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Homemade Ice Cream v. Premium


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I can't recall having much homemade ice cream, and certainly none that was very good. (Other than the gelato at Otto, but I'm not sure that qualifies as homemade.) But I'm willing to accept that this was due to poor recipes or inexperienced makers. On the other hand, Dreyer's Dreamery and Ben & Jerry's, at proper temperatures are outstanding.

I'm certain there are folks here would argue that premium mass-market ice creams suck. I find that hard to believe -- these are thick and creamy, with texture and flavor. Can one really beat this at home? Would one need a $500 machine?

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I don't think you can point to one or the other and say it's better. Each has it's pluses and minuses.

I like having control over my ingredients - that's a plus to homemade. The minus to homemade is 1) making sure you don't curdle your eggs and 2) getting the churning time right so you don't the butter bits from overchurning. Plus, it's time consuming. With premium, you can run out and have a large choice of flavors, and you always know what to expect, but on the flip side you get all the additives.

I started making my own ice cream this year and I'm having a great time making it. I don't own an expensive ice cream maker - I use the Cuisinart which costs $50. When the ice cream is fresh it's unbelievable -- unlike anything I've eaten. Plus, I tailor my flavors to accompany other desserts. I don't have that flexibility with premium

But, that doesn't mean I won't buy premium ice cream. I still require my B&J fix and it's definitely more convenient to run out and buy a pint.

I think it all comes down to how much time you have and what you like to do in the kitchen (and how much room you have for additional equipment).

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The ingredients advantage of homemade is huge. There is no mass-market premium ice cream being made with, for example, massive quantities of vanilla bean plus chunks of Valrhona chocolate plus fresh greenmarket strawberries. Homemade peach ice cream always kicks the crap out of packaged, even if it's poorly made, because the fresh peaches make all the difference.

The other major advantage of homemade is that it never has to be deep-frozen for shipping and stability. If you go to the Ben & Jerry's factory in Waterbury, VT, and you taste the ice cream before it goes into the deep freeze, you won't be able to believe how much better it is than any Ben & Jerry's you've ever gotten from the store or a scoop shop. (Actually, on account of health regulations, you can no longer do that tasting at the factory, but when I was in college in Vermont we did it several times.)

The advantages of store-bought premium ice cream (aside from the obvious convenience advantage) are that it's for the most part much, much, much more skillfully produced that homemade (even if you have a $500 machine), and of course it's in a whole different universe when it comes to product consistency.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I've got the same machine bloviatrix has, it does a good job. I don't use eggs for my icecream, the base recipe is 3/4 cup sugar 1 1/2 cups milk, 1 1/2 cups cream. I think vanilla paste makes better vanilla icecream than any of the alternatives. I like homemade better than any of the premium icecreams I've been able to find, but then again the homemade icecream never lasts past the next day so I don't know how long term freezing affects it.

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of course it's in a whole different universe when it comes to product consistency.

Are you talking about consistent results or consistency/texture? If the latter, I'd have to say that I've never had homemade ice cream that's nearly as creamy as a premium store-bought. My few tries, even with "can't-fail" recipes, have always been too icy.

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of course it's in a whole different universe when it comes to product consistency.

Are you talking about consistent results or consistency/texture? If the latter, I'd have to say that I've never had homemade ice cream that's nearly as creamy as a premium store-bought. My few tries, even with "can't-fail" recipes, have always been too icy.

What kind of machine are you using? Just use a 4 cup measuring cup, make vanilla to start, use my base recipe and a teaspoon or so of vanilla paste. Turn the machine on, whisk the ingredents together and keep whisking while you pour the mixture into the machine. Once the icecream is stacking up above the paddle take it out of the machine and stick it in a plastic tub and into the freezer.

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The other weekend I had the somewhat emberassing experience of telling a friend who'd asked the "what can I bring" question as he was leaving for dinner at my house that I needed ice cream to accompany the cherry clafouti I was planning for dessert (egg overload)...I had just published a freelance piece on making ice cream at home, so he thought it was pretty funny that I was asking for store-bought. I'd forgotton to freeze the cooling portion of the ice cream maker the day before. He brought over some premium vanilla at it tasted great.

But last weeked, with cherries still in season, I made clafouti again and made some cinnamon ice cream at home and it was extraordinary -- creamy, fresh, the cinnamon exploded but didn't overwhelm. Definitely better. I tried to finish it off last night, but it had fallen out of balance. Still good, but not the same.

