Nov 18, 2009

Ice Cream Maker Tips - Choosing The Right Machine

If you are looking to buy an ice cream maker for the first time, you will be overwhelmed by the choice now available. Years ago of course it was not the case but today, as with so many other things, it is a very different scenario.

First of all, there is the choice between a manual machine and an electric ice cream maker. The latter, whilst much more expensive, bigger and heavier, actually freezes the ice cream as it churns it so you can go from your ready mixture to edible, servable fresh ice cream within as little as 20 minutes.

Secondly, even with an electric ice cream maker, there are different types and styles to choose from. Gaggia for example have developed their own very distinctive style of machine which you recognise instantly the moment you see one of their ice cream makers and Cuisinart have also developed their own style such as the very popular ICE-50BC Supreme Ice Cream Maker (see photo left).

Hamilton Beach makes an ice cream maker that looks entirely different again! Indeed, their Hamilton Beach 68330R 4-Quart Automatic Ice-Cream Maker (photo right) actually works in a different way. It requires you to pour your mixture into the canister, insert the dasher into the canister, attach the easy-lock lid and then place the motor over the canister, locking it onto the bucket. Then you add layers of ice and salt to the bucket covering the canister. Your homemade ice cream will then be ready in 20-40 minutes. This particular ice cream maker can also be used for making frozen yogurt and custard. At under $40 it makes a great, affordable gift for a loved one or friend - especially if you know they love ice cream!

So you see ... choosing an ice cream maker is not that easy any more.

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Oct 17, 2009

A Tangy Sweet Sorbet

When you've made as much homemade ice cream as I have over the years, it can sometimes feel like you've covered pretty much all bases ... but that thought has only ever lingered with me a second or two before a new ice cream idea then enters my head! That's the fun of ice cream and what happened recently when I gathered in the final apples of the season from my garden. I already have an apple sorbet recipe so what else might work?

I thought back to my childhood days when my mother would bake a traditional, English fresh apple and blackberry pie. I can close my eyes and still remember the warm, sweeet smell in the kitchen! We would look forward to it being served, freshly baked and hot from the oven - delicious.

Apple and blackberry pie was one of my father's favourite desserts and he was happy to eat it with custard or cream or ice cream. He loved ice cream in fact and was my "Knickerbocker Glory Champion".

Thinking of that good old, homemade pie gave me the answer .... I could use freshly picked homegrown garden apples with blackberries to make a sorbet.

How did it work out?

Well, as you can see from the photograph, it made a beautifully dark pink, luscious-looking sorbet with a tangy yet sweet taste. A true 'sweet and sour' water ice.

I served it for my family with some fresh fruit and they loved it. It's such a strong tasting sorbet that you only need a single scoop and it positively brings the fresh fruit alive.

Here it is my apple and blackberry sorbet recipe.

There's lots more reading on sorbet recipes on my website.

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Jul 19, 2009

National Ice Cream Day 2009

If you celebrated National Ice Cream day last year and possibly in the years before, then you might just be looking to do something a little different with your homemade ice cream today. Take a look at my list of unusual ice cream recipes and see what takes your fancy!

Even if you don't make your own ice cream (shame on you!) you can still take part in the fun of National Ice Cream day ....
  • you could take the family out for a special treat to an ice cream parlor and try one of the many fabulous ice cream sundaes that are usually on the menu.
  • you could go to the movies and just enjoy a simple tub of ice cream whilst watching it
  • you could buy a quality, commercially made ice cream at your local store or supermarket, take it home and make your own Knickerbocker Glory
  • you could spot your local ice cream truck in a neighboring street and treat yourself (and others!) to a great ice cream cone

The list goes on!

That's the wonderful thing about ice cream as a food/treat - it's not confined to any one place or any one supplier. You can eat it indoors or outdoors and you can buy it made by someone else or yourself. It's almost infinitely variable in taste and methods of presentation and you can add toppings or sauces, fruit or nuts, chocolate flakes or wafers. I could go on all day writing about ice cream - it's a passion with a tradition and perhaps that's why it's worthy of its own national day. Long may it be so .... have a great National Ice Cream Day folks!

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Jul 6, 2009

Anyone For Tennis? Don't Forget The Ice Cream!

Watching the Wimbledon Tennis Championships on tv is something I have enjoyed since childhood. Over the years great champions have come and gone and the nature of the game has changed radically - everything from what the players wear on court, to racquet technology to the level of fitness and strength required to get to the top of the sport.

