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ICE CREAM : I scream. You scream. We all scream for ice cream. We devour 53 billion scoops of ice creams, sherbets and ices per year and we’re still screaming for more.

Times Staff Writer

There’s a cold war going on. The scene? An icy battlefield of frozen indulgences.

The contenders? Scoops, bars, cones, swirls, mini-bites of ice cream desserts ranging from heavyweight gelati to slimming sherbets in a wild gamut of flavors. Still running strong is old-time winner Rocky Road. You can’t miss Tutti Frutti, or the nostalgic colors of Neapolitan. Current raves like Cookies and Cream and frozen yogurt dolloped with all sorts of nuts and berries will likely get loud cheers.

And just stepping into the rink are Brassicaceous Beer (would you believe root beer and horseradish?) and the palate-boggling flavors of Pumpkin Licorice.

Who could be in line for the big chill? Almost any ice cream fan. Vice President George Bush will take a lick of vanilla anytime, particularly when gooped with butterscotch sauce, while Democratic presidential nominee Michael Dukakis casts his vote for mocha ice cream. Counselors Ann Landers and Dear Abby both want their Pralines ‘N Cream. And joining New Yorkers in their passion for coffee ice cream are Olivia de Havilland and Princeton grads Brooke Shields and Malcolm Forbes.

The obsession for icy treats is global, with the United States scooping up the big lead, followed by New Zealand, Australia, Canada and Sweden. Nationwide, California ranks as the largest manufacturer and consumer of ice cream and related frozen products, according to the California Milk Advisory Board. Thus in 1987, California made 109 million gallons of ice cream with 4 gallons per capita consumption.

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A more serious ongoing frozen dessert competition resulted from the battle of the bulges. Fighting to become the calorie watcher’s addiction are the wide selection of low-calorie treats now available, ranging from tofu- or soybean-based ices, frozen fruit yogurts to the skinniest citrus, vegetable or herbal sorbets. Last year, the California Milk Advisory Board reports, Californians consumed 32 gallons of commercial ice milks (ice milk contains 2% to 7% milkfat), 4.9 million gallons of sherbet, 159,000 gallons of imitation ice cream (not a big seller), and 121,000 pounds of imitation ice milk. Frozen yogurt was the big gainer, up 26% to 11 million gallons.

Trying to become as decadent as their heavyweight counterparts (premium ice creams that contain 15% to 20% milkfat) are the new breed of light dairy desserts. These contain about 7% milkfat, at least 40% less fat than ice creams but are slightly creamier than ice milks, which contain a minimum of 2% milkfat. Last June 29, Public Voice for Food and Health Policy, a national consumer research, education and advocacy organization based in Washington, petitioned the Food and Drug Administration to create a new standard for “Lite Ice Cream,” urging them to allow manufacturers to use that name in place of ice milk.

Some of the products competing in this light dairy dessert category are Low, Lite ‘N Luscious from Baskin Robbins, Jerseymaid Old-Fashioned Natural Light, Dreyers Grand Light and Lite from Pierre’s French Ice Cream Co.

In a recent blind tasting done in the Times test kitchen by the Londre Co., which represents the Jerseymaid Corp., results showed that the majority of light ice creams were accepted fairly well with regular ice creams in overall flavor, color and texture. Creaminess for both regular and light types was given mixed ratings, indicating uncertainty. Interestingly, a popular premium ice cream was not well received in general.

Maximum pleasure in a miniature treat is offered by Dove International in its Rondos, individually wrapped, bite-sized chocolate-covered ice cream bars.

“You don’t have to eat a lot to be satisfied,” says Elliot Grover, marketing manager for Dove International. “If quality is not there, you still have the urge to eat more. Whereas if quality is there, an innocent little size can make you go on with your day.”

The message of “eating less is in” is likewise being relayed by tiny fruit-shaped ice creams from St. Claire Ice Cream Fruits, South Norwalk, Conn. Also available as fruit sorbets, the half-ounce frozen miniatures are shaped like pears, peaches, strawberries and walnuts in brilliant natural colors.

And now, move over frozen yogurt--creamy frozen fruit whip has arrived. Called Vitari, the product looks and tastes like soft-serve ice cream but is made of 99% fruit and fruit juices with 1% vegetable stabilizers, and no added sugar. Containing only 20 calories per fluid ounce, a cone serving of Vitari soft serve, as I discovered, was surprisingly satisfying.

If calories and fat are not a problem, venturing into new ice cream stores in town can provide a gratifying lick. Coco Banana Tropical Ice Cream House in West Covina will take you to the balmy tropics with its exotic, yet creamy line of ice creams and sundaes. Owner Butch de Ocampo tries to please international tastes with varieties like Java Guava, Mango Manila, Coco-Damia, Jackfruit, Avocado, Strawberry Cheesecake, Atis (like cherimoya), Tamarind, Maize, Lychee, Queso Rico and others.

