|Sugar 'n' spice||
Sunday, May 2, 1999
SUMMER is here and with it come all the problems of hot, humid days and sultry nights, boring summer vegetables, but all the superb summer fruit. Possibly the favourite way people have of cooling off is to eat cool, and what could possibly be cooler than ice-creams and all the assorted frozen desserts that summers represent.
When we talk of frozen desserts the list is endless as is the variety, soufflés, ice-creams, sorbets, jellies, mousse... Possibly the favourite of all the cold desserts is ice-cream. This is one food item where age is no bar. It is a favourite with the young and old alike, and is in fact is not even thought of as a dessert, but something you can eat at any time you feel like.
Often we want to experiment with making ice-cream at home, but are wary of the results and time involved. Commercial ice-cream is readily available and can be found in a large variety of flavours and prices. Apart from the price restriction there is no denying that well-made home ice-cream is way better in flavour than any commercial one available in the market today.
Making ice-creams seems a real chore to most of us but it really isnt. The making process is perhaps the easiest part of it all; Its the freezing and storing of ice-cream that can be tricky. There are no hard and fast rules on how to make and keep perfect ice-cream but there certainly are many recipes to choose from, to find which one you are happiest with and a few tips on how to freeze ice-cream for better texture.
Most often ice-cream is made with a combination of milk, cream, eggs, sugar etc, but it can also be made with many other options like condensed milk, dried powder milk as well as yoghurt. The characteristic light, frothy texture that we associate commercial ice-creams with and try to instil into our home-made versions is due to the content of air in them. Air is beaten into the milk mixture before and during the freezing process, which is what makes the final product so light and fluffy in texture.
Just as the contents of ice-creams vary from recipe to recipe, the origins and texture of these differences can be traced from area to area. The French ice-creams include eggs and are rich and creamy, Italian ice-creams are much lighter in texture and have a larger ice and water content than milk. Many commercial ice-creams use stabilisers and emulsifiers. The stabilisers are used to prevent large ice crystals from forming, while the emulsifiers are added to smoothen the texture and make the ice-cream more easily whippable.
Regarding the origins of this so loved dessert, ice-creams were probably introduced to Europe in 1295. It is believed that when Marco Polo returned to Italy from the Far East he brought with him a recipe for a frozen dessert that used milk and was quite like the ice-creams that we eat today. Italy gets the credit for popularising this dish. The first ice-cream factory was built in 1851 in Baltimore by Jacob Fussell, a milk dealer, after which there was no looking back and the popularity of ice-creams grew as did the industry.
The drawback to simply taking the easy way out and buying readymade ice-cream from the market is that most commercial ice-cream brands tend to use more dried milk products, a lower percentage of milk fats, have large amounts of stabilisers and emulsifiers as well as a higher volume of air. The better quality ice-creams are denser and less airy in texture, use more fresh products, should contain 16 to 20% of milk fat, and sparingly use additives. Natural ice-creams avoid artificial flavourings and additives, although they do need to use natural products to emulsify and stabilise.
Vanilla ice-cream (in a custard base)
Preparation time- 30 minutes
Freezing time as needed
Ingredients: 1 cup or 250 ml milk, 1 1/2 cups or 350 ml light cream, 1 teaspoon vanilla essence, 2 eggs, 2 egg yolks, 1/2 cup or 125 gms of sugar and a pinch of salt.
Method: Heat the milk and cream in a heavy-bottomed pan over low heat till it is scalding hot. Remove from the flame and add in the vanilla essence. In another bowl beat the eggs, egg yolks, sugar and salt together till the mixture is thick and has a mousse like consistency. Add in a little of the heated up milk and cream mixture to this and stir it well. Add in the remaining hot milk and cream mixture and mix it well and then cook it over a low heat, stirring constantly till the mixture becomes thick enough to coat a spoon. This must be constantly stirred in order to prevent any lumps from forming. Remove it from the fire and stir to cool the mixture down over a bowl of cold water. Pour the cooled mixture into metal ice-cream trays or the container you want to set the ice-cream in. Cover the containers and place them in the freezer to set. When the mixture is semi-set pour it into a bowl and whisk it with a hand mixer for a minute. Pour this back into the trays and again put it into the freezer to set.
Vanilla ice-cream (mousse based)
Preparation time - 25-30 minutes
Freezing time as needed
Ingredients: 1 2/3 cup or 400 ml light cream, 1 teaspoon vanilla essence, 1/4 cup or 60 gms sugar, 1/2 cup or 120 ml water and 3 egg yolks.
Method: Put the cream in a saucepan and heat it till it is warm but not boiling. Remove from heat and add in the vanilla essence and keep it aside. In another pan heat the water and sugar till it boils letting it boil for 3-4 minutes. Keep this aside to cool for a few minutes. Beat the egg yolks in another bowl till they are pale and creamy. Add sugar syrup over the beaten egg yolks taking care to stir it constantly. Add in the cream to this mixture, again taking care to mix it constantly. Pour this into ice-cream trays and place it to set in the freezer. Again remove the semi-set mixture and beat it and then put it back into the trays and replace in the freezer till it is fully set.
Use either of the above given recipes for vanilla ice-cream and add 2/3 cup or 125 gms melted cooking chocolate to the mixture. This must be added into the milk and cream or just the cream when it is heated up. The rest of the process and ingredients will remain the same.
To either of the above given vanilla ice-cream recipes add one tablespoon of instant coffee again when the milk and cream or just the cream is heated. The rest of the process and ingredients will remain the same.
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