Making ice cream yourself
Few foods come in as many guises as ice cream. My first experience of it was a Mr Whippy, strawberry syrup squirted round its blowsy furls. I didn’t much like it. It was just sugar, air and coldness. But I loved the tinny, melancholic tune the ice-cream van played, the smell of its engine and the rather enforced sense of fun provoked by its arrival near my grandparents’ house. We all rushed out, chatting and whooping, glad to hang around in the street.
Later, going to Morelli’s, my local ice-cream parlour, was a Sunday-night treat. They had proper ice cream, vanilla only. I always had a “slider”, a slice from a block of vanilla sandwiched between two rectangular wafers,wrapped in wax paper. Ice cream, I believed, was essentially for children. For years after I left home I didn’t touch it. I didn’t think it was worth the calories.
Then, as soon as it was published, I bought Chez Panisse Desserts. The Chez Panisse Menu Cookbook had sent a shiver down my spine – the food was so different from the nouvelle cuisine of the time – and this did something similar. My jaw fell open as I flicked through it – the author had turned ices into poetry. There was blood-orange ice cream, pear and Armagnac sherbet, jasmine ice cream, almond and apricot sherbet bombe, late-harvest-riesling ice cream. These weren’t just about sweetness and coldness, they were about capturing something quite fantastical, something that was almost impossible to pin down. A bottle of late-harvest riesling, or the scent of jasmine flowers, caught and frozen? This was ice cream I couldn’t wait to taste.
Good cooking can make you taste flavours as if for the very first time. Great ices do that and more – they can fuse flavours. When my son tasted the chocolate and Pedro Ximénez ice cream below, he said, “It’s hard to know whether it’s a chocolate and sherry ice cream or a sherry and chocolate one – I get both ingredients equally.” Complicated ices – bombes and layered parfaits – go further. In an Italian restaurant in America I ate an ice called simply “Piedmont”: chocolate parfait filled with a runny hazelnut caramel, doused in a coffee cream, it was a blissful fantasy of the Italian region.
I know some readers groan when food writers suggest recipes for sorbets or ice creams. It’s the pudding even keen cooks won’t make if they don’t have a machine. But ices are worth it, even made by hand. Are they a hassle? A bit. Do they require attention? Yes. Do they taste sublime?
By Diana Henry
12:46PM BST 28 Aug 2014