My ice creams, sorbets, and everything in between start with what’s called a base—the concoction that is to the frozen treats what stocks are to soups. You can flavor stock with carrots, celery, or onion (just the way you can flavor an ice cream base with chocolate, vanilla, or strawberry). Or you can add to the stock ingredients things like chunks of chicken and noodles (think chips, caramel, or cookie dough). Or you can do both—hello, seafood chowder; hi, mint chocolate chip! Whatever you decide to do, the base is your ice cream’s jumping-off point.
In this chapter, you’ll find the two bases that are used for just about every recipe in this book—one for ice cream and one for sorbet and gelato—plus an amazing vegan ice cream base. (Later on in the book, there are a few custard bases that are unique to their recipes.) All these bases are pretty darn simple. They don’t require ice baths, instant-read thermometers, or precarious tempering of egg yolks. You mix, you heat, you stir, you’re done. This is no concession to home cooks, either. It’s exactly what we do at Salt & Straw.
The Secret Superhero of Ice Cream
So you’ve stored your ice cream just the way I told you to. You shoveled it from machine to container with haste. You’ve dutifully tucked it in the very back of the freezer and employed a phalanx of frozen expendables to defend it from the warm world beyond. Wait, what’s that you say? You didn’t?
Okay, I get it. Even at Salt & Straw, where we have a rigorous high-tech distribution system—store at –20°F, deliver at –10°F, temper in shop to –5°F, scoop at 5°F—the unexpected happens. We understand that we just can’t manage every second of the ice cream’s life. At home, you have more control but less fancy technology and, I assume, less will to focus all of your energies on maintaining the crystal structure of your ice cream. Who out there can save America’s pints from an icy fate? Why, look! There, in the bag! It’s flour, it’s sugar, it’s . . . xanthan gum!
Every recipe in this book uses xanthan gum in its base. Now, I know what you’re thinking (it’s exactly what I thought when I first heard of it): “Xanthan gum” sounds funny. It starts with an “x”! It must be impossible to find and it must be bad. Well, it’s not and it’s not! It’s easy to get, not just online but at virtually every supermarket. It’s sold by ubiquitous brands like Bob’s Red Mill and Hodgson Mill. Second, although that “x” makes it sound especially unnatural, xanthan gum is no stranger than cornstarch or baking soda.
Xanthan gum has one vital purpose at Salt & Straw: We use it to combat heat shock. To think about how, consider the effect that the more familiar gelatin has on water. Like xanthan gum, gelatin is a hydrocolloid. And as anyone who has made Jell-O knows, gelatin can halt the flow of water. While technically xanthan gum’s actual effect on water is slightly different, the upshot is the same. It inhibits the mobility of the melted ice crystals (a.k.a. water) in ice cream, so the water has a harder time migrating to and refreezing onto those remaining crystals, making undesirable growth produced by heat shock less likely.
Some large companies use xanthan and other gums to mimic the texture of fat as well—so they can cut back on pricey cream—but the crutch comes with its own cost. Leaning too heavily on the stuff gives the product a gummy, teeth-coating texture that lingers on your palate a bit too long, like a creep at the party who hangs out after everyone else has gone home. Just the right amount of xanthan gum, on the other hand, is miraculous. At no cost to ice cream quality, you get insurance against ice crystal growth, bumpers in the bowling lane of perfection, a little leeway for when the world inevitably conspires against you. It’s the lone ice cream–making decision at Salt & Straw that makes our lives easier, not harder. And being freed from that worry lets us be more daring on other fronts. My hope is that the freedom encourages you to make more ice cream!
And while most homemade ice creams are best eaten within a few days, xanthan gum is one of the reasons why the ice creams in this book keep for 3 months!
Ice Cream Base
Makes about 3 cups
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons dry milk powder
1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum (Yes, I’m easy to find! See page 000.)
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
The perfect scoop of ice cream begins here. In minutes you have the foundation for practically every creamy frozen treat in this book—plus an infinite number you can create yourself. Make it, store it, flavor it, and churn away. That’s all you need to know.