My son is an avid Andy Murray fan so we've watched him with fascination this last year and particularly of course during the Wimbledon Championship. Reading about him, it's staggering to discover just how hard he works to maintain peak fitness, from weighted chin-ups to 100m sprints - and that's before he even picks up a raquet! When training for a match he eats a 6,000 calories per day diet! Things like bagels with peanut butter, protein shakes, steak, fruit, cupcakes -and lots of sushi. It's all right being told that you HAVE to eat this if you want to be at the top of your sport but what if you don't like it? I don't know whether Andy enjoys all this food but what I DO KNOW is that one of his favorite foods (when allowed) is ice cream, especially Cookies And Cream ice cream by Haagen-Dazs.

With that in mind, it seems to me that one of the first things Andy should buy for that wonderful, new home of his in Surrey, England is an electric ice cream maker for the kitchen. Then he could have the best possible ice cream - homemade ice cream using his actual favorite cookies and some rich, heavy cream. Game, set and match!

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Jul 1, 2009

Ice Cream Passion Poll - A Call To Ice Cream Lovers!

Hurrah! July is here - National Ice Cream Month has arrived. A great time to talk about Ice Cream Passion!

Here's the thing .... the number of visitors to builds year on year by an average of 33%. I don't think the percentage of people around the world getting connected to the Net every year is as high as that in fact, and if I am right, it can only mean one thing - that the popularity of ice cream is growing. This is backed up by the fact that from the 1.15 million people who visited in 2008, 4 out of 5 were new visitors.

People search consistently for "vanilla ice cream", "homemade ice cream", "strawberry ice cream recipe" all clearly indicating a passion for learning more about ice cream making.

So I've been asking myself how I can appease this passion a little more .... how can I make people feel like they are making a contribution to ice cream know-how?

The answer - "The Ice Cream Passion Poll"

I have opened up this blog post to comments and invite anyone with a passion for ice cream to CAST YOUR VOTE. Want to take part?
Sign in via your Google account and just state the following information:

1. The country where you live
2. If you are male or female
3. Your favorite, all time ice cream flavor
4. Your favorite ice cream topping/sauce
5. If you have a favorite ice cream memory

This is an exciting experiment for SERIOUS ice cream fans and if it proves popular (and doesn't get abused with junk posting!) then it will be an endorsement of the good side of the Net - allowing people around the world to share their ice cream thoughts with each other. So climb on board and join the Ice Cream Passion Poll!

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May 4, 2009

Homemade Ice Cream - Great DIY

If you ever thought that DIY (Do It Yourself) was restricted to putting up some new shelves or installing new roller garage doors, think again because DIY also applies to foods that you might never think of making for yourself ... but can!

Let's face it, when most people think of ice cream they think of going out to buy a pack of Ben & Jerry's or Walls (or one of many others depending upon which country you live in). Few people actually stop and think about making their own homemade ice cream. Yet it's not that difficult. Granted, it's easier with an ice cream maker but you can also make ice cream without an ice cream maker. What's more, when you make ice cream yourself it always tastes better and it's such a satisfying experience.

So if you've ever done any DIY around your house or garden but never made ice cream, think of it like this .... just as you get a kick out of seeing those shelves installed and carrying your books or dvds with the satisfying knowledge that you've done it yourself, imagine eating a bowl of delicious, fresh ice cream made by your own fair hand. Now that's what I call 'tasty' DIY!

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Mar 22, 2009

Staying Small In The Ice Cream Business

Now I don't often write about commercial ice cream companies but today I'm going to. No, I'm not about to do any promotion or advertising for any of them in case you're thinking that! This is a little different and I hope you will agree with my conclusion.

At a time of recession, many people's minds are focused on the potential for business to stay alive. For the past few years, however, it has been the opposite - seemingly everyone focusing on the potential for business growth. Of course, in the last decade or so many small companies have grown large, some even into corporate giants but that does not tend to happen in the ice cream sector. Why is it that? Many small ice cream companies stay small - do they choose that or is it inherent in the nature of the business?

