When the lady behind the counter at the new gelato shop on the Upper West Side rang up my order and it cost $25 for me and three children, I knew I only had two choices. Either get a job at an ice cream parlor, or buy my first ice cream maker. I’ve always been a fan of frozen desserts. Ice cream, gelato, frozen yogurt, sorbet, it doesn’t matter. Once the temperature hits 85 degrees, I need something cold. This obsession was easy (and affordable) before I had kids, but now I have to share! At $5 for a cup or cone, it is survival of the fittest, and my kids know better than to get between me and mint chocolate chip. After ruling out a future of soft serve, single scoops and samples, I decided to buy an ice cream maker.
Now the tough part, which ice cream maker to buy? First, there is the old-fashioned hand crank style maker, but that seemed so pre-industrial. Even if they claim to be fun for kids, mine would get cranky after one crank. The gel canister maker must be pre-frozen, which requires some advance planning. However, it is affordable and can make some excellent ice cream. Finally, there are self-cooling machines that don’t require pre-freezing, but they are more expensive and take up a lot of room on a shelf or cabinet.
After reading reviews online, my decision came down to two different Cuisinart machines, the ICE-21 ($50) and the ICE-50BC ($250). I liked the price and reviews of the ICE-21. The ICE-50BC is a self-cooling machine which is capable of making batch after batch of ice cream without pre-freezing, very tempting… In the end, fate (and a 20% off coupon) brought me to Bed, Bath and Beyond where the last ICE-20 (the previous model to the ICE-21) was on closeout for only $25 – the very same price as my gelato tab a few days earlier. This was a no-brainer, I bought it!
My first try was a simple recipe. The main difference between ice cream and other frozen desserts is the fat content. By law, ice cream must contain at least 10% milk fat. Premium and super-premium ice cream contain even more fat. As a dietitian, I couldn’t bring myself to use heavy cream, so I’ve tried some lighter alternatives. Ceylon Cinnamon Ice Cream is rich in texture and flavor, but by using half and half in place of heavy cream, I’ve cut the fat by almost 70%!
I was now ready to go for gelato. Gelato is characterized by an intense flavor and served semi-frozen. It is generally denser than ice cream and has more milk than cream, which makes it naturally lower in fat. The recipe I tried comes from southern Italy, where they use cornstarch instead of egg yolks as a thickening agent. My first Chocolate Gelato was a sweet success!
Remember when froyo was all the rage? When TCBY seemed to grow on every street corner like a Starbucks? It is enjoying a major resurgence again, as new companies like Red Mango and other frozen yogurt shops are returning to their active cultured roots with frozen yogurt that is 100% natural, has no artificial flavors or preservatives, and is rich in probiotics, calcium and protein. It’s naturally tart and can be enjoyed any time of day, even for breakfast!
With my ice cream maker, I don’t need to buy frozen yogurt anymore, I can now make it at home in under 30 minutes. I made a delicious low fat Vanilla Frozen Yogurt using store bought yogurt. I also experimented with a Tart Pomegranate Frozen Yogurt, that my kids love.
A Shabbat meal in the summertime is not complete without a frozen dessert. Sorbet is a naturally pareve, frozen puree of fruit and sugar. The better the fruit, the better the sorbet, so choose fresh, in-season fruit like strawberry, watermelon, mango, and raspberry. Having agave nectar or simple syrup on hand will allow you to skip the step of dissolving sugar in water. For an extra smooth consistency, some experts recommend adding a tablespoon of vodka. Serve in a martini glass with a sprig of mint for a classy ending to your meal.
Looking for a rich creamy dessert that is also pareve? Try using instant pudding mix for a two-step pareve ice cream that may lure Bill Cosby to your Shabbos table. If you don’t like the idea of instant pudding (or Bill Cosby), try a pareve Banana Coconut Ice Cream using coconut milk. I’ve found the higher fat content and smoothness of coconut milk works better than soy milk in most recipes, and the subtle coconut flavor won’t overwhelm your other ingredients.
If you still have an ice cream maker sitting in a gift box from your wedding, now is the time to bust it open. In just a few short weeks of expermintation, I’ve managed to make my own homemade ice cream, gelato, sorbet and frozen yogurt. I also discovered that an ice cream maker is able to keep my kids attention almost as long as a Wii. Time to get freezing.