So, I like both kinds. But fresh homemade can be extraordinary. And the control over flavor is great -- whatever strikes your fancy, and whatever looks great in the market that day.

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but then again the homemade icecream never lasts past the next day so I don't know how long term freezing affects it.

I can virtually guarantee you, after 48 hours in the freezer, it won't stack up favorably against industrially produced super-premium store brands. But the whole point is that homemade doesn't have to spend 48 hours in the freezer.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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of course it's in a whole different universe when it comes to product consistency.

Are you talking about consistent results or consistency/texture? If the latter, I'd have to say that I've never had homemade ice cream that's nearly as creamy as a premium store-bought. My few tries, even with "can't-fail" recipes, have always been too icy.

I was talking about consistent results. You shouldn't be having an iciness problem. But yes, there is a texture to commercial ice cream that's hard to duplicate -- I think it's on account of the way they handle the emulsifiers, kind of like how it's impossible to duplicate Hellman's at home.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Taking in all the FG comments on this thread, I would conclude that the best ice cream's out there, are at top restaurants, that take desserts seriously. These establishments would have a dedicated pastry staff, using home made ice cream making methods, & importantly have the expertise to make it.

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Steve

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They don't typically use homemade methods at the best restaurants. They use expensive machines like the Pacojet, they use refractometers to measure sugar content of sorbet, etc. Although I agree that fine restaurants make excellent ice cream that tends to be better than anything from the store or anything people make at home, I think the best ice cream comes from boutique ice-cream shops that make it on the premises, places like Il Laboratorio del Gelato in New York and, of course, the various famous shops in Europe.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I was surprised that even after Otto was mentioned in the first post, it took so long for someone to suggest "house made" ice cream in a top restaurant was likely to be better than home made or store bought. Is it beaten by small dedicated shops? I don't know. Il Laboratorio del Gelato supplies several restaurants in NYC. Have you had it served at any of them? I wonder if it comes closer to what's scooped at Il Lavoratorio, or suffers from time in the freeze.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

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I just know that sitting out under the maple tree with the White Mountain on the picnic table, cranking away on a warm day, beats the hell out of going to the grocery store.

Part of the joy is nostalgia--my Missouri grandma had a dairy farm, and pulling the ice cream maker out of the smokehouse was a summer ritual. Someone went to town for the ice, grandma skimmed some cream off the gallon jars of milk in the fridge and broke some eggs from the hen house. All the kids took a turn on the crank, and swiped salty bits of ice from the machine to suck.

The very best part of the whole deal was that Grandma had one of those old refrigerators with a freezer compartment just big enough for a couple of ice cube trays, so we had to eat ALL the ice cream before it melted.

sparrowgrass
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Il Lab makes very frequent deliveries to restaurants. I can't remember which place I had the stuff at -- maybe Lupa? -- but it was good in restaurant form.

I don't really accept Otto as a restaurant example. It's more akin to a gelateria in a restaurant space. It's really atypical for a restaurant pastry chef to do that level of training and produce that volume of serious ice cream. That's why I think, for example, Ed Levine singled it out in his NYT piece and included it alongside the best ice cream shops in his roundup.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Agreed, Otto is a very atypical situation, but I've had wonderful ice cream in a number of restaurants. Hmm, I wonder how many were made in the restaurant. :biggrin:

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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I would take homemade over store bought anyday. I have this preference for this crazy ice milk recipe that my grandma makes. It is a bit.... well, it's weird. It features Jello pudding and Dream Whip. It comes out a lovely mushy texture that I just love. Then it freezes to this rock hard stuff that is also fun. I also enjoy real ice cream done at home but my grandma's recipe shows up at every fambly reunion so you know it's popular! It also has raw eggs in it which some folks don't like but it hasn't killed anyone yet.

I really don't like the super-sweet and extremely fluffy texture of most store bought ice creams. If I do get store bought, I stir it until it gets soupy.

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I think I can further catagorize ice cream into "mass produced" (ben & jerry's, breyer's, other store bought), "batch frozen" or "homemade" (boutique ice cream shops, independent mom & pops, handmade with real fresh fruit), and "made at home" (on your own freezer with eggs at home). These are 3 different animals, and it's interesting to compare.