I was chatting recently with someone who runs a b&b in Carlisle close to the English Lake District and Scottish borders and we started to talk about the number of small ice cream companies in their area. Being a predominantly dairy farming area it would seem only natural that ice cream is made here and that certainly seems to be the case with a great "cottage industry" based around ice cream including ice cream parlors and tea shops catering for the many tourists that flock to the English Lakes each year. So why are there no large ice cream companies in the area?

I don't have the answer .... only a few thoughts:

  • Perhaps ice cream as a busines is just not scaleable - it must be difficult to maintain the quality yet retain the uniqueness above a certain level.

  • Perhaps each dairy farm has a limit to the dairy produce it can provide and the owners have no desire to expand.

  • Perhaps the cost of buying extra equipment to expand is prohibitive.

The above are what the business guru Michael Porter would call "barriers to entry". It think there's an important point here though - perhaps we are actually better off for these flaws in the way the economics of it all works.

Personally, I prefer the idea of staying small when it comes to ice cream - that way we can enjoy the benefits of a broad range of companies whose ice cream making is distinctive in its own way.

I was lucky enough to visit an ice cream parlor in Keswick called Luchini's and the experience backed up my point perfectly. A family run business making delicious homemade ice cream since 1901 - over a 100 years! A passion for ice cream that has lasted from generation to generation. Now that's something special worth preserving.

I hope to write about Luchini's again shortly and in more detail, sharing with you some of the super ice cream photographs I took.

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Nov 12, 2008

Homemade Ice Cream - At The White House?

On 1 November I wrote a post about US Presidents and connections with ice cream. At that point the outcome of the US Presidential Election was unknown but I dared to ask the question:

"If it's Obama, given one of his hobbies is said to be cooking, I wonder if he'll make his own homemade ice cream? Now that might just be a first for a US President!"

History has been made and Barack Hussein Obama II is going to the White House. He may go on to make further history; his sense of vision and love for his country are strong enough to see him achieve that but in between the pressures of daily office he will need some relaxation. Most likely it will be in the form of spending time with his family and I would love to think that there might be one day sometime, any time, when he and his family are at home together that they decide to make some homemade ice cream. Sounds silly? Not in the least, I'm quite serious. Making your own ice cream is good fun - and you get to enjoy the end results. All in all, a great way to make dad, mum and the kids all happy, relaxed and enjoying a sense of togetherness.

Perhaps one day when President Obama talks to Oprah Winfrey in an informal tv chat, who knows we might just hear him talking about making a little ice cream at home with the family. If he does, that could be another first - homemade ice cream in the White House. Now there's something the ice cream manufacturers would love to franchise!

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Jul 20, 2008

National Ice Cream Day 2008

It's here ... National Ice Cream Day for 2008! The third Sunday in July: this year it's 20 July.

It's a rather unusual 'Special Day' but one that more and more people are getting to know about and learning to celebrate. For some it will be a special trip to one of their favorite ice cream parlors whilst for others it will be to just stay home and make a batch of delicious homemade ice cream.

If you've never made your own ice cream before, now's the time to try. It's great fun and both children and adults alike can get involved and if you have an electric ice cream maker it doesn't take very long either. You can make a gelato (soft scoop) ice cream or choose from a whole range of sorbets; alternatively you can opt to make one of the more traditional custard/cream base ice creams such as vanilla ice cream or strawberry ice cream.

When you've made your ice cream it doesn't end there .... you can serve it in an ice cream cone or as an ice cream sundae or even go for the big one and try a Knickerbocker Glory (as in the photo).

Once you've made and eaten your ice cream you can then sit down and relax - and know that on this special day you have really played your part. So go to it and enjoy!

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Dec 24, 2007

Ice Cream For Christmas Day

With my passion for ice cream, my mind naturally turns to dessert recipes when celebrating a special occasion and when it comes to a dessert for the Christmas Day menu there's lots of ideas to choose from. For example, if you know that your Christmas Day dinner 'eaters' have usually eaten too much after finishing the main course (usually the lure of a succulent roast with stuffing is the cause in our house!) then you might choose to serve a batch of homemade ice cream just on its own as the dessert - tasty and indulgent but not too filling.

Alternatively, if you know your guests appreciate a pudding or pie for dessert then you can make it that little bit extra special by making an ice cream to compliment it. A traditional, creamy, homemade vanilla ice cream made with real vanilla will compliment any pudding or pie in my experience and for those prefering something a little more "warming" (contains rum and brandy!) there's a deliciously rich Egg Nog Ice Cream you can make at home.

