Apr 28, 2009

Ice Cream - To Freeze Or Not To Freeze - ?

Think of ice cream and most people imagine a frozen food ... but you would be wrong, well partly wrong. Why?

  • Homemade ice cream is at its best when freshly made. Having made lots of ice cream at home, tested and tasted it freshly batched and having also eaten it after it's been stored for a few days in the freezer, I can tell you there is simply no comparison - both in taste and texture.

  • Gelato, the popular 'artisan' ice cream originating in Italy, is acknowledged to be enjoyed at its best on the day it is made, not after it's been frozen. Although gelato means frozen, it's a little ironic that gelato ice cream is known more for being a 'soft' ice cream. In most gelateria (ice cream parlors specializing in gelato), making gelato is done that day actually on the premises and although it's usually served from an ice cream freezer, it is a different kind of freezer to what you normally see for American style ice cream. It's a "forced air freezer" which prevents the gelato from becoming too frozen.

    There are lots of ice cream display freezers on the market today for commercial ice cream sales. Some are large with numerous ice cream pans and others can be split-level ice cream display units. There are also some small countertop ice cream display freezers as well as upright display freezers.

    Whether you enjoy making your own ice cream recipes or going out to an ice cream parlor, it's worth remembering that freshly made ice cream will always be the best. Ice cream freezers are great for minimal storage of ice cream such as in gelataria but if you make your own ice cream you should be aware of the do's and don'ts of storing ice cream properly.

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Apr 23, 2009

Ice Cream & Roulade

Here's an interesting thing I learned today - a roulade can be not only sweet but also savoury. With its origins being European and its name obviously a French word, it's not surprising then to learn that savoury roulades are popular in France, Germany (known as Rouladen), Italy (known as Braciole), Hungary (known as Szüz) and Poland (known as zrazy).

In England, the roulade is definitely associated with the sweet kind, a good example being coffee roulade. There are lots of other variations on a theme for sweet roulades but coffee roulade springs to mind as I write this post because a friend recently told me that one of her longest standing friends Tina was a very good cook who happened to enjoy coffee roulade with a serving of ice cream. Now I'm not sure what kind of ice cream Tina put onto her roulade (it was probably vanilla ice cream) but if any of my readers want to try some coffee ice cream, I actually have a fresh coffee ice cream recipe that you can try. Whether it's with or without roulade doesn't matter. Good ice cream is great on its own or with other food - makes no difference - not to me anyway!

Coffee is a fascinating subject - I even have a coffee history page where you can read about the East African shepherd that many people believe was the first to make a coffee drink.

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Apr 15, 2009

April 15 - Tragedy, Greatness & Ice Cream Connections

April 15 is a date synonomous with both great and tragic events in the world's history. Two notable ones at opposite ends of the scale are:

1. The sinking of the RMS Titanic in the Atlantic Ocean with the loss of over 1,500 lives.

2. The birth of Leonardo da Vinci - a man who left a legacy of incomparable genuis that the world still admires 500 years after his time.

So what's the ice cream connection?

In the case of RMS Titanic, ice cream was on the menu for first and second class passengers on the last day the ship ever saw daylight - April 14 1912. Described as 'French Ice Cream' for first class diners and as 'American Ice Cream' for second class, this alone portrayed vividly the class distinction that existed at the time. Read my Titanic Ice Cream blog post from 2008 for more details and links to see scans of the menus.

In the case of Leonardo da Vinci, well as much as he was a brilliant inventor, one thing he did not come up with was a design for an ice cream maker! No, my ice cream connection with him is much simpler. I have been fortunate enough to visit Vinci in Tuscany where Leonardo's family came from and, indeed, to visit the house in Anchiano where Leonardo was born just up the hill from Vinci. It was the most beautiful sunny day and the carpet of red poppies that lined the hillside as we drove up to it was a sight I will never forget. Returning back down the hill to Vinci once more, we stopped for coffee and ice cream at a small cafe near the museum. For some reason, that ice cream tasted more delicious than any I had had for a long time and whenever I think of Leonardo's birthplace that is one of the memories that comes to mind. If you ever get the chance to go to Tuscany it is the most wonderful place - whether you like ice cream or not!

