September 14, 2011

Notes about Ice Cream Volume & Vanilla Blueberry Swirl Ice Cream

Grace and I did a lot of cooking this weekend.  As I mentioned in the previous post, we made two batches of Ben & Jerry's Sweet Cream Base, which we churned into three four different kinds of ice cream.  We made brownies for Coffee Fudge Brownie Ice Cream and then we made marshmallows.  We hadn't planned to, but since we had some Sweet Cream Base leftover from a batch of Blueberry Vanilla Ice Cream, we decided to make S'more Ice Cream.  We dipped tiny little squares of graham crackers into melted milk chocolate then folded them and the marshmallows into Vanilla Ice Cream, but I'm getting ahead of myself.  My point is that we ate a lot of ice cream did a lot of experimenting.

First let's talk about volume.  We have a 1-quart ice cream maker.  The Sweet Cream Base recipe makes one quart of base.  And I usually store our finished ice cream in one-quart plastic yogurt containers. Sounds perfect, right?  Well, no.

Churning adds air, so it increases the volume of the ice cream.  If you start out with one quart (four cups) of base, you'll easily end up with five cups of ice cream.  No matter, that last bit is for quality control tasting, right?

If you make a truly Ben & Jerry's style ice cream, and by that I mean, if you mix in some chunks or nuts or a swirl, you're adding at least another cup to the volume of the finished product, so one batch of Sweet Cream Base could easily yield three pints of ice cream.

I was reminded, halfway through the weekend, while reading through the first few pages of Ben & Jerry's Homemade Ice Cream and Dessert Book using the Book Preview feature on Amazon (I love that feature, don't you?), that most ice cream makers recommend filling your churn canister 2/3 full.  This is ironic considering most homemade ice cream recipes I've seen yield approximately one quart before churning.  Ben & Jerry remind us that super-premium ice creams contain about 20% air, while conventional store-bought ice creams (Dreyer's, Edy's, Breyers) may contain up to 50% air.  Of course, the air affects the texture of the ice cream.  With less air, you get a creamier, denser, more Ben & Jerry's-like texture.  If you add more air to the ice cream, you get a somewhat lighter, fluffy texture (and you can have a bigger a bigger scoop without adding any additional calories, right?)  You may prefer your ice cream either way.

How do you control the amount of air in your ice cream?  Ben & Jerry say that it has to do with how full you fill your canister.  To churn in more air, fill the canister only half full.  To add less air fill the canister 3/4 of the way full.  (Be advised, if you fill it more than 3/4 of the way full, as I've been known to do, it won't churn as efficiently and it may over flow a bit.)

The bottom line is that if a lighter texture is acceptable to you, you can make one batch of Sweet Cream Base into two totally different flavors.

The first flavor we made was one that Grace recommended:

Vanilla Ice Cream with Blueberry Swirl

To one batch of Sweet Cream Base we added 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.  We started pouring the ice cream base into the ice cream machine, that's when all our thoughts about volume started.  I had a quart of vanilla ice cream base and was planning to pour it into a machine with a one quart capacity and then I was going to add almost a full cup of blueberry jam at the end of the churning.  That wouldn't work, so I "reserved 1 cup of the Sweet Cream Base for a later use."  After churning about 20 minutes, I dolloped in about one cup of blueberry jam (made the same way I made the blackberry jam in this post).  It churned less than a minute more.  I didn't want a totally homogenous blueberry ice cream, but rather Vanilla with a Blueberry swirl.   We transferred it to a one-quart storage container and put it in the freezer to harden up.

The end result had pockets of stark white ice cream and ribbons of sweet blueberry swirl laced into a bluish-purple background where the two had homogenized. A pretty ice cream.  Jason "kind of" liked it. We both found the flavor of the vanilla ice cream, with the egginess in the background, strikingly similar to Ben & Jerry's.  Gracie & Abby gobbled it up.  Both Grace and Jason thought I should add more blueberry jam next time. 

I found myself preferring the Vanilla with Blueberry Swirl over the Lemongrass Blackberry-Cookie Ice Cream already in the freezer *gasp*.  I still haven't determined whether it was the novelty of the new flavor that I was attracted to, or if I really do prefer it to the Lemongrass.  And now I'm too busy looking forward to my next bowl of Coffee Fudge Brownie Ice Cream to care.

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