For the curious, however, there’s more going on in each base than meets the eye. What might read like an arbitrary list of ingredients is in fact a formula that yields a carefully calibrated ratio of ice cream’s main components. (For real ice cream nerds, it’s approximately 58% water, 17% fat, 11% milk solids, and 14% sugar, by weight.) That’s not to say that a final product with these ratios is necessarily the goal. In some cases, I want an ice cream that has, say, a lower fat percentage—remember, less fat means a denser texture and flavor that hits your palate more quickly—so I might ultimately dilute the base when I add a flavoring before churning. For us at Salt & Straw, the base is the way we keep track of our starting point, which makes manipulating the finished product much easier.
For the home cook, carving out a separate recipe for the base has a different purpose. It’s practical and makes home ice cream–making that much easier: This way, you can make it in advance—in big storable batches, even—so each recipe in this book is that much easier to execute.
Combine the sugar, dry milk, and xanthan gum in a small bowl and stir well.
Pour the corn syrup into a medium pot and stir in the whole milk. Add the sugar mixture and immediately whisk vigorously until smooth. Set the pot over medium heat and cook, stirring often and adjusting the heat if necessary to prevent a simmer, until the sugar has fully dissolved, about 3 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat.
Add the cream and whisk until fully combined. Transfer the mixture to an airtight container and refrigerate until well chilled, at least 6 hours, or for even better texture and flavor, 24 hours. Stir the base back together if it separates during the resting time. The base can be further stored in the fridge for up to 1 week or in the freezer for up to 3 months. (Just be sure to fully thaw the frozen base before using it.)
Following the instructions for the bases will yield a few more tablespoons than the amount called for in the recipes. This is intentional—so you’re sure to have enough base, even when a bit inevitably gets left behind here and there in the pan, in the storage container, and the like.
An Even Better Ice Cream Base
In ice cream industry circles, we talk about “aging” a base. But in this book, I’ll call this optional but valuable step what it is: waiting. When you make this base and then stick it in the fridge overnight, you give the proteins in the milk, which were stressed when heated, a chance to relax and get comfy again. No, it’s not 100 percent necessary, but your ice cream will be a little better—the texture smoother, the milk flavor more robust—like the way stews taste better the day after you make them.
The Salt & Straw Classics
Each month, our shops feature a five-flavor deep-dive into some delicious subject—from Thanksgiving to chocolate, berries to beer. This monthly roster of special flavors gives customers an opportunity for exploration, and the promise of it causes me to keep thinking, inventing, and meeting more and more awesome people to inspire and teach me. But not everyone craving a cone wants an adventure. Sometimes you just want to enjoy your pet flavor for the fifth time in five days. That’s where these fourteen classics come in, which—with a few city-specific variations—are available at Salt & Straw all the time.
And while the flavors are decidedly different from the standards of your average ice cream parlor—you know, chocolate, strawberry, rocky road, etc.—they do share the same purpose: Each one set outs to meet a fundamental desire. Just as rocky road satisfies fillings-lovers and chocolate pleases purists, our new classics fulfill the need-states of the modern ice cream enthusiast. For instance, to appease the sweet-salty obsessive, we have sea salt ice cream with caramel ribbons. To indulge the two main types of chocolate fanatic, we offer cocoa powder–powered ice cream with gooey brownies (for those after nostalgia) and bean-to-bar bliss (for those after a Third Wave experience). There’s a flavor for the locavore adventurer (Oregon pear and blue cheese!), for the vegan who wants to join in the fun (made with coconut cream caramel and almond milk ganache!), and for the eight-year-old in all of us (hello, snickerdoodle!).
The only overlap is vanilla. Here we take a stand for the underappreciated ingredient, a magical seedpod whose flavor is one of the most complex on earth but, thanks to an epidemic of cheap extracts, has become a synonym for “dull.” Our vanilla ice cream sets out to both satisfy and change minds.
Copyright © 2019 by Tyler Malek. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.