You’ve probably seen this in old movies: someone climbs a ladder to a high shelf in a library. Pulling a book from the shelf, they blow off the dust, creating a cloud that momentarily obscures the screen.
I thought of that image the other day when I pulled the bowl of my ice cream maker from the back of my freezer. It has been there, untouched, ignored, since last summer. Instead of blowing dust off, I had to knock chunks of frost and ice off. All that was missing was some long lost ancient hiker embalmed in the ice after taking a wrong turn at Shangri-La.
Why has my ice cream maker sat untouched since last summer? Is there some kind of law against making ice cream during the fall and winter? Only in my head, and it is somehow related to the reason I watch Jimmy Cagney in “Yankee Doodle Dandy” only on the Fourth of July: because that’s when you are supposed to watch it.
I ought to know better. Boston (my home town) has always been a die-hard ice cream town. The season or the weather means nothing to Boston’s ice cream appetite. Beantown is an inaccurate nickname; it should be Icecreamtown.
In last week’s blog I mentioned—merely in passing—ice cream sandwiches. Unfortunately the idea stuck in my head and could not be dislodged. Some early season peaches at the market also helped motivate me a bit. They were not quite ripe. In fact, they were as hard as an MLB-regulation baseball. Still, the romance of Fresh Peach Ice Cream for Memorial Day beckoned.
Here’s the plain truth: I think ice cream is much harder to make than anyone will admit. When I was a kid and someone would pull out one of the old hand-cranked ice cream makers, we were so grateful to have a tiny dish of vanilla ice cream placed in our hands still sore from cranking that we barely gave the consistency or flavor a second thought. Vanilla? Wheee!
How many kids over the years have been duped into that cruel manual labor by the promise of a dish of ice cream? Add more ice! Add more salt! Keep cranking! It was right up there with raking leaves.
The modern “freezer-bowl” ice cream makers are easier on the arm, that’s for sure. But be warned: while the spotlight may be off manual labor, it is burning brightly on ingredients, flavors, and technique. I have a bit to learn. Good ice cream doesn’t happen overnight. Wait a minute. Yes it does. That’s one of the things I learned.
The ice cream I was always served from the hand crank freezer was very basic: milk, cream and sugar: basically frozen whipped cream. Not a bad thing, but really good ice cream is made from cooked custard. Hot custard placed in an ice cream freezer becomes…cool custard, but not ice cream. This I learned the hard way.
I found a recipe in my beloved old copy of The New York Times Cookbook (circa 1961) for Fresh Peach Ice Cream. “Perfect!” I thought and got to work. The recipe gives instructions for cooking custard, followed by the one word instruction: “Cool.” After doing a bit of homework (and making ice cream that never froze) I discovered that the instruction should have read, “Chill.” Even better: “Chill for four hours.”
Ice cream experts can correct me if I am wrong, but this is because of the way ice cream freezes: gently, and with constant movement that prevents ice crystals from forming. If the mixture starts off too warm, the ice cream freezer can’t do its work. So I will now and forever think, “Chill” when making ice cream. As the peaches were slightly less than ripe I diced them, as opposed to crushing them as directed in the recipe.
Usually, the cookie portion of ice cream sandwiches is a basic chocolate wafer. But my mind kept drifting to Peach Crisp, hot from the oven, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. What was called for here was a cookie that would bring the sugary crunch of the crisp to the party. This is where I got a little inventive.
As a base I used an old oatmeal cookie recipe I made up a few years ago. My Mom reminded me that ginger and peaches go well together, so I added a bit of chopped crystallized ginger. The big adjustment I made here was to freeze the dough in the shape of a brick, and then slice and bake the dough in rectangles. A generous sprinkle of demerara sugar just before baking added crunch and sparkle.
Following this concept, I also froze the ice cream in a brick. That way I could cut it into pieces that fit the cookies. No scoops here, as assembling was as simple as, um, making a sandwich.These ice cream sandwiches are a bit rich, but what a luxurious and sweet way to celebrate summer. And I just need to remember to “Chill.”
Good advice for making ice cream, and surviving a hot summer.
Click here for my recipe for “Peach Crisp Ice Cream Sandwiches”
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