Friday, July 13, 2012

Tools of the Trade: the Ice Cream Maker

It seems it’s been hot just about everywhere lately (at least in the northern hemisphere, that is). Where I live, we had a freak rainstorm last night after several days of the kind of typical dry 90 degree heat that southern California is used to, which turned our desert, dry heat into a muggy, humid mess. I don’t know how anyone can live in Florida. This sucks. Where are the hot, dry Santa Ana winds when you need them?

Anyway, there is only so much cold water and iced tea I can drink to cool down. My mind started racing for what else I could do. Then I remembered the ice cream maker. The other night I reached into the back of my cupboard and got it out, cleaned it and stuck it in the freezer, ready for inspiration. Actually I already had the inspiration – I was going to make coconut sorbet. 

I use the ice cream maker to mostly make frozen yogurt and sorbet. For last night’s coconut sorbet I had no recipe. I was in a hurry to get it going because I wanted it ready for after dinner, so I literally threw it together. I mean literally. I measured nothing. Felt like a witch making a brew – a pinch of this, a dash of that. But I’ll approximate what went into it. This made 2 servings of about 6-7 oz. each.

Coconut Sorbet

1 cup coconut milk (the runny kind that comes in a milk carton)
½ cup coconut milk (the thicker variety that comes in a can that you’d use for Indian or Thai dishes)
¼ cup simple syrup (easy – no need to heat this up to dissolve the sugar)
1 packet stevia
¼ cup unsweetened shredded coconut

I literally threw it all in, in that order, with the motor running. Then it spent about 30 minutes churning away while we grilled and then ate dinner. It could have been a little sweeter, but I’m cutting back on my sweets so another stevia packet would have probably done the trick. I could have reduced the coconut – maybe go a little less than ¼ cup. But otherwise, it was creamy and delightfully, refreshingly, cold!

My next frozen creation this weekend will likely be to use up some overripe plums I still have from last weekend’s farmers market, some vanilla yogurt and a little honey. I’ll just puree everything together in the blender first and then pour it into the ice cream maker. I’ll bet that will be good.

I just love how versatile the ice cream maker can be.  I have a smaller model (the 1.5 quart Krups La Glaciere on the left) because I prefer to make smaller batches more frequently and don’t have a large family to feed. There are certainly more sophisticated models out there but this one gets the job done. It comes with a bowl you place in the freezer. When that's ready, you pour your contents into the bowl, attach the motor to the lid and snap that into place, plug it in, then hit the green button at the top to start it. Super easy.

You can take whatever creamy base you have on hand (regular milk, almond milk, coconut milk, soy milk, even buttermilk) and mix in whatever you want (pureed fruit, chocolate chips, crushed cookies), and then whichever sweetener you like (cane sugar, honey, stevia, agave, or even Splenda or aspartame if you’re into that).  Then go to town whirling it all up. Here are a few things I've learned along the way:

Hard things like nuts should be added at the end as garnish, unless you crush them up fairly well. They can mess up the machine by getting caught if they are big enough chunks unless you keep a watchful eye on it.

You can add alcohol (rum, vodka, champagne, etc.) to your blend. Because of alcohol’s ultra-low freezing point it makes it easier to scoop (but don’t go overboard. Usually only 1-2 Tbsp. of it are needed).

Experiment with when to add the pureed fruit – either at the beginning or at the end after the milk’s been frozen. I think the fruit is better left unfrozen, and simply mashed with a little bit of sugar or honey and then swirled in after the milk has been frozen. But you can always swirl it in and then pop it into the freezer for about an hour just to stiffen it up a bit if you prefer.

One of my favorite things lately is pistachio gelato. A company called Ciao Bella makes a good one but I'm going to try to make it myself with a little less sugar. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

I hope you enjoy your summer and stay cool! Of course, if you have any frozen dessert ideas you'd like to share, please leave a comment.

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