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~ Old-Fashioned Very-Strawberry-Custard Ice Cream ~

IMG_9387When it comes to ice-cream, store-bought or scratch-made, of the basic big-three choices, vanilla, chocolate or strawberry, strawberry is my favorite -- it always has been, even as a child. In my hometown, their's a place, Heisler's Cloverleaf Dairy, which, in my opinion makes the best strawberry ice-cream known to man- or woman-kind.  Whether scooped into a bowl or onto a cone, it is always served at the perfect frozen-anything temperature.  It's rich, creamy, not-too-sweet and full of bold-flavored bit's of to-the-tooth-textured strawberries -- not nasty clumps of ice.

A bit about adding fresh fruit to ice-cream or frozen custard:

IMG_4770When making ice-cream or frozen custard, to keep any fresh fruit (which is mostly water) from turning into fruity bits and clumps of hard ice cubes, before adding it to the churning ice-cream base, it needs to be cooked in a manner that removes some of its water content and concentrates its flavor -- usually by simmering on the stovetop, sometimes by roasting in the oven.  

Occasionally, a recipe will instruct to macerate the fruit in alcohol, meaning sweetened, fruit-flavored brandies and fruit-flavored schnapps.  The food science behind this:  Alcohol has a lower freezing point than water, so, once added to the churning ice cream or custard, the fruit won't turn into fruity ice cubes.  I'm here to tell you this does not work perfectly.  You see, I long ago learned: While the maceration of fruit renders it soft and tender, most of its flavor gets leached into the liquid, leaving semi-flavorless and soggy fruit to add to the ice cream or frozen custard.

The difference between ice cream and frozen custard:

IMG_9361Frozen-custard and ice-cream  recipes are not created equal.  Sometimes the consistency is too soft, sometimes it's too dense, or worse, sometimes it's full of nasty ice crystals.  Some recipes are cloyingly sweet, and other times, there's simply not enough flavoring added.  Frozen custard and ice-cream are both emulsions with two components (fat and water) that need lots of encouragement to meld, by adding components that absorb water (sugar, starch and protein). 

31173180Store-bought ice cream is made from milk or skim milk, or a combination of milk or skim milk with a bit of cream added, corn syrup or sugar, and flavorings.  Egg yolks are sometimes added, but are not required.  Ice cream is made in a machine that pumps lots of air into it while it churns, which yields a light mouthfeel.  It is federally defined as: a frozen dessert containing 10% milk fat. That said, the old-fashioned simplicity of making home-churned ice cream has been so convoluted by high-tech machinery (to insure its consistent, signature, hand-scoop-able texture), not to mention the additives, preservatives and stabilizers (for a long and palatable shelf life in the freezer), one couldn't reproduce it adequately at home, even if one was inclined to try.

IMG_9438Frozen custard is made from whole milk, or a combination of milk and cream, egg yolks, sugar and flavorings.  Egg-yolks are a requirement, and regulations require 1.4% egg yolks by weight. The higher fat content (from milk and/or cream) gives it a rich, luxurious taste.  Whether made in a hand-crank or commercial machine, frozen custard is churned at a slow pace, to incorporate little air, giving it its dense texture.  Because it melts almost on contact with the lips (similar to soft serve ice cream), it is best served immediately, directly from the machine it was made in.

A bit of rich & creamy frozen-custard history:

IMG_9371Frozen custard was invented on Coney Island, NY, in 1919.  Two ice-cream venders, Archie and Elton Kohr, discovered that when they added egg yolks to their home-made ice-cream base, they produced a richer, creamier, smoother ice cream.  On the first weekend they sold 18,460 cones. They had invented the precursor to our present-day soft-serve ice cream, with one exception: little air was pumped into their product.  As described above, true frozen custard is quite dense.  The mixture enters a refrigerated tube, and, as it freezes, blades scrape the frozen product from the sides of the barrel walls.  Unlike hand-scooped ice cream, the mixture stays in the machine, being discharged directly into cones or cups, on an as-needed basis, to be served immediately.

IMG_9287For my easy-to-make, foolproof strawberry-flavored custard-base:

2  cups heavy cream

2  cups whole milk

1  tablespoons vanilla extract

1  tablespoon strawberry extract

2  tablespoons firmly-packed cornstarch

8  large egg yolks

1 1/4  cups granulated sugar

1/4  teaspoon sea salt

IMG_9285For my puréed strawberry sauce (yields 2 cups):

1- 1 1/4  pounds hulled and 1/4"-thick sliced fresh strawberries (1-1 1/4 pounds after hulling)

1/2  cup strawberry preserves, homemade or high-quality store-bought

1  tablespoon pure strawberry extract

IMG_9256 IMG_9256 IMG_9256 IMG_9256~Step 1.  Slice (& weigh) the strawberries as directed, placing them in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade.  Add the preserves and extract to the work bowl.  Using a series of 10-12 rapid on-off pulses chop the berries and incorporate the preserves.  

