When I started working here five years ago in the small appliances department, my first purchase was a Cuisinart ice cream maker. I grew up in an ice cream household where every night (summer or winter) ended with a scoop or two of the frozen treat. We were a brave ice cream family, always branching out to whatever new flavor was at the grocery store that week. Sure Dad LOVED French vanilla, but as children it was our duty to push the flavor and mix-in boundaries. We all knew the difference between Moose Tracks, Deer Tracks, Chunky Monkey, spumoni and rocky road. The more sugar and candy, the happier we were. So when I got my first ice cream maker, I knew I could push my frozen treat boundaries even further.
I started out with a simple vanilla ice cream recipe. You can mix the ratio of heavy cream to milk to lessen the fat, but I recommend going all out … it’s dessert after all.
Now what else do I have in the kitchen to get my whole house to scream for MY ice cream? I blended up some frozen berries, mixed those in and topped with a little drizzle of balsamic vinegar. So easy. So good.
Chocolate ice cream? Skip the sugar and use hot chocolate mix. If you want, add a little fluff and graham crackers. Yum — everyone will want s’more!
Ice cream starters are also a great way to elevate to unique flavors from a basic recipe. Our salted caramel is my favorite, especially topped with dulce de leche and a few sliced almonds for crunch. It’s my version of an adult sundae, and no one will believe it’s (semi) homemade.
Extracts are also a killer way to infuse a flavor profile into your regular old vanilla. Add a few drops of lavender extract (careful — each drop packs a punch) at the very end of the ice cream cycle, add some crumbled-up, soft goat cheese and finish it off with a drizzle of honey. You’ll wonder why you’ve never had cheese in your ice cream before. (I also recommend trying it with a blueberry ice cream.)
Now if you’re really trying to blow people’s mind with something unique, I made my own version of a recipe I found in my latest issue of Bon Appétit with all the ingredients I already had in my pantry for a dinner party last weekend. And maybe it’s because by the time dessert rolls around the wine has fully kicked in, but I’ve never seen a food reaction like this from my friends before. I spent all day on dinner, and all anyone could talk about at the end was a dessert which took about 5 minutes of prep time. Go figure.
I couldn’t find blood oranges at the market and honestly, I haven’t had a ton of success with making curds in the past, so I substituted pre-made lemon curd. You just layer the curd with your simple vanilla ice cream recipe, throw on a dollop of whip cream and then drizzle your favorite finishing olive oil. Add a pinch of lemon flake salt for an unexpected crunch and watch people freak out as they shovel it in and ask for more.
So while I still revisit the classic flavors in the frozen food aisles, I’ve come to figure out that there is no BAD ice cream. It can be as inventive and inspiring as the ingredients you add to it.
What’s your favorite ice cream flavor or favorite combo of mix-ins and toppings?