September 13, 2011

Ben & Jerry's Sweet Cream Base

In my quest to find a homemade ice cream that my husband likes, I decided I needed to make some major changes.  He wants something that tastes more "store bought."   We're both big fans of Ben & Jerry's so this weekend I decided to use their ice cream base.

It uses the same basic ingredients as the David Lebovitz recipe that I have used for vanilla, mint and lemongrass ice creams, but the texture and flavor is surprisingly different.  It's difficult to pinpoint exactly what's different.  Ben & Jerry's recipe turns out very much like their name brand stuff.  It tastes more eggy than David Lebovitz's, but not in a bad way, maybe a rich way.

I find it interesting that basically any Ben and Jerry's recipe can be made starting with their Sweet Cream Base.  I'm used to steeping a natural flavor agent (a vanilla bean or a bunch of fresh mint for instance) in milk; the Ben & Jerry's recipe just adds a teaspoon of extract or flavoring (vanilla, peppermint, instant coffee, cinnamon).  I was surprised that my farmer's market palate wasn't offended by the store-bought ingredients.  I had liked the freshness of the natural lemongrass and mint so much.  But this stuff is Ben & Jerry's and I do like Ben & Jerry's ice creams.  If you like Ben & Jerry's ice cream, it's definitely worth a try.  Not that I'm ready to toss The Perfect Scoop, I just see myself being on a loooong homemade Ben & Jerry's kick.  

Yes, I realize that these Ben & Jerry's recipes deviate from our theme of "Celebrating Local Produce," but if you hadn't realized that Upstate Cali Kitchen Adventure's unofficial theme for Summer 2011 was "Ice Cream," you haven't been paying attention.

Does it help that I make all my ice creams with farmer's market eggs and that, lately, I've been buying milk and cream at the co-op?  (Oh, how I wish the powers that be would let us buy fresh milk at the farmers market of directly from a farmer.)


Sweet Cream Base
Adapted from Ben & Jerry's via Ice Cream Geek

2 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk

In their book, Ben and Jerry don't give instructions to cook their ice cream base.  They just say to whisk the eggs, then whisk in the sugar, then whisk in the milk and the cream.  Then add your flavoring of choice and start churning.  Lots of people take issue with this lacking of cooking due to salmonella.  Personally, I am not very concerned about salmonella because I buy our eggs from Farmer Chris.  Statistically, eggs from a small family farm are much less likely to be unsafe.  Even so, partly out of habit, and partly because I've heard that  the texture of 'cooked' ice cream is better than non-cooked, I decided to follow the instructions in Ice Cream Geek's blog to cook the ice cream base before churning.  Well, I didn't follow them exactly, because he recommends using an electric mixer to beat the eggs, but I kind of figure that if I am about to eat some super premium ice cream, I could use a little exercise.  Also, he gets super-technical about temperatures and stuff.

Combine milk and cream.  And honestly, I made two batches of Sweet Cream Base this weekend, one with whole milk and one with 1% milk; after freezing for a day the 1% had an icier texture, but don't let a lack of whole milk in your fridge stop you from making this.  Heat milk and cream over medium-low heat until just steaming.

In a mixing bowl whisk eggs a minute or two until light yellow.  While whisking, very slowly pour in sugar.  Next, while continuing to whisk, slowly pour in half the warmed milk-cream mixture to temper the eggs. Then pour the egg-sugar-milk-cream mixture back into the pot on the stove.  Heat the ice cream base over medium heat, stirring with a rubber scraper.  If you'd like, you can use a candy thermometer to monitor the temperature.  I prefer to just use the back of a spoon.  Dip a metal spoon into the ice cream base, then run your finger across it.  When it makes a clean line (without the liquid immediately weeping back into the line) it's ready to be taken off the heat.

Pour the mixture through a sieve (just in case there are any bits of "scrambled" egg) into a storage container such as a 4-cup liquid measuring cup.  Allow the mixture to cool a couple minutes before adding your desired flavoring (ie: a teaspoon of vanilla extract).  Then chill thoroughly before churning.

Stay tuned for more ice cream-making tips and Ben & Jerry's Style Coffee Fudge Brownie Ice Cream in my next couple of posts.

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