According to de Ocampo, the top favorite is the Ube or purple yam, followed by the interesting Macapuno, or crema de coco. “It comes from a freak coconut, which is a mutation found in one out of 20 trees in the Philippines,” de Ocampo said, “instead of finding the usual coconut meat and water, when the shell is cracked, the macapuno comes out solid like a thick gel.”

The most winning way of indulging in guilt-free desserts is, of course, to make your own. Not only do you control the taste and the ingredients, like sugar and cream, but you also bypass synthetic flavors and additives found in commercial products.

“Today, people are in a healthy mood. They like everything fresh,” says Joachim Caula, master pastissier at St. Moritz confectionery store and school. The Swiss chef, who had just finished instructing a class in creating sorbets and ice creams, shared his basic vanilla custard ice cream, using vanilla bean.

With the invention of no-electric, no-ice, no-salt ice cream makers, making ice creams, sherbets and ice slushes at home has been simplified. “We’ve sold 6 million ice cream makers worldwide,” says James Kabler, president of Nikkal Industries, the company that introduced the revolutionary Donvier ice cream freezer in 1985. “The biggest trend that has kept the momemtum in our sales is health-related items like frozen yogurts and sorbets but there’s also a small group that uses it for frozen drinks like margaritas.” Since Donvier’s breakthrough with “Chillfast,” a non-toxic refrigerant sealed in the walls of a freezable aluminum cylinder, a number of similar ice cream machines have pursued its success. In all our product testings, none have been able to match the original unit’s functional capabilities, as simple a process as it may be. “It’s a precision process that took five years to get right, and which we have improved five times,” Kabler says.

An ever-decadent Blackberry Peach Brandy Ice Cream made in the Donvier unit was created by Lisa Schwartz of Bakersfield, who won first prize in the recent Donvier ice cream contest co-sponsored by the Broadway department store. Schwartz used a marshmallow cream base for her delicious entry and blended it with blackberries and peaches that she obtained at her local pick-your-own fruit and vegetable farm.

“The marshmallow cream acts like gelatin in making the ice cream smooth. Instead of cooking a custard base, you just throw them all in the blender,” Schwartz explained. Using the same base, her son added every fruit he could get and won honorable mention in a local ice cream contest.

Another contributor is Linda Jones of Long Beach. Her rich, creamy recipe for New Orleans Praline Ice Cream won her second place in the same Donvier contest. Other treats are excerpted from the forthcoming Donvier Ice Cream Dessert Book by Anna Creery, while Coco Banana provided a recipe for Homemade Cantaloupe Ice Cream.

LISA SCHWARTZ’S BLACKBERRY-PEACH BRANDY ICE CREAM (First Place, Donvier Ice Cream Contest)

1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen blackberries

2 cups diced peaches (3 medium, peeled)

2 eggs

1/2 cup sugar

1 (7-ounce) jar marshmallow cream

2 cups whipping cream

1 cup half and half

1/4 cup brandy or to taste

Puree blackberries and peaches in blender or food processor. Press puree mixture through fine strainer to remove seeds. Discard seeds.

Beat eggs well in bowl of electric mixer or blender. Beat in sugar and marshmallow cream. Stir in whipping cream, half and half, fruit puree, then brandy. Cover bowl and chill to allow flavors to blend.

Stir mixture and remove amount needed (depending on size of ice cream maker) and freeze according to manufacturer’s directions. Garnish scoops with blackberries, peaches and mint sprigs, if desired. Makes 2 quarts.

LINDA JONES’ NEW ORLEANS PRALINE ICE CREAM (Second Place, Donvier Ice Cream Contest)

1/4 cup sugar

1/3 cup water

1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar

2 large egg yolks

3/4 cup milk

1/2 cup Praline Powder

2 teaspoons Cognac or brandy

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 pint whipping cream

In heavy saucepan, combine sugar, water and cream of tartar. Cook over medium heat until syrup reaches 234 degrees on candy thermometer, about 7 to 10 minutes.

Beat egg yolks with electric mixer until light and smooth. Gradually add hot syrup to egg yolks, beating constantly. Pour mixture back into pan. Stir in milk then cook over medium heat until it forms light custard, 5 to 10 minutes.

Stir in Praline Powder and mix well. Pour mixture into cool bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 1/2 hours. When ready to make ice cream, blend custard mixture, Cognac, vanilla and cream. Freeze in ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s directions. Garnish with praline pecan halves. Makes 1 quart.

Pecan Praline

3/4 cup sugar

1/3 cup water

1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

1 cup pecan halves

Butter

Combine sugar, water and cream of tartar in heavy skillet. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until sugar is melted and has turned rich golden brown.

Scatter pecans on buttered baking sheet. Pour caramel syrup over pecans. Cool completely. When caramel is hard, break it up, reserving few pieces pecan halves for garnish. To make praline powder, place small pieces in blender or food processor and grind until fine. Makes 3/4 cup.

COCO BANANA’S HOMEMADE CANTALOUPE ICE CREAM

1 medium cantaloupe

3 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice

2 cups sugar

2 large eggs

2 cups half and half

1 teaspoon vanilla

3 cups whipping cream

Peel and seed cantaloupe. Place pulp in blender with lemon juice and sugar. Blend until smooth. Set aside.