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Apr 11, 2009

Easter Ice Cream - With Chocolate, Nuts & Honey

Every Easter I'm aware that many of my readers will be thinking of doing some home entertaining or, at the least, a little home cooking. So Easter recipes are high on the agenda for Internet searches around this time of year - and I don't want to disappoint anyone who is looking for ideas!

Last Easter I suggested a rich white chocolate ice cream recipe. Great for using up any white chocolate easter eggs you might have left over. The same applies to milk chocolate too - here is my chocolate ice cream recipe using real milk chocolate. So if your family gets a lot of chocolate this Easter, remember they don't have to eat it all at once - make some ice cream with it or, indeed, keep some of the chocolate until after the holidays and then make ice cream with it. After all, the 'best before' date on chocolate is usually pretty good. In fact I met a chocolatier a couple of years ago who told me that, generally speaking, chocolate can be good for up to as long as a year after it's been made. Even so, you should always check the manufacturer's date on the packaging.

However, I digress .... back to Easter ice cream!

This Easter I'm going to suggest 2 ice cream recipes:

Something 'nutty' - my crunchy pecan & maple syrup ice cream recipe. The reason? It has proven to be one of the most popular with people I know which makes it a pretty good bet for when you have visitors over the holidays.

Something 'sweet' - my honey ice cream recipe. The reason? Most people like honey. It also gives a great texture to the ice cream and, funnily enough, is an ice cream flavor that many people have yet to try. So the reaction to be offered it is usually one of surprise and interest.

Honey is always great to have in your kitchen at Easter anyway - it's delicious served on hot cross buns or scones!

Indeed, if you serve honey in any shape or form over Easter, you might like to share with your guests a few, fascinating facts about the wonderful honey bee. The link I've given is to a great BBC web page - nothing too scientfic or overbearing, just some great information.

Happy Easter ice cream making!

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Apr 9, 2009

Ice Cream School

In the last year I have got to know 2 master ice cream makers, both Italian, who are making a name for themselves in the world of gelato. Interestingly enough, neither of them lives and works in Italy for they have found a demand for their specialist skills outside their home country.

One is Gino Soldan, the master gelatiere in charge of the very special Harrod's ice cream parlour in London (Morelli's Gelato). Gino hit the headlines in the summer of 2008 because of the unusual ice cream he was making for a special, sponsored and limited edition of ice creams. These included an incredible array including wensleydale cheese ice cream. Wallace & Gromit fans will recognise Wensleydale as being Wallace's favourite!

The other is Marina who lives and works in Barcelona. Having run her own, very popular ice cream parlor in the city she recently told me about her latest venture - her ice cream school. It was fascinating to learn what gave her the idea and who her students are. Although I haven't tasted her ice cream (not having been to Barcelona yet unfortunately!), the photographs of her stracciatella ice cream and her fig ice cream are sufficient to make you believe that she is a lady who knows her gelato! Here is a freshly made batch of her stracciatella gelato.

If, however, you cannot get to her ice cream school - and that will apply to many of you of course - then you can always have a go at making gelato yourself. Here is my gelato recipes page. Enjoy!

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Apr 4, 2009

Beach Sunset & Ice Cream

As my regular readers know, I love it when I come across people and places with strong ice cream connections.

One place I wrote about last year that seems to abound with ice cream kiosks, ice cream parlors and large ice cream display cones is Zandvoort, a delightful beach resort in the Netherlands. Zandvoort beach is one of the best along that coastline. One of the best ice cream display cones I have ever seen was there - a smiling polar bear holding a giant ice cream cone of chocolate and mint choc chip ice cream! Read more about the bear and where I found him on my big ice cream cones post.

If you ever get the chance to visit the Netherlands, especially in the summer months, then Zandvoort is a great place to visit for a day trip or weekend.

The reason for writing this post is that I just came across a fantastic video of a summer sunset filmed on Zandvoort beach. It's a wonderful, relaxing piece with a soundtrack only of what was happening live at the time - the natural sounds of a busy summer's days coming to a close (during which no doubt many an ice cream cone had been eaten!) and the gentle sound of the sea lapping up onto the beach.

This kind of thing is what makes the Internet so enjoyable and such a positive means of sharing good experiences. Let's have more please!

View this great Zandvoort sunset slide show

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