Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Joys of homemade ice cream


Tonight was an evening for the simple joys of life, and perhaps none can be simpler or sweeter than the satisfaction of making your own ice cream for dessert.

It all started with a trip to Tokyu Department Store in Tokyo's Shibuya Ward earlier today, where I spotted an ice cream maker in the bargain bin on the sixth floor. It was hot pink and no bigger than a large coffee mug, and the PR blurb on the outside of the box promised me I could have delicious ice cream in less than ten minutes.

How fantastic is that?

I then remembered an Italian chef telling me that the best ice creams he's ever had were the ones he made himself with the best ingredients he could find -- and that nothing elsewhere has ever compared. The only limitation is that you have to eat the ice cream fairly quickly as it doesn't have any of those additives or preservatives to make it keep, and it'll probably turn to mush or ice sooner rather than later.

Fresh cream, eggs and voila!

So immediately I had visions of being a mini Martha Stewart. Someone who would effortlessly whip up ice cream for guests who show up unannouced or for the neighbors you happen to suddenly invite over after bumping into them in the building lobby. All I had to do -- or at least that's what the box said -- was to basically put fresh cream and eggs into the ice cream maker and churn it until the mixture thickened. I could so do that, I thought to myself. By then I'd completely forgotten that the ice cream maker I was holding was about the size of a coffee cup. That would actually feed 1.5 neighbors if I only had a spoonful; and, yes, if it was a dinner party, I'd probably have to serve my homemade ice cream in spoonfuls and pass it off as nouvelle cuisine.

But without much further thought, I bought my coffee mug ice cream maker, incredibly priced at 1500 yen -- which is about PhP750. Not that cheap, but quite affordable for a bit of happiness.

No eggs in the fridge

Eager to try out my ice cream making process that very evening, I then headed down to Tokyu's basement which houses my neighborhood Kinokuniya supermarket. I was supposed to get fresh cream and eggs. I hardly eat at home whether I am in Manila or Tokyo, as I'm out about 350 days of the year, so I usually have neither fresh cream nor eggs on hand at any time. Of course, with my new ice cream maker, this was all going to change. In fact, my life was going to change.

Cream a dozen ways

Gosh -- at least in Japan, I never realized there were so many grades of fresh cream. Confronted with choices such as 35%, 45% and 47% fresh cream in different box sizes, I was sorely tempted to go for the full-on 47% version, imagining an incredibly creamy ice cream, but instead I opted for the more reasonably-priced 35%. A little box of 35% fresh cream was still about 400 yen (PhP 200), and this was barely enough for my coffee cup ice cream maker.

The cost of homemade ice cream

Then I started to make my hard calculations. 400 yen fresh cream and an egg at about 35 yen, plus whatever else you want to place in your ice cream, and it comes up to about 500 yen for the coffee cup serving alone without the equipment investment even factored in. But in this same supermarket, a small one-serving cup of a quality ice cream like Haagen Dazs sells for about 300 yen, and even that I found expensive. How do quality ice cream makers ever make money??

The recipe for a basic ice cream called for 90 cc of fresh cream and half an egg, plus a tablespoon of sugar. I decided to forego the sugar; but to add a little more pizzaz to my ice cream, I threw in three big tablespoons of Ghiradelli Hot Chocolate, my favorite hot chocolate brand from San Francisco.

Can making ice cream be as simple as this?

When I got home, I read through the box more thoroughly. Making ice cream seemed fairly simple with my little contraption, except I had to freeze my coffee mug canister for at least three hours prior to using. When I was ready to make ice cream, all I had to do was throw all my ingredients in and put the mixer handle in and just keep churning the handle for about ten minutes or until the mixture thickened to the consistency of ice cream.

I did everything as instructed and, to my surprise, I found myself with ice cream. Literally, simply by throwing all the ingredients into my ice cream maker and turning the handle round and round for ten minutes.

The ice cream was delicious and softer in texture and consistency compared to commercial ice creams which are laden with extenders. It was closer to gelato; and one of my happiest moments today was putting my spoon straight into that ice cream maker and taking out a spoonful of ice cream that actually looked like ice cream. Nothing could be sweeter.

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