IMG_9268 IMG_9268 IMG_9268 IMG_9268~Step 2.  Transfer the mixture to a 3-quart saucier or a 4-quart saucepan.  Over medium heat, bring to a steady simmer.  Continue to cook, stirring almost constantly until mixture slightly-reduced and slightly-thickened, 8-9 minutes.  Remove from heat.  Transfer to a 2-cup food storage container, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

IMG_8948 IMG_8948 IMG_8948~Step 3.  Place cream, 1 1/2 cups of the milk and extracts in a 4-quart saucepan on the stovetop. In a 2-cup measuring container, using a fork, whisk together the remaining 1/2 cup milk and cornstarch.  Set aside.

IMG_8957 IMG_8957 IMG_8957 IMG_8957 IMG_8957 IMG_8957 IMG_8957~Step 4.  In a medium bowl, use the fork to whisk egg yolks, sugar and salt. Add the egg yolk mixture to the 2-cup container with the milk/cornstarch mixture.  Use the fork to vigorously combine the two mixtures.  Set aside.

IMG_8974 IMG_8974 IMG_8974 IMG_8974~Step 5.  Heat the saucepan of milk mixture on the stovetop over medium heat.  Heat the mixture until almost steaming (not full-steaming, simmering or boiling), whisking occasionally, about 2-3 minutes.  Adjust heat to low.  While whisking constantly, gradually and in a slow steady stream, whisk the egg yolk/sugar/milk/cornstarch mixture into the almost-steaming milk mixture.  Increase heat to medium and continue to cook, whisking constantly, until mixture begins to thicken, about 2-3 minutes.  In the beginning, mixture will be foamy on top.  As foam subsides and when mixture begins to thicken, switch from whisk to a large spoon to stir.  Continue to cook gently until custard base is simmering gently, nicely-thickened, silky-smooth and ribbon like, about 3-4 minutes.

IMG_9003 IMG_9003~ Step 6.  Remove saucepan from heat and immediately transfer custard base to a 2-quart food storage container.  Cover the surface of the custard base with a layer of plastic wrap, meaning: don't cover the container, lay the plastic directly on the surface of the custard (to prevent a rubbery skin from forming on the top).  Cool for 1-2 hours prior to putting the lid on the container and refrigerating for several hours to overnight.

IMG_9328 IMG_9328~ Step 7.  Remove custard base and strawberry sauce from  refrigerator at the same time.  Once the base has been added to the chilled work bowl of the ice-cream machine (as described below) allow sauce to sit at room temperature.  

IMG_9012 IMG_9012 IMG_9012 IMG_9012~Step 8.  From here forward, for the rest of this recipe, follow the directions that came with your ice-cream maker.  Because mine has a built-in freezing system, I pour all of the cold custard base into the stainless steel work bowl (which has been pre-chilled by the machine for me).  The lid goes on the work bowl and the machine gets turned on to churn for 1 hour - 1 hour, 10 minutes.

IMG_9334 IMG_9334 IMG_9334 IMG_9334~Step 9.  Open lid of ice-cream maker.  As custard churns, working as quickly as possible, begin drizzling, with the aid of a teaspoon if necessary, the still-cold but nicely-softened strawberry sauce into work bowl, until all of the sauce has been gradually churned into the custard. Return lid to ice-cream machine and churn another 30 minutes, or until desired consistency is reached.

Scoop into a pretty bowl or favorite ice-cream cone...

IMG_9376... & enjoy your journey back to a kinder, gentler time.

IMG_9406Can you feel the rich & creamy strawberry dreaminess?

IMG_9418Old-Fashioned Very-Strawberry-Custard Ice-Cream:  Recipe yields 1 1/2 quarts frozen strawberry-flavored custard.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; kitchen scale; food processor; 3-quart saucier; 2, 2-cup food storage containers; plastic wrap; 2-quart food storage container w/tight-fitting lid; fork; 4-quart saucepan; whisk; large spoon; ice-cream maker; ice-cream scoop

IMG_9088Cook's Note:  There's one more way to add fresh fruit to ice cream and frozen custard -- one that doesn't jump out at 'cha.  The concept eluded me for a long time, now, I do it often.  As discussed above, fruit needs to be cooked prior to adding it -- by simmering, sometimes roasting.  That said, adding leftover fruit cobbler or fruit pie, along with bits of the cobbled crust or pie pastry, works great too.     To learn more, read post ~ Have a Blackberry Cobbler Ice-Cream Kind of Day ~.  I scream, you scream we all scream for ice cream!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2018)


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