand and is called Dhara Dhevi. Its Thai decor and refined style make this a haven of peace for those in need of a cooling but delicious refreshment and apparently the quality of the ice cream they serve lives up to all expectations.

So there you have it, ice cream parlors as different as the many tastes ice cream itself. Essentially, something for everyone :)

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May 4, 2015

Guanaja Chocolate Ice Cream

Chocolate ice cream has to be one of the most popular treats on the planet. No surprise then that tv chefs and commercial ice cream makers seem to fall over themselves to come up with ever more variations!

When I was a child there was just one type of chocolate ice cream! Maybe that's why I got into ice cream making, because when it's homemade your only limit is your imagination!

Here are some of my favourite recipes for chocolate ice cream that you can make at home. Some have a custard base and others use a combination of heavy cream, milk and sugar.

Milk chocolate ice cream
White chocolate ice cream
Chocolate chip ice cream
Mint chocolate chip

Oh and there's a really quick and easy chocolate ice cream if you're in a hurry :)

Having covered the basics let's now move on to the exotic!

Chocolate, of course, is not just chocolate - there are many types with different percentages and grades of cacao. Guanaja chocolate for example. Ever heard of Guanaja? It's a little island in the Caribbean first discovered by Christopher Columbus more than 500 years ago and it was where he came across cacao for the very first time. The cacao that grows there makes a dark and intense tasting chocolate. What many chocolate experts would call a 'true' chocolate.

I recently chanced upon a special 'artisan' chocolate ice cream in France made with 80% Guanaja chocolate and ginger. Wow! It was one of the strongest, bitter chocolate ice creams I've ever tasted and the ginger gave it a great extra kick.

Guanaja chocolate with ginger ice cream cone

The same artisan ice cream maker used 80% Guanaja chocolate to create another unique ice cream flavor, combining it with yuzu and lime zest! Again, a very strong and intense flavour with a sharp hint of citrus. The yuzu also gave the ice cream a lovely aroma!

Guanaja chocolate with yuzu and lime zest

Note: Yuzu is popular in Japan for making marmalade and also it's aromatic oil is used for bathing most traditionally at the Japanese winter solstice (Toji). How's that for a nice extra fruity fact :)

So there you have it - Guanaja chocolate ice cream in 2 extraordinary combinations.

All I need now is to get my hands on some Guanaja chocolate and then I can adapt my standard custard base chocolate recipe by replacing the cocoa powder and regular milk chocolate with the  Guanaja chocolate. Can't wait!

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Nov 26, 2014

Modular Cold Room Storage For Ice Cream

Ice cream needs proper cold storage and that's a fact. The very nature of ice cream, being a frozen food, means that its texture forms part of its appeal. If that texture is too hard or too soft, then it risks being an inferior experience for the people who look forward to eating it.

It doesn't matter whether you are a master ice cream maker with a shopfront or ice cream parlor or if you just make homemade ice cream. The principle is the same. Spoil the texture of ice cream and you spoil the ice cream itself!

So what are the guidelines for good ice cream storage? Here are a few pointers:

Cold Storage For Homemade Ice Cream

No strict guidelines here but generally do not store homemade ice cream in your freezer for more than 2 months.

Personally, I prefer to keep it no longer than 1 month.

Length of cold storage time also depends upon the type of ice cream you have made. A gelato has a different consistency to a sorbet for example and an ice cream made with a rich cream base and fresh fruit ingredients is different again.

To be absolutely honest, I think the best homemade ice cream is eaten fresh from the ice cream maker!

If the ice cream is a little on the soft side when you first make it and you prefer it harder then pop it in the freezer for just 20 minutes or so before serving.

With homemade ice cream that's been stored in the freezer, I recommend taking it out and put it into the refrigerator for about 10 minutes before serving. This helps soften any ice crystals that may have formed on the outside and makes it more scoopable.If you want to know more about what to do if your homemade ice cream is too hard, read here

Cold Storage For Commercial Ice Cream

Master ice cream makers tend to have developed their own ice cream recipes over time, to the point where they know exactly the right temperature for storage and the optimum amount of time it can be kept in cold storage.

Most ice cream parlors have a good cold storage room, which I learned from a friend of mine is sometimes referred to as a walk in freezer - ie. a big freezer with tiered shelving (up to about 2m high) and a door that allows a person to go inside and retrieve or inspect what's been stored.

Having heard this 'walk in freezer' reference I decided to research it a little more. Just what does this kind of cold storage for ice cream look like? Is it easy to get hold of? Is it complicated to set up?

So I trawled a few web pages and came across a Google+ post made by a chap who claims to have 'spent a lifetime in the freezer!'. His background looked very credible so I followed through a little more. He had referenced an example of what is called modular cold room storage. This type of 'cold room' comes in both fridge (chiller) or freezer format and has the shelving and door that makes it the walk type. Here is a picture .......

Walk In Cold Storage (Freezer or Fridge)

What's more it is apparently easy to self-install - as long as you follow correct rules of health and safety practices of course! Don't think I would be tempted to do so but a couple of chaps on site working at an ice cream parlor might be OK with it. That's where the modular bit comes in - the panels that make up the cabinet bascially slot into each other (though I think it's a bit more technical than that!).

What's also interesting is the wide variety of people who use these walk in cold rooms. Apparently, the food sector as a whole is a big buyer of these rooms from take-aways to burger bars, pizza shops, bakers and butchers. Then on top of that there's the medical market with labs and pharmacies using them lots apparently.

Anyway, back to ice cream storage .... whether you are a homemade fan or a commercial ice cream maker you will know by this point that storage is key to keeping a good ice cream at its best.

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