a history of cool

I joke that my two food groups are kale and ice cream. Truth being always more complicated than the stories we tell, the kale is often chicory, and I sometimes go days without ice cream…

But since I try to eat organic ingredients it often occurs to me that the ice cream I eat rarely is. So I have been considering purchasing an ice cream machine. This is a big decision because I don’t like gadgets. I don’t like them to clutter the kitchen, I don’t like to clean them, and I don’t like how poorly they tend to age.

In considering the considerations, and discussing with friends, I realized that an ice cream maker would enable me to create many different flavors. This seems too obvious to mention, but I’ve eaten a lot of ice cream in my life but usually only one flavor per city. There seems to be a particular kind of flavor that offers comfort, and I rarely stray from whatever is doing a good job for me. Few cities have offered me more than one flavor that worked. Interested in this recognition, I wrote a history of my life in ice cream.

Childhood in San Francisco was the original Nob Hill Swenson’s Thin Mint (mint chip) ice cream, properly green and itself the subject of another blog post here.

When my grandmother would rescue me from boarding school she always took me to a shop that no longer exists where I always had amaretto.

I don’t remember eating ice cream in college, just really great bran muffins and bananas, cheap Indian food and scallion pancakes. But at home in the summer, seriously anorexic (and cleary anemic as well), I subsisted on Gelato Classico’s Pistachio White Chocolate. One summer I worked for another gelato shop and fell in love with their rice ice cream.

In graduate school I discovered Dreyer’s rocky road. One phase of recovery from anorexia consisted exclusively in allowing myself to eat as much ice cream as I liked (punctuated with sweetened cereal, specifically frosted mini-wheats).

Lonely living in a boring small town during my first job, ice cream was my sole pleasure. There was a Ben&Jerry’s store, and I bought hand-packed Cherry Garcia which had a higher density of cherries and chocolate than the pre-packed pints. I crumbled the store’s fresh waffle cones on top. To replicate this, I used Martha Stewart’s vanilla base, dark chocolate chunks, and fresh cherries. But the fresh cherries got too icy frozen, so then I tried soaking them in vodka hoping that the vodka would replace some of the water in the cells and have a less icy texture.

My grandmother’s favorite flavors were butter pecan and maple walnut, which we often bought from 31 Flavors. When she left us, it was all I could eat.

Living in Wellington I discovered a new flavor, Kaffee Eis’ Biscotti (oreo cookies). Like rocky road, it’s in a mild chocolate base, which seems to be a theme in my preferences.

The backup flavor, available all over the US, was Häagen Dazs’ Rum Raisin. And that’s the first flavor I’m making with the new ice cream machine… I soaked the raisins in rum for a few hours, then used Martha Stewart’s vanilla base (skipping the first few steps with the vanilla beans). The flavor was perfect.

And what I’ve learned so far about making ice cream:

  • Assuming you’ve already had the freezer bowl for your ice cream maker in the freezer for 24 hours (or you have a compressor machine), the time between you and ice cream is about 3 hours.
  • You need to cook a custard in order to make ice cream. That involves egg yolks, milk, sugar, and cream.
  • Martha calls for 6 egg yolks, for me that’s waaaaay too eggy, and I use 3-4.
  • If you leave out the cream and use only milk, you will get a more icey texture. (I did it as an experiment, and wasn’t pleased.)
  • If you can organize an ice bath to cool the custard you will speed up the wait time before you can put it in the ice cream machine.
  • Australian marshmallows taste like toothpaste. (Otherwise, my rocky road came out great, using this recipe.)
  • There is no substitute for “Real American Oreo cookies” in Cookies and Cream ice cream… Oh well, I’ve got to have one contradiction in my life…


My recipe for ice cream base (you need to add flavors):

  • put 2 cups of whole milk to warm on the stove
  • 3 egg yolks + 3/4 c white sugar: beat this until light yellow
  • slowly add the milk, beating the whole time (if you add the milk too fast, you’ll cook the eggs and end with scrambled eggs in milk)
  • put mixture back in the pan on the stove very low heat, stir constantly with wooden spoon until you can make a stripe on the wooden spoon with your finger. (this is supposed to take several minutes, I find it happens in 30 seconds, and more time does not improve the viscosity of the stripe)
  • remove from heat and add 1 cup cold cream and 1 cup cold milk (to stop the cooking) (in berlin cream is sold in a quantity less than one cup, so I just add as much milk as necessary to make a total of 2 cups.
  • use the egg whites to make my superlight swedish pancakes

if you have a compressor machine you can put this directly in, or cool it first and then put it in. if you have a freezer bowl machine you must cool first.