Monday, August 24, 2009

Ice Cream Test Kitchen

This summer I had the experience of a strange female ritual known as "The Wedding Shower." This is a party that your female friends and relatives throw you with the express purpose of giving you stuff. It's not like a birthday where there is at least the pretense that we are celebrating the day of someone's birth, this is a party where the entire idea is you show up and people give you stuff. Not only will they give you stuff, but you are instructed to sign up at your favorite stores and pick out stuff for these people to give you. People don't seem to understand why I can't wrap my brain around this concept. In the pressing task of picking out every piece of cookware I could ever desire, I had settled my heart on a little gadget known as the Cuisinart Ice Cream maker, and after two solid weeks of 90 degree heat trapped in the 5 miles of concrete known as New York City, imagine my delight sitting in my soon to be mother-in-law's living room as I unwrapped the box holding my salvation. I made arrangements to bring it back with me to New York right away.

At first I excitedly flipped through August's Gourmet magazine, planning a dreamy Salted Carmel as my very first recipe. Then I remembered the debacle of the slow cooker when I tried to apply recipes I wasn't ready for to a device I wasn't terribly familiar with, and decided maybe I should start with something very simple. I chose a recipe that came in the ice cream maker's instruction book, a simple vanilla. Regular readers of this blog know how terrible I am at "scaling back." Before long I discovered the "Variations" section of the manual. Dun dun dun. The Peaches and Cream variation sounded exceedingly simple. My mind drifted to my neighborhood's weekly farmers market and all the lovely August peaches waiting for me there. And it really wasn't much more work than the "Simple Vanilla." I would be fine, right?

The first thing one is to do with a new Ice Cream maker is freeze the mixing bowl. I did this right away and with much excitement. The bowl, so the instructions read, has liquid inside that needs to freeze solid. When removed from the freezer, there should be no sloshing noises. At 10:00 the morning I had decided to make my first ice cream the realization hit me. I had never cleaned the bowl. I had opened the box, removed the label, and shoved it in the freezer. "Shit, shit, shit" I muttered, as I removed the bowl. "Shit!" I exclaimed, as my sponge froze to the side of the frosty bowl. A little rincing and defrosting later I got the bowl cleaned and back in the freezer. "Slosh" went the bowl. But I didn't need it for about 2 to 3 hours. It would be ready by then, right?

The variation that was going to turn my simple vanilla ice cream into peaches and cream ice cream involved marinating the peaches in lemon juice and sugar, draining out the juice and adding it to the vanilla custard. The peaches themselves would be added in the last five minutes of ice cream making. I thought it odd that I was adding this juice without reducing any of the liquid in the original custard, but that's what the instructions said. At 1 p.m. I removed the bowl and shook it. "Slosh" went the bowl. I looked at my mixed ingredients. I decided the bowl felt pretty cold to me, and besides, there was no turning back now. On went the machine and in went the custard. I set the timer for 25 minutes and left my new favorite toy to its devices (what is it with me and puns lately?) 25 minutes later I peeked in and found.... soup. No thickening, no freezing, just soupy cream, mocking me. It happened to be another 90 degree day. It happened that I had spent much of the afternoon trying to figure out the nexus that is New York real estate in my attempt to secure an apartment with a dishwasher. It happened that my patience had worn particularly thin. I dumped the soupy custard in a tupperware and threw it in the fridge. I washed out the bowl and crammed it in the very back of my freezer. "Slosh" went the bowl. It earned it a very dark look.
That night I got home and shook it again. "Slosh" went the bowl.

The next morning I got it out and gave it a shake "Slosh" went the bowl.

I headed off to work leaving Will with the task of figuring out why our freezer hated me. While there was no dial in the freezer, he did find one in the fridge and turned it up from 3 to 5. When I got home that night and gave the bowl a shake... there was a tiny noise that signified a particle or two might still be loose, but I felt pretty confidant the bowl fit the description of frozen. I rejoiced, set up the maker, and got the custard back out of the fridge. Machine running, custard poured in, I set the timer for 25 minutes and left it alone. Well, I might have stared at it. A little. 25 minutes later it was a bit more congealed, but still basically soup. Upon closer inspection of the recipe, I noted that it's title was actually "Peaches and Cream" and not "Peaches and Cream Ice Cream." Hmmmmm. Will and I sat down with our peaches floating in a rather delectable cream, and I threw the rest in the freezer. The next day it had frozen into a very tasty solid, though still a bit ice crystally to be considered proper ice cream. Experiment #1 was chalked up to be a failure, albeit a delicious one.

I buckled down to do some research. I realized I really had no idea what the ice cream was supposed to look like when it came out of the machine, as I had never seen anyone use one before. I hoped onto "The YouTube" to see if anyone had posted a video of ice cream creation. It was then, reader, that I found the best thing the internet has to offer. A home chef who has been making videos of herself cooking for years. She goes under the handle of Princess Diana 161. She is from Jersey. I mean, she is REALLY from Jersey. And about five seconds in, in the most perfect Jersey accent ever, she uttered the phrase "OK, you guys know, I'm a QVC whore." I was hooked.

Best. Video. Ever. Am I right? And in addition to the wonderful entertainment this brought me, I also learned that when done correctly completed ice cream would end up looking like soft serve, but not soup. Planning was going to be required if I was going to do this right.

To be continued.... on Friday. Stay tuned!


clare said...

i love the delicious failures-- and can't wait to watch the video (later, at home).

Portia Formento said...

accidentally deleted my comment - oops! but peach ice cream sounds so good - hopefully you can find a good recipe and give it another try!

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