Love doesn't always have to be hot and spicy. In fact it can be smooth, cool, creamy and deliciously sweet.
This past holiday I struggled to find a gift that would suit my mate. He's a man who has made almost everything he has by hand, cares little for anything new, and will recycle almost anything into something useful. What I came up with has been a mixed blessing. It is a gift that provides us with hours of shared pleasure, leaves us both with our eyes rolling back in the late evening, and like it or not, despite hours of daily skiing, has left soft rolls around the midsections.
Our new ice cream maker is now, like the rolls, a permanent fixture in our home. I can't recall how many times the words "I wish we had some ice cream" have been voiced in my presence, but now with our four-quart industrial strength White Mountain Ice Cream Freezer, I may never hear that sad saying again.
In this age of modern conveniences and instant gratification few people know the joys associated with homemade ice cream. Ice cream came into existence in the middle of the 17th century when a chef employed by Charles I of England developed a technique of shaking flavored cream in a dish of ice. The story goes the king loved the dish so much he kept the formula a "Royal Secret." Nevertheless, the secret made its way out of court and traveled throughout Europe. It was in the United States that ice cream became most popular and it is said that George Washington spent $200 one summer on making ice cream.
Today many of us have taken ice cream into the therapeutic realm, nourishing heartaches with pints full of chocolate-fudge-marshmallow-caramel-peanut butter-cookie dough-whatever…gorging on the stuff until we forget all about what's-his-name because the ache has miraculously relocated itself.
As for flavors, Ben and Jerry may have brought ice cream making into its hey day, but I'm still searching the horizons for exciting new ideas. Pear-ginger, honey-tangerine, and key lime are on the list of future experiments. Recently I had a pistachio-cashew-cardamom ice cream in an Indian restaurant that blew my mind, and my taste buds. I might have to give that one a go as well. I'm already planning a special batch just for Valentine's Day. This one will involve Xocolatl, a blend of chocolate, chilies and cinnamon traditionally drunk at Mayan weddings by the bride and groom.
Several years ago my daughter and I made fifty individual lemon sorbets, a laborious task of slicing the top third of the lemon off and hollowing out the fruit for the sorbet. We shaved off part of the bottom peel to allow the lemon to stand upright. The sorbet mixture was later returned to the hollowed lemon and frozen. I had experienced this treat at a seaside café in Spain. We served the fifty frozen lemons at a Mediterranean inspired dinner party and all were devoured.
Making one's own frozen dessert puts a whole knew dimension on ice cream. My mate and I each take our own part in the procedure. It's a perfect partnership. Together we choose the flavor and then I make the mixture using a recipe as a guide but not following too closely. Last week I made dark chocolate raspberry. The mate is in charge of the mechanics of ice cream making. He crushes the ice and adds the rock salt, churning the mixture into the perfect consistency. It's a great cooperative effort of which we both enjoy the fruits of our labor, perhaps a bit too zealously.
The social benefits of being an ice-cream-making couple are earning us seats at the most esteemed parties. This is good since we make it out of our little cabin for an evening about once every-other month. This week we attended a Super Bowl party and the revelers nearly missed the half-time entertainment on the tube to witness the churning in the kitchen, drooling over the frozen contents as the mate scraped it off the dasher. When he suggested we make vanilla for the party I adamantly refused. Vanilla, I said, was way too boring. Not if you love ice cream, he argued. So we settled on vanilla almond, adding to the nearly frozen lightly-sweetened vanilla mixture a puree made of honey and almonds…too good to be true.