Everyone who loves ice cream should have an ice cream maker. Of course, who doesn’t love ice cream? I prefer the cold, creamy concoction to almost all other desserts, except pie – I love pie and ice cream! I grew up going to family reunions on farms in Terre Haute, Indiana, when I was very young, and ice cream was the highlight at the end of a long day. My dad gave me his old electric maker many years ago. I’ve made many a gallon, mainly vanilla and peach, but it’s just me and Richard now, and I’m gearing up for smaller batches.
Anyway, last year when my grandsons came for a Montana visit, I ran across a Cuisinart machine. It was only $25 – who could resist? The new counter top ice cream makers sure make the whole process very easy. They’re easy to store. And the batches are relatively small, so once you finish one flavor, you’re off to your next ice cream adventure. There are tons of recipes not only for ice cream, but for gelato and sorbet. Gelato is a frozen Italian dessert famous for it’s rich flavors, but it’s actually lower in calories than ice cream. My daughter’s favorite is stracciatella, which is kind of like a vanilla bean chocolate chip, but the chips are much smaller. I made strawberry for the boys – 4-year-old Quinten was thrilled – I gave it to him for breakfast – ha!
I’m also in love with fresh blackberries. The berries I used for this ice cream were fragrant and huge! And I used the whole container, probably 16 ounces or 2 pints. Not only were the berries so yummy, but the color of the ice cream was extraordinary. – purply-pinky – just lovely. Even though the berries are cooked and strained, some seeds do come through, unless you have a particularly fine mesh strainer. I don’t mind the seeds, actually. I think they’re a little crunchy bonus.
Most ice cream recipes start off with a base of milk or half-and-half, and sugar that’s heated. Eggs or egg yolks are tempered, poured back into the milk-sugar mixture, and heated until thickened. Then that mix is added to heavy cream. At this point in the process, you have the beginning of a great base, and you can any variety of flavors. Or you wait until the ice cream is almost done, and add goodies like chocolate, pecans, peanut butter, fudge etc. As long as you master the base, you can become an extraordinary ice cream maker.
Here’s where we start:
Separate five egg yolks into a medium mixing bowl. Whisk the egg yolks until they become light colored and slightly thickened. You could use a hand mixer to do this – I used a whisk. Save the egg whites for another use. I made an angel food cake, but they’d be great as a egg white omelet or meringue for a pie.
Rinse the blackberries in a colander. Put them in a medium saucepan with 1/4 cup of sugar and the juice of 1/2 lemon. Cook the berries to break them down over low heat for 20-25 minutes, until the mix is somewhat syrupy. Place a fine mesh strainer over a large mixing bowl, and pour the berry mixture into the strainer. Take a wooden spoon or a spatula, and press all the juices through the strainer. You’ll end up with some fruit pulp and seeds in the strainer – go ahead and discard them. If you want to remove more of the seeds, you can pass the juice through the strainer again, lined with a coffee cup filter.
Add 1 1/2 cups of heavy cream and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla to the blackberry syrup. Whisk to combine.
Here’s what the blackberry syrup and heavy cream mixture looks like, with just a few dribbles of cream dripped from my measuring cup. Set aside.
In a medium saucepan, combine 1 1/2 cups of half-and-half with 1 cup of sugar. Warm over low heat, and whisk until the sugar is dissolved, and the mixture is heated through. Remove from heat.
Tempering Egg Yolks
Tempering egg yolks is not difficult, but you have to be a wee bit careful. If the yolks aren’t tempered properly, you’ll end up with scrambled eggs. My mother used to make vanilla custard for banana strawberry cream pie, so I learned this technique early. This looks like a lot of steps, but the technique is much easier than it sounds. If you do end up with little bits of cooked egg in the final mix, don’t fret – pour it through a strainer and you’ll be as good as gold. Sorry I don’t have a picture for you – something about only having two hands . . .
Get the bowl with the whisked egg yolks. Continue to whisk the yolks while very slowly ladling into the bowl 1 1/2 cups of the heated half-and-half/sugar mixture, and continue to whisk until all is combined. Now pour the egg yolk mixture back into the saucepan with the remaining half-and-half/sugar mix. Return to the stove over low heat, and cook until the mix is bubbly and thickened.
Once it’s all bubbly and thickened, pour it into the bowl with the blackberry juice/heavy cream mixture. Whisk until all is combined.
OK – the hard part is over. All in all, I imagine the entire process, from the very start of blackberry ice cream making to this part took 20-25 minutes. Once you get the hang of it, I bet you’ll waltz right through. You and your family or guests will be greatly rewarded.
At this point, I put the ice cream mixture into the refrigerator for a couple of hours. I don’t want to dump it into the ice cream maker immediately, because the mix is still a bit warm and it might not freeze properly. So, it needs a proper cool down.
Pour the properly chilled mix into the ice cream maker. Freeze according the the manufacturer’s directions. I love watching everything coming together. It’s a miracle! See the hole in the top of the machine? After the ice cream has processed for 15-20 minutes or so, you can add goodies. For this recipe, you might want to throw in 1/2 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips – mini chips would be pretty cool. I didn’t add anything to mine this time – I wanted to savor the blackberry flavor.
Once you’re done, about 25 minutes or so with my machine, put the ice cream into a plastic container with a lid, and put it into your freezer to “ripen” for a couple of hours. I mean, you could just get a spoon and have at it. But the ice cream needs time to firm up, and for the flavors to come together.
- 2 pints or 16oz of fresh blackberries
- Juice ½ lemon
- ¼ cup sugar
- 1½ cups half-and-half
- 1 cup sugar
- 4-5 large egg yolks
- 1½ cups heavy cream
- ½ teaspoon vanilla
- Rinse berries. Place in medium saucepan with ¼ cup sugar and lemon juice. Cook over low to medium-low heat until berries break down and liquid becomes slightly syrupy. Place a fine mesh strainer over large mixing bowl. Pour berry juice into strainer. With a wooden spoon or plastic spatula, press berries until all the juice is extracted. Discard remaining berry pulp and seeds. If you wish to remove more seeds from the strained juice, run juice through a strainer again lined with a coffee filter.
- To the berry juice, 1½ cups heavy cream and vanilla. Whisk to combine. Set aside.
- Separate eggs placing yolks into a medium mixing bowl. Store left over egg whites for another use. Using a whisk or hand mixer, beat the yolks until they become lightly colored and slightly thickened. Set aside.
- In a medium saucepan, mix together 1½ cups half-and-half and 1 cup sugar. Continue to stir until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is heated through. Remove from heat.
- To the egg yolks, very slowly ladle 1½ cups of the heated half-and-half mix, whisking continuously. Once it's all incorporated, pour the egg mixture back into the saucepan with the remaining half-and-half/sugar mixture. Return to the heat and, stirring continuously, cook over low to low-medium heat until the mixture begins to bubble and thicken. (If the cooked egg mix has tiny bits of cooked egg, you can run the egg mix through a strainer to remove them.)
- Remove the egg mixture from heat. Pour into bowl with cream and berry juice. Whisk until combined.
- Chill the ice cream mixture in the refrigerator for two hours, or until it is completely cold.
- Add the chilled mixture to the ice cream maker, and freeze according to manufacturer's directions.
- Transfer the ice cream to a plastic container with a lid. Freeze for two hours to ripen the ice cream.