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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