Eighteen strangers arrived at Serendipity's Marickville factory on a crisp Wednesday evening with eager anticipation and probably a certain amount of trepidation as to what delights or possibly horrors were in store for them that night. Thankfully, within the first 5 minutes of the class, owner Sarah Mandelson had already managed to capture the attention of her class regaling us with amusing anecdotes and enthusing about her love for ice cream. You could tell that ice cream is her passion and she and husband Richard have really staked their reputation on making some of the finest and most luxurious ice cream in Sydney.
The first portion of the class was a basic introduction to her and a short history on how Serendipity Ice Cream came about; which was actually borne more out of necessity than pure chance. Her mother Alix Mandelson, who was an American married to an Australian, missed all the “wacky” American ice cream flavours like Run and Raisin and Rocky Road that were not available here in Sydney during the 60’s. So she found Serendipity Ice cream; and back then Alix would make all the ice cream for the shop using her manual self-churn ice cream maker, an austere contraption that looked a lot like a bucket with a wheel attached to churn the cream while it was submerged in some ice. Now that’s a lot of elbow grease! Ice cream is most certainly in Sarah’s blood, as her mother was not only heavily pregnant while (self)-churning her first batch of Serendipity ice cream but she was actually in labour with Sarah.
The ice cream being made for the class was a Wattleseed and Grand Marnier Ice Cream. You start off with a crème anglaise consisting of cream (35%-40% fat content), milk (full cream or 4% fat) and egg yolks (free-range). This mixture needs to be stirred over a double broiler continuously. Once you have started this process you shouldn't leave the stove, as Sarah emphasises the minute you leave the stove is the instant the crème anglaise will decide to turn into scrambled eggs.
While stirring the crème anglaise, you can now add your sugar; you can also use honey, golden syrup, maple syrup or glucose, whatever you like. Also other flavours you would like to infuse your ice cream with can also be added now, especially things such as herbs, spices and coffee which need to be steeped to release their flavour. Just remember solids such as cinammon sticks and cloves will need to be strained before churning. Once the crème anglaise has thickened, which is after about 20 minutes of continuous stirring you now have your base for your ice cream.
Now it's time to add your flavourings- today we are using wattleseeds, orange zest, orange essential oil and Grand Marnier. Sarah mentions it is advisable to add several types of flavourings if your base flavour is not potent enough. For example, the orange zest would not have been sufficient to render our ice cream the orange flavour we desired, so to solve this, we added some orange oil and Grand Marnier to boost its overall orange flavour. For the purposes of the class and time restrictions we made a concentrated crème anglaise base and just added this to a large batch of plain crème anglaise that Sarah had made and chilled earlier. That is why the crème anglaise looks extremely dark here.
The next step, which is vital, is to chill your crème anglaise; as it is not advisable to pour your mixture into any type of ice cream machine while still warm. As Sarah recalls, this is how you would effectively destroy your ice cream machine and your crème anglaise. If this ever happens, you will need to start over. Seeing that for our class Sarah had already prepared a chilled batch of crème anglaise, all we had to do was pour in our concentrated wattleseed mixture into the prepared batch and take a short walk to Gina, their affectionately named ice cream machine.
Then you play the waiting game. Luckily for us, Gina is a commercial ice cream machine and can churn nearly 20 litres in less than a mere 10 minutes. After Gina spits out the churned ice cream into buckets we were then allowed to go for our life and fill our 1-litre containers. Sarah asserts that we all fill our containers to the brim as that pockets of air in the container will cause undesired ice crystals to form when frozen. We gladly took her advice and with even more enthusiam accepted the offer to make sure we licked our giant ice cream spatulas clean. They didn't call it hands on for nothing.
After you have placed your ice cream in its container you will have to chill it for some time until it is completely frozen. Depending on how efficient your freezer is, this could take an hour or so. We were lucky that Sarah packed our ice cream with some dry ice to continue the freezing process on the way home. Once the ice cream is frozen, the only step left is to devour it with as much gusto and appreciation that was excercised while making the ice cream.
These are some things I learned...
+ Sugar not only makes you ice cream taste better, but it also acts to depress the freezing point of your ice cream thus making for a softer product that is easier to eat. It is actually better to use natural sugars as opposed to artificial sweeteners when making ice cream as that the sugar helps to bind and create a smooth luscious texture to your ice cream.
+ When substituting sugars, replace it weight for weight as sugar volumes vary between different sweeteners. So substituting by weight is a safer bet.
+ Unless you are making gelato or sorbet (not ice cream), do not skimp on the cream or the amount of butterfat content, using more milk or water will cause your ice cream to be harder and not as velvety. They don’t call it ice cream for nothing.
+ Do not use too much alcohol in your ice cream, as that alcohol will cause the ice cream not to freeze at all, resulting in a gooey mush that evidently will not look or taste like ice cream. As a guideline, your ice cream should have no more than 2%-4% alcoholic volume. You can cook the alcohol off first if you want to use more for flavour.
+ Alcohol will actually give the ice cream a very cold “mouth feel”. But adding too much will result in a disaster.
+ When making a vanilla bean ice cream, rub the vanilla beans into the sugar to disperse the seeds and not form clumps.
+ Pieces of nuts should not be added to your crème anglaise. To get maximum flavour, roast them first, chop them and then mix through after churning.
+ Never under any circumstances add citrus juice (acids) to your crème anglaise unless you want to make yoghurt. For citrus flavours, use the zest or essential oils instead.
+ Fruits that have high water content may need to be cooked to a jam consistency before adding to your crème anglaise.
+ When it comes to ice cream, you are only limited by your imagination!
See Part I, with pictures of the the final product
Check out the last of the round up for Good Food Month here.