- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 3, 2004

HYDE PARK, N.Y. — Ice cream is a universally favorite dessert, widely loved by young and old. Just try to imagine summertime, or a child’s birthday celebration, without it.

If you’ve never made ice cream, consider churning a batch of sweet, creamy coffee ice cream for your next get-together. Infused with coarsely ground coffee beans, this frozen treat is best served with crisp butter cookies and a touch of whipped cream.

In the United States, ice creams are often referred to as custard-, French-, or Philadelphia-style. The base of custard- or French-style ice cream is made by cooking cream or milk, sugar, egg or egg yolks and flavorings. This style has a rich and smooth texture.

Philadelphia-style ice cream, on the other hand, is made without eggs, resulting in a product that’s not nearly as rich and creamy. Its base is made simply by heating the cream and milk to incorporate the sugar and other ingredients.

When preparing to freeze the custard, make sure the base is very cold before it’s added to the machine’s canister. If possible, let the base chill and ripen in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours to ensure that it is properly cooled and the flavors are fully developed. Fill the canister no more than two-thirds full to allow space for the base to expand as it freezes.

The ice cream is properly frozen when it looks like slightly grainy soft-serve ice cream.

“An ice cream mix should always be made a minimum of 24 hours before churning. This will allow the protein to relax and absorb any excess liquid to avoid formation of ice crystals,” says Stephane Weber, an instructor in baking and pastry arts at the Culinary Institute of America.

You can flavor ice cream a number of ways. Ingredients such as vanilla beans, tea, coffee or spices are steeped in the liquid of the custard base, infusing it with their flavors.

Ingredients such as caramel, ganache or fruit purees can be folded into the ice cream at the end of the churning stage for a rippled or marbled effect.

Pieces of poached fruit, nuts, chopped chocolate and crushed candy bars can add an element of texture to ice cream.

To incorporate additional ingredients, transfer the ice cream from the canister to a mixing bowl, and fold in the pieces with a rubber spatula.

VARIATIONS:

Green tea, Earl Grey or chai ice cream: Replace coffee beans with 1/2 cup of tea leaves.

Star anise ice cream: Replace coffee beans with 1/2 cup toasted star anise. Do not strain the custard after cooking; leave the anise in the base during refrigeration, then strain before freezing.

Toasted coconut ice cream: Replace coffee beans with 21/2 cups lightly toasted unsweetened coconut.

Cardamom ice cream: Replace coffee beans with 1/4 cup chopped green cardamom pods.

Almond ice cream: Replace coffee beans with 1/2 cup almond paste.

Peanut butter ice cream: Replace coffee beans with 1/2 cup peanut butter.

Coffee ice cream

2 cups milk

2 cups heavy cream

1 cup sugar

2 tablespoons light corn syrup

1/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup coarsely ground coffee beans

18 egg yolks

Combine the milk, heavy cream, half of the sugar, corn syrup, salt and ground coffee in a heavy nonreactive saucepan over medium heat and bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally.

Remove the pan from the heat, cover, and let steep for 5 minutes. Strain the mixture — to remove the coffee grounds — into a clean pan and return to a simmer.

Meanwhile, in a glass or metal bowl, whisk together the egg yolks with the remaining sugar until thick and pale yellow, about 2 minutes.

Gradually add about one-third of the hot cream mixture, whisking constantly.

Pour the tempered mixture back into the saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the custard coats the back of a spoon (about 180 degrees).

Pour the custard through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl. Place the bowl into an ice bath and stir every few minutes until cool.

Refrigerate the custard for at least 4 hours, or overnight, before freezing in an ice-cream machine according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Pack the ice cream in containers and freeze for several hours, or overnight, before serving.

Makes about 1½ quarts, or 8 servings.

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