I was never hugely bothered by ice cream when I was younger. Whilst my sister was shovelling down cornets, wafers, lollies, and Mr Whippies like a child possessed, I preferred peaches and nectarines. Yup, I was that child most irritating to other parents, who would ask for a piece of fruit whilst their children became ravening sugar-ramped ice cream fiends.
As an adult, bad breakups, girls nights in, and sofa sessions in my house have been fuelled by guac and chips, nachos, French fries, and toast & marmite; I just don’t have a particularly sweet tooth. Don’t get me wrong: I like cake, sweeties and ice cream, but if given a choice will usually plump for the savoury option. Ice cream tends to be for Sunday lunches at home, or for the occasional supper party.
Last autumn I cooked a dinner for Red magazine’s Smart Women Week at the Pandora Townhouse here in London. On my menu was a beautifully seasonal damson ripple ice cream, which I made in an ice cream maker, given to me by Cuisinart.
It was a revelation: sweet, creamy, dense, satisfying and utterly, wonderfully delicious. This was the moment where I finally understood why Hippocrates encouraged his Ancient Greek patients to eat ice “as it livens the lifejuices and increases the well-being.”
I had never made ice cream in a machine, usually relying on nothing more than a fork and elbow grease to break up the ice crystals as the mixture froze, and the ice box in my refrigerator.
Although I’m not a huge fan of clogging up my kitchen cupboards and counters with innumerable gadgets, the ice cream maker was a revelation: once a basic custard is made, and a fruit puree sieved and added to the mix, the liquid is simply placed in the machine’s bowl and switched on. (Its professional compressor system means no need to pre-freeze the bowl.) And that’s it: after about forty minutes or so the machine produces perfect ice cream.
It also comes with a gelato paddle and I felt this was a challenge that needed to be taken up: I’ve never attempted a gelato before although I’ve eaten it occasionally in Italy and in New York. The difference between ice cream and gelato is simple: the former is churned quickly, the aim being to incorporate lots of air (called overrun) for a light, fluffy texture. Gelato is churned much more slowly, which makes it far denser than ice cream, and gives it a soft, almost silky texture. Gelato is served at a warmer temperature, and there is also a school of thought that uses more milk in gelato than cream – although I’ve stuck with equal amounts in this recipe.
(If you’d like to know more about ice cream and gelato, and their glorious history then it’s worth tracking down the bible – Elizabeth David’s Harvest of the Cold Months: The Social History of Ice and Ices At the time of her death in 1992 she was working on this epic study of the use of ice, the ice-trade and the early days of refrigeration, which was published posthumously in 1994.)
RECIPE FOR RASPBERRY GELATO
In Cornwall this summer, I Googled all the local fruit farms, and ended up at Chyreen Fruit Farm near Truro, where they sold me raspberries which had been picked just the day before and frozen because they weren’t perfect – ideal for ice cream, where they were going to be frozen anyway. That freshness is why my gelato is so pink, but I’ve made it again in London using frozen raspberries from the Co-Op and it was still delicious, although slightly less raspberry-ish. It’s definitely worth making this gelato in raspberry season.
I’ve adapted and re-written this recipe from a Cuisinart recipe: I’ve taken out the original powdered milk they recommend, to keep the ingredients as un-industrial as possible, and removed the suggestion of vanilla extract, to give a pure and clean raspberry flavour. Most recipes call for the custard to be chilled for at least 2 hours: I tried omitting this step and couldn’t discern a difference, but if you want to make the custard in advance it does keep well in the fridge.
600g red raspberries, (if frozen, thaw them)
170g granulated sugar
200ml semi skimmed milk
200ml double cream
4 large egg yolks
Puree the raspberries in a blender or food processor, and then strain them through a sieve, by pushing the raspberries through with a wooden spoon. This takes quite a lot of elbow power to extract as much liquid as possible. Don’t forget to intermittently scrape the bottom of the sieve, as lots of liquid collects there.
Place the sugar, cream and semi skimmed milk into a medium saucepan, bring to a simmer over a medium heat and stir to dissolve the sugar. Be very careful not to leave this unattended as it can catch quickly. Keep warm over a low heat.
Place the egg yolks in a medium bowl and whisk until thickened, for approximately 2 minutes. (it’s easiest with an electric hand whisk, but an old fashioned rotary one works too.)
When the eggs have thickened, add half the hot sugar, milk and cream mixture from the pan on the hob, and whisk together until blended. Then stir the egg mixture into the saucepan with the rest of the sugar, cream and milk mixture and return the heat to medium.
Stir the mixture constantly with a wooden spoon, making sure you get into all the corners, until the mixture is thickened like a custard sauce. (It should coat the back of a spoon.)
Then strain the mixture into a large bowl through a sieve. Don’t be tempted to skip this step, as it makes the gelato extra smooth and silky.
Add the raspberry puree to the custard and stir thoroughly.
Pour the mixture into the ice cream maker with the gelato paddle attached and set the timer to 40-45 minutes for soft gelato and 50-60 minutes for harder gelato. The mixing process will begin.
Gelato’s softer state means that it is traditionally served with a gelato spade, rather than an old fashioned (but very pleasing) scoop, to allow it to be shaped. The Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker that I was given is currently on sale here, but if you want something a lot cheaper and less hi-tech, then I’ve heard good things about the Andrew James Ice Cream Maker, which was voted “Best Buy” By Which? Magazine. This is one of the old school makers, which requires you to freeze the bowl in advance in the freezer. I also like that you can buy spare bowls, if you are planning a marathon ice-cream making session. (Fast-freezing insulated bowl spare bowl available here.)