Whatever you do on this Christmas Day 2007, whatever you eat and wherever you are - snug and warm indoors looking out onto the beautiful snows of Colorado or sat in the sunshine on an Australian beach enjoying a bbq - enjoy it. If you're lucky you'll get to spend time with family and friends and even share some great recipes with them too, an added bonus! Happy Christmas.

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Dec 14, 2007

Christmas Shopping Comfort Food - From Soup to Ice Cream

Christmas is a time for enjoying food, possibly more than any other time of year. Some people enjoy the same recipes every Christmas and others like to try new recipe ideas. It depends of course on how much cooking you do at home at this time of year - some people have a continuous stream of visitors leading up to Christmas and over Christmas itself whilst others like to enjoy it quietly and perhaps have just one special meal on Christmas Day.

Christmas Shopping trips are a great opportunity for trying out new recipes. Here's how .... you've covered what feels like many miles on foot, carrying more bags than you thought possible and return home tired and hungry - the perfect time for some good homemade food.

A delicious soup recipe is a great treat on such an occasion and well worth planning ahead for. There are some great websites offering interesting soup recipes - just search on Google and you'll find lots of options. I had a look and saw one result that really intrigued me - the Carnegie Mellon School of Computer Science website! Believe it or not, they have an unusual but great list of soup recipes which you can find via this link. I haven't had time to try any yet myself but they sound really tasty.

Another great 'comfort' food once you've had your main meal at the end of a long day - whether you've been Christmas shopping or just had a busy day - is ice cream, especially a batch of good homemade ice cream. Indulging in something tasty is, as I've said, worth planning ahead for and doesn't have to be complicated or time consuming to make. Here's a quick chocolate ice cream recipe that I've made from start to finish in less than 30 minutes (including the batching time in my electric ice cream maker).

Whether it's soup or ice cream that's your passion, think ahead and plan a special homemade treat for yourself in the run up to Christmas. It's the busiest time of year after all!

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Dec 4, 2007

Christmas Holidays - Ice Cream & Card Tricks!

For most families, the Christmas holidays are a great time which everyone looks forward to. However, after the initial break from work, college or school and having been to a variety of parties and celebrations, some family members can start to get bored, especially the children. Start preparing for this now and you won't get caught out! It depends upon the children of course but two things I believe always work are .... food and fun.

With food you can create some wonderful homemade ice cream and even get the children to join in either helping to make the ice cream or to create some ice cream sundaes. Let them use their imagination - just make sure you supervise them and give them only edible things to work with!

When I was a child my father used to bring out the odd magic or card trick that he had learned in order to entertain everyone - usually at a Christmas or birthday party. The tricks were nothing stunning of course like David Blaine for example but they were good, simple fun. Today my husband follows in that tradition and whenever we see certain friends and their children, he's always asked to 'do some magic'. It's not that difficult either (so he tells me!). There are plenty of easy card tricks online. So why not try to learn one or get someone in the family to have a go. Even if the trick isn't the greatest in the world everyone will appreciate the spirit in which it's done. I certainly did as a child - which is why I've never forgotten about it. Happy Holidays!

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Nov 21, 2007

Thanksgiving - Give Thanks With Ice Cream

Thanksgiving is a special time for many people and provides a wonderful focal point for family and friends to get together and enjoy a special celebration.

Most people celebrate Thanksgiving at home with a large and special meal. Many Thanksgiving meals feature roast turkey but when it comes to a dessert, there's lots of 'traditional' options that include pumpkin, cranberries or gingerbread.

Pumpkin Bread Pudding is a super dessert for Thanksgiving. Diana Rattray offers a great recipe if you follow the link. Whatever dessert you choose, you might want to serve it with ice cream. It could be your favorite flavor or you could go for a guaranteed 'hit' with your dinner guests by choosing a straight vanilla ice cream. However, if you'd like to try something a little more unusual to make your Thanksgiving meal more special, you could try making a special homemade ice cream - here's one of my all time favorites ...

If this doesn't appeal then you could try another from a range of unusual ice cream recipes - follow the link and you get recipes for everything from coconut ice cream, to nougat ice cream, chestnut ice cream and lots more!

Whatever dessert you choose, whether with or without homemade ice cream, simply enjoy being with those nearest and dearest to you and the joy that sharing a good, hearty meal can bring. Happy Thanksgiving!

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