With the insanely hot weather we have been having these past few weeks, I figured this was a good time to engage in some cooling activity – and making ice cream felt like a natural fit. 🙂
As I have explained before, I’m a big fan of this sweet treat. Yet finding ready-made ice cream that contains no artificial chemicals is not easy. So I considered making my own ice cream – but every recipe I found contained this line somewhere in the directions: “Transfer the mixture to the ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions.” I value my health, but I also respect my finances – and I didn’t want to pay $200-$500 for a machine whose sole function is making ice cream. The result? No homemade ice cream for me. Sad. 😦
However, a few weeks ago I was flipping through a children’s magazine and stumbled on a “low-tech” ice cream recipe – it used plastic baggies as the primary hardware for concocting the cold dessert. Seeing as how the recipe was designed to be simple enough for a child to complete successfully, I figured I had a decent shot at a positive outcome, too. 🙂
So on my regular grocery store run last week, I picked up a few items that don’t often find their way into my cart: half-and-half, coarse salt, and ice cubes. For less than $5, I was ready for my Great Ice Cream Experiment. Let the fun begin!
The first flavor I decided to make was vanilla. I wanted to become proficient in the ice-cream-making method before I went crazy with flavors – so vanilla seemed like a nice, safe place to start.
I opened a pint size zip-top plastic baggie, and added 1 cup of half-and-half, 1 packet of sweetener, and 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract. I sealed the baggie tightly, then set it aside. Next, I opened a gallon-size zip-top plastic bag, added 1/2 cup of coarse salt, then filled the bag half-way with ice cubes. I then placed the pint-size ingredient-containing bag on top of the ice, and sealed the gallon size bag. Next, I inverted the gallon-size bag (so that the zip-top was now facing the ground, and put that bag in a second gallon zip-top bag. (This was my attempt at providing myself a bit of “insurance”; I could just imagine the single gallon bag accidentally opening during the next step, and having ice/salt/cream fly everywhere. That’s a mess I prefer to not have to clean.) With the bag structures securely closed, I put oven mitts on my hands (to protect them from the uncomfortable cold caused by the ice/salt interaction), grabbed the top of the exterior baggie’s seal with my right hand (to triple-confirm that it would stay closed for the duration), and started vigorously shaking the trio of bags. And I mean to tell you, I really got into it. My arms were pumping side-to-side and up-and-down, my chest followed the motions and got into the activity, even my hips and booty found their way into the act. I shook, and shook, and shook some more; I shook the mixture for a full five minutes. (Which may not seem like a long time, but let me assure you – it is. I definitely felt like I worked for this food!)
When the shaking came to an end, I opened the big bags and pulled out the little bag. I peered inside… and I’ll be damned:
I made ice cream! 🙂
Tentatively, I tasted this first attempt – and was really quite impressed. The consistency of the ice cream was very soft, but the flavor was pretty good. Yet after just two bites, the dessert had melted so much that it was more liquid than solid – so I popped the baggie into the freezer and let it stay there for a few hours. When I re-tasted the treat later in the afternoon, I was happy to discover that the cream had solidified into a firmer state, yet was still smooth and easy to dig a spoon into. But as I ate more of the now-colder ice cream, I found that some of the flavor had been “dulled” (which is actually to be expected – the colder a food gets, the more potency the ingredients need to provide to compensate for the ‘deadening’ effect of the temperature drop). Now finding the flavor a bit lacking, I wanted to try the recipe again, to see if I could make a bowl of ice cream that had both good texture and good flavor. Hmm… I feel some experimentation coming on. (And a wave of applesauce deja vu….)
For my second attempt at the ice cream, I doubled the amount of sweetener and vanilla extract used – and the result was very pleasing to me. The texture remained good, the taste improved – and I had the bonus advantage of knowing exactly what was in my food. Whoever thought I could feel healthy (and almost virtuous) eating a dessert? 🙂
Getting basic vanilla ice cream to a good place was a fun first victory. But there’s a whole world of flavor out there, just waiting to be tried… and I’m a curious gal… so let the ice cream exploration continue…
For my next serving of ice cream (which occurred the very next day), I swapped out the vanilla extract with mint extract – and made a wonderful mint ice cream. I love that the flavor of the mint wasn’t overpowering – and that my ice cream was white instead of neon green. Next time I might even add some mini chocolate chips, and create an authentic mint-chip variety.
The next day (seriously, I can eat ice cream every single day [and some weeks I do just that]) I replaced the vanilla extract with rum extract, and made a terrific dessert that reminded me of a daiquiri drink. I then took the dessert one step further, and drizzled dark chocolate sauce over the ice cream – and made what tasted like a frozen white Russian. Oh my. This one is definitely a treat for the adults in the family. 🙂
At this point in the experimentation I ran out of both half-and-half and ice; so my period of ice cream innovation has come to a pause. But I have many more flavors I want to try. For example, I’d like to pursue the domains of chocolate, coffee, chocolate+coffee, coconut, coconut+rum, coconut+rum+chocolate, strawberry, butter-pecan, peanut butter+chocolate… I have no shortage of ideas.
Looks like I better get shopping. 🙂
P.S. If you choose to try making ice cream (and if you like ice cream, and/or you have kids [or grandkids, or nieces/nephews, or young cousins, or you babysit…], I seriously suggest you give this a whirl – I found it very rewarding to eat something *I* created using very basic ingredients and tools; and I suspect kids would have a super-fun time shaking their dessert and witnessing the chemistry that takes place with this food), I have one tip to consider: When you remove the little pint-size bag from the big gallon one, wipe the little bag down with a damp cloth before you begin to extract the ice cream. Otherwise, salt may cling to the exterior of the bag, and then find its way into your ice cream as you transfer the dessert into a bowl. (In the course of my experimentation, I may have had a serving of vanilla ice cream that tasted like it was allowed to rest on a salt lick for a bit. Just sayin’…) 😉