In terms of superiority in flavor and texture, you can't beat batch frozen, mom and pop style ice cream shops. They strike a delicate balance of the homemade, handcrafted quality with the knowledge, equipment, and experience of a mass producer. Sure, sometimes some shops aren't that good, but on the whole they should know what they're doing. Mass produced ice creams are decent quality, but for as much image that Ben & Jerry's still portrays that theirs is "homemade," it's not. It's made in mass quantities by faceless machines operated by minimum wage earners. After all these years, they've still managed to keep their homey marketing, even after selling out to The Man.

Ice cream in upper end restaurants are fantastic, but it's not the same, either. You can't just walk up to the counter and order; you have to sit down and have a full meal, for the most part, then get your dessert. Not a place to bring out the family or SO for ice cream.

Also, to get reallly technical, Ben & Jerry's is not premium ice cream... it's superpremium. Haagen Dazs is superpremium. Breyer's and Baskin Robbins is premium. See the difference?

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Agreed, Otto is a very atypical situation, but I've had wonderful ice cream in a number of restaurants. Hmm, I wonder how many were made in the restaurant.  :biggrin:

Probably more than should have been. Though some restaurants can and do produce superb ice cream and sorbet on premises (Gramercy Tavern comes to mind, and of course many of the four-star places and big hotel operations have pastry chefs with the training and equipment to pull it off no problem), most restaurants that do it shouldn't be doing it -- they'd serve a better product if they bought from a boutique supplier.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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On a related note, what do you guys think about homemade versus restaurant or commercial sorbets?

We've made some awesome sorbets and also some crappy ones at home, but overall, I think we've had more success with sorbet making than ice cream in the home kitchen. There seems to be so much more that can go wrong with ice cream than sorbet.

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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My personal experience has been the opposite: I've found that it only takes a few tries to get ice cream production up to a respectable level, whereas sorbet remains elusive. The lack of dairy in sorbet seems to make it more fragile and sensitive to conditions. And the fact that such a high percentage of its composition is fruit leads to all sorts of inconsistencies in sugar content (thus the need for a refractometer if you're serious).

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I dunno. Its certainly possible to perfect a particular ice cream recipe if you are going to make it more than once. However, we've made SLIGHT modifications to simple vanilla ice creams or custard base recipes to include fruit juices or whole fruit puree or pulp and things get royally screwed up, its taken us several tries to get the desired effect, with the right fat density with the type of cream used, amount of sugar, eggs, etc. Whereas we can make a sorbet recipe and the first time it will come out great, they are a lot less complicated.

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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I would take homemade over store bought anyday. I have this preference for this crazy ice milk recipe that my grandma makes. It is a bit.... well, it's weird. It features Jello pudding and Dream Whip. It comes out a lovely mushy texture that I just love. Then it freezes to this rock hard stuff that is also fun. I also enjoy real ice cream done at home but my grandma's recipe shows up at every fambly reunion so you know it's popular! It also has raw eggs in it which some folks don't like but it hasn't killed anyone yet.

Foam Pants:

Eeerrie! My Sitka Grandmother had the same recipe. :biggrin: She was of the home cook generation that lived for the new convenience inventions of the time. Jello was big with her as was Dream Whip.

There are many good commercial ice creams, but nothing beats a homemade small batch, and yes, it *never* sees a life longer than the first 12 hours! One commercial maker that knocked my socks off, Snoqualmie Gourmet Ice Cream, of Lynnwood, Washington. :wub:

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This thread is discouraging. I had an ice cream maker back in college. The kind where you have to add ice and salt, although not hand cranked. It broke in a move ten years ago and I never bothered to fix it. When I moved into my current place in Sept, the Cuisinart type went on sale and came in a nifty pistachio version to boot so I bought it as a housewarming present to myself. Then had to wait until I'd saved up to buy a working freezer so now finally ready to use this thing and now I'm hearing that it's only worth it if I consume the whole thing in 48 hours. I just lost 12 pounds; I can't be doing that. I guess it's a way to force myself to get to know my neighbors. Is it really that bad?

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Has anyone tried the liquid nitrogen ice cream method? Basically, fold liquid nitrogen into your cream, etc. and voila: ice cream!

I've heard this produces an incredibly smooth product, far superior in texture to the best manufactured ice creams. Although, perhaps the ultra-low temperatures would have the same effect Fat Guy mentioned re: B&J.

Either way, I've been half-looking for a supply of liquid nitrogen (and the requisite container and safety gloves) for the last month.

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