My New Toy...

Settling into adulthood might have its frustrations, but there is one remnant of childhood that never goes away: being excited about new toys. This time, the toy in question is my new electric ice cream machine. For the past couple years, including this year's orgy of frozen dessert production, I had been using an old Donvier hand-crank model that I re-appropriated from Mom, and which probably predates my birth. It did a great job on sorbets, but an experiment in July with homemade frozen yogurt revealed its ineptitude for dairy-based desserts. So, using a combination of Dad's unused credit card reward points and a sale at Williams Sonoma, I recently found myself in the possession of a new Cuisinart machine.

For its inaugural batch, I decided to heed the words of Chicago's own Daniel Burnham, and "make no small plans." I settled on an ambitious recipe from David Lebovitz, whose book The Perfect Scoop is my frozen dessert Bible. His website had recently featured an ice cream recipe utilizing new technique for caramelizing white chocolate, much in the manner that sweetened condensed milk is made into dulce de leche. It called for top quality white chocolate, for which I had to make a special trip to the dangerously well-stocked Fox and Obel Food Market (Chicago's premiere purveyors of all things gourmet, and egregiously priced). The caramelization process itself was straight-forward, but time consuming: Spread the white chocolate on a baking sheet, melt at 250 degrees Fahrenheit, and stir every 10 minutes until the chocolate has taken on the color of peanut butter. Lebovitz's instructions indicated that this process would take about an hour; it took me a little under three.

Caramelized white chocolate, in the process of hardening.

The ice cream base itself was also a first for me, as I had never forayed into the production of custard-based desserts before. I was nervous about tempering the yolks, fearing that I would create scrambled eggs instead of a silky-smooth custard, but the entire process was far less intimidating that I originally feared. I was concerned, however, about the ultimate taste of the final product. With all of the sorbets I had made in the past, the unfrozen base had always tasted better than that resulting sorbet. With the ice cream, the custard base tasted flat -- vaguely sweet, but not much else going on. Still, I decided to trust the master and carry on.

My brand new Cusinart, churning away.

I was also unduly trepidatious about my new machine. Despite all of my online research, I could never locate an ice cream machine that didn't have mixed reviews, so I had ultimately let the sale price at Williams Sonoma sway me in favor of the Cuisinart. Thankfully, I experienced none of problems indicated in the online horror stories about unfrozen ice cream and an extremely loud motor. Sure, the machine was much louder than my old manual one, but it was no louder than my Kitchen-Aid stand mixer.

Instead, I found myself rather fascinated by the workings of my new toy. I stood over it for nearly the entire thirty minutes it performed its magic, watching the liquid base become fluffier and fluffier, and sneaking several samples along the way. It was truly a moment of food-nerd nirvana.
Mmm, hello my tasty friend...

And, like a proud mama, I am pleased to announce that the resulting Caramelized White Chocolate Ice Cream was a complete success. I shared some with Mom and Dad, who both liked it, although Mom had difficulty conjuring a flavor memory to compare it with. In my opinion, it tasted much like the fleur de sel caramel products that Dad and I sampled in Brittany during our 2007 trip to the north of France, and that is a very good thing indeed. I'm not sure it was worth the three days of after-work effort (one for making the caramelized white chocolate, one for making the base and chilling it overnight, and one for churning), but it was mighty tasty. Most importantly, I have dispelled the mystique of homemade ice cream, and I am already plotting my next adventure. I'll be sure to keep you posted...


  1. Again, you have out done yourself. I am hoping you will practice with some fruit flavored ice creams (sans mango?). Of course, chocolate is always supreme.

    It seems you were pleased with the consistancy and flavor. I applaud your patience on a three day project. Was the toy worth it? Do you think this is something you will use again, or was the end not worth the means of labor?

  2. I spelled consistency wrong...sorry

  3. I'll definitely be using it again, and probably soon. I have my eye on either cinnamon or green tea flavored ice cream at the moment, but it will probably be a long time before I go through another three day caramelized white chocolate ice cream project. And yes, I do want to see how it handles sorbets, so there will be some of those in the future too. They will most definitely not be mango ;)

  4. I have the same ice cream machine. You should make coconut sorbet.

    1 cup of water
    1 cup of sugar
    1 can coconut milk ("lite" coconut milk works well, too)
    1/4 cup of shredded coconut
    salt to taste
    vanilla to taste

    Heat water, sugar, and salt in saucepan until sugar is completely dissolved. (For creamier/denser texture, bring water, sugar, and salt to boil and then let simmer until reduced by half.) Remove from heat. Whisk in coconut milk and shredded coconut. Add vanilla. Place in refrigerator until completely cool. Put in ice cream machine for about 30 min. Makes about 4 cups.