Blend eggs, half and half and vanilla. Blend in cantaloupe. Slowly fold in whipping cream. Freeze in ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s directions. Makes about 2 quarts.

Note: In place of cantaloupe, use pulp of about 3 mangoes and omit lemon juice.

JOACHIM CAULA’S BASIC VANILLA ICE CREAM

3 cups milk

1 cup whipping cream

1 cup sugar

2 teaspoons corn syrup

1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise

10 egg yolks

Combine milk, whipping cream, 1/2 cup sugar, corn syrup and vanilla bean in saucepan. Bring to boil. Remove from heat and remove vanilla. Cover pan. Beat egg yolks with remaining 1/2 cup sugar until light. Slowly stir hot liquid into yolk-sugar mixture and cook over very low heat, stirring constantly, until it reaches 160 degrees on candy thermometer.

Cool immediately in cold water bath (or let stand in refrigerator to ripen 24 hours). Pour into ice cream machine and freeze according to manufacturer’s directions. Makes 1 quarts.

Note: Recipe can be cut in half.

CHEF MICHAEL ROBERTS’ LEMON BITTERS SORBET

4 teaspoons grated lemon zest

1 cup lemon juice

2 cups water

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup light corn syrup

1 1/2 tablespoons aromatic bitters

Combine lemon zest, lemon juice, water, sugar, corn syrup and aromatic bitters in bowl. Pour into ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer’s directions. Makes about 1 quart.

ANNA CREERY’S CHOCOLATE-RASPBERRY TRUFFLE ICE CREAM

1 1/2 cups raspberries, fresh or frozen whole without sugar

Sugar

1/2 cup raspberry liqueur

1/2 cup unsweetened baking cocoa

1 cup milk

2 eggs

1 1/2 cups whipping cream

Place berries in shallow bowl. Combine 3 tablespoons sugar and liqueur and stir until sugar is dissolved. Pour over berries and stir to mix. Cover and refrigerate.

In saucepan combine 1/2 cup sugar and cocoa. Stir until well mixed. Stir in milk then whisk in eggs. Place over medium heat. Stirring constantly, cook until slightly thickened, about 8 minutes. Remove from heat.

Drain raspberries and add liqueur and juices to ice cream mixture. Reserve raspberries. Place liquid in ice cream maker and start to freeze. When mixture is half-frozen, add raspberries. Resume freezing until desired consistency. Makes about 1 quart.

Note: In place of raspberries and 3 tablespoons sugar, substitute 1 (10-ounce) package frozen raspberries.

TURKISH FIG ICE CREAM

6 ounces dried figs, about 10

1 cup water

1/2 cup sugar

2 cups milk

3/4 cup whipping cream

1 teaspoon rum

Cut figs in quarters. In small saucepan over high heat, combine figs and water. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cover with tight fitting lid. Simmer until figs have softened, about 30 minutes.

With slotted spoon, remove figs and place in blender or processor. Add sugar to remaining water and stir until dissolved. Add sugar water and milk to figs. Puree in blender. Stir in cream and rum. Chill thoroughly. Freeze in ice cream maker according to manufacturers directions. Makes about 1 quart.

WHITE CHOCOLATE-MACADAMIA NUT ICE CREAM

2/3 cup chopped macadamia nuts

1/2 cup sugar

3 eggs

1 1/4 cups milk

6 ounces white chocolate

1 1/4 cups whipping cream

Place macadamia nuts on baking sheet and toast at 350 degrees 5 to 8 minutes. Stir occasionally and watch closely. Cool thoroughly.

In saucepan over medium heat, combine sugar, eggs and milk. Stirring occasionally, cook until slightly thickened, about 8 minutes. Reduce heat to low and add white chocolate. Stir occasionally until melted. Remove from heat. Cool. Add cream.

Chill thoroughly. Stir in nuts right before making ice cream. Place in ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer’s directions. Makes about 1 quart.

LOIS SCOTT’S EASY PEACH ICE CREAM

5 cups peach puree

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 quart half and half

2 tablespoons vanilla

Blend peach puree, sugar, half and half and vanilla. Pour into 1 gallon freezer (or use smaller amounts at a time depending on size of ice cream maker). Freeze according to manufacturer’s directions.

If desired, garnish with sliced peaches and toasted pistachio nuts. Makes about 2 quarts.

THREE-BERRY SORBET

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup water

1 1/3 cups blueberries or black berries

1 1/3 cups strawberries

1 1/3 cups raspberries

1 cup orange juice

In saucepan over high heat combine sugar and water. Stir until sugar dissolves. Chill thoroughly.

Combine syrup, berries and orange juice in blender or food processor. Puree. Pour into ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer’s directions. Garnish with berries and other fresh fruits in season, if desired. Makes about 1 quart.

Note: Use fresh berries or berries frozen whole without sugar. Use any proportion of berries to equal 4 cups.

Food Styling by Minnie Bernardino and Donna Deane. Glass Designs from Kosta Boda.


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