"The Ultimate Ice Cream Book," by Bruce Weinstein

Pros: Amazing variety; more recipes than any other ice cream book; fantastic flavors; easy directions
Cons: None
Rating: 5 out of 5

First posted 8/17/2000

Few summer pleasures match that of ice cream and sorbet. That first mouthful of milky sweetness dissolving in your mouth sends a shiver of delight right through your body.

Very few commercial ice creams can stand up to homemade. Oh, I know. I have my commercial favorites too. Breyer’s Mint Chocolate Chip will always hold a special place in my heart – that clean mint taste; that dark chocolate in just the right proportion. I admit it, I too have been a Ben & Jerry’s junkie at times, although now I find their ice cream a little too sweet and rich for everyday dessert-eating.

When you make your own, however, you’re in control of everything. Too sweet? Cut down the sugar a little. Too rich? Substitute half and half or milk for some of the cream. You want a flavor that doesn’t come in the stores? You want to make sure your favorite flavor will never again be out of stock? Then it’s time to bite the bullet and make your own.

It’s easy!

Ice cream machines tend to come in three flavors these days. First, and probably most popular, are ones where you freeze a special bowl in the freezer (usually for at least 24-48 hours) and then use a convenient motor to blend the ice cream (for more detail, you can check out my review of the Krups La Glaciere Ice Cream Maker or the even better Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker). Most mixtures need to be cooked and then cooled first, but it really doesn’t take much time.

The second, older, method is a machine with a hand crank, where you fill a part of it with ice and salt. I’ve never known anyone who was particularly happy with these, as they take forever, hand-cranking them is a pain, and you have to mess with all the ice and salt.

The third method is an electric ice cream maker with cooling unit, so that there’s no bowl to freeze. These tend to run anywhere from $300 to $1000 in my experience, so option number 1 (which tends to run around $50), is once again victorious.

You’ll find further details on ice cream machines in this book, as well as the differences between (and pros and cons of) ice cream made with and without eggs, details on flavoring ice creams, and tips for making “mix-ins” (cookies, crackers, etc.) that’ll stay crunchy longer.

Cones and shells

This book certainly covers details that most other ice cream cookbooks I’ve found do not. For instance, you’ll find three recipes for ice cream cones!

First come oven-baked sugar cones. Oh, I’ve always loved sugar cones! The recipe comes with variations, such as bowl-shaped “cones,” Italian cones, and walnut cones. Then you’ll find Pizelle waffle cones, again with various flavor variations. Finally, Meringue cones, or, more properly, shells, once again with flavor variations.

The variations

Let’s use Pumpkin Ice Cream as an example. Below it you have four variations listed: Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream, Pumpkin Raisin Ice Cream, Pumpkin Rum Ice Cream, and Pumpkin Seed Ice Cream.

Mr. Weinstein could have done this a number of ways. He could have printed up a new recipe for each variation – I’ve seen cookbooks do this before to fill space. He could have left them out and left us to our own devices, in which case we wouldn’t have thought of half of these, I’d wager. Or he could have put the traditional paragraph of “oh, and you could try adding this, and this, or this.”

Now in the first case, you end up paying more for a cookbook that really could have been smaller. In the middle case, we would have been bereft of a hundred or two extra fantastic recipes. In the last case, when we sat down to pick a recipe and make out our grocery list, we would have failed to read the last paragraph, and so we’d eternally find ourselves saying “Oh, next time,” without ever making the variations.

So this is PERFECT. I wish more cookbooks did this. The variations are 1-3 sentence quick directions, but easy to pick out and implement. They’re also listed as individual recipes in the index, so you won’t have trouble finding them if you lose them.

Ice creams

You’ll find a fantastic array of flavors. Apple Butter Ice Cream, for instance. Avocado Ice Cream, with a Gazpacho recipe to accompany it – I guess you can eat ice cream for dinner! The Banana Ice Cream and the Banana Ice Cream Philadelphia Style (no eggs) come with a stunning array of variations. When Mr. Weinstein suggests Bubble Gum Ice Cream, he even provides the toll-free number of a company that sells bubble gum flavoring. Now that’s service for you.

Burnt Sugar Ice Cream may become Creme Anglaise Ice Cream, Raspberry Creme Brulee Ice Cream, and so on. I haven’t tried that particular recipe yet, so for the moment my favorite ice cream recipe is the White Chocolate Cheesecake Ice Cream. Wow! Subtle and rich, delicate and delectable.

You’ll even find a “lower-fat” chocolate ice cream, and perhaps its antithesis: Chocolate Truffle Ice Cream. Don’t forget the Key Lime Ice Cream (with the Margarita and Daiquiri variations), the Lavender Ice Cream, Maple Ice Cream (another of my favorites!), Nougat Ice Cream, Oatmeal Ice Cream (to quote the author: “Finally, ice cream for breakfast”!), Pumpkin Ice Cream, Rice Ice Cream, and Strawberry Vinegar Ice Cream.

Once again this book steps clear off the beaten path with Corn Ice Cream (he includes a Sweet Cornbread Cake to go with). There’s an Earl Grey Ice Cream, and a Fig Ice Cream. And, oh goodness. I’m sunk. There’s a recipe in here for my favorite, Green Tea Ice Cream. I guess I know what we’re making next week.

Honestly, that isn’t nearly all of the ice creams in this book. There are 138 pages of them.

Oh, you’re wondering where all the other pages went?

Sorbets and granitas

If you want something a little less rich, sorbets and granitas are probably more your style. They’re ice cream without the cream, flavored ice.

Here, as in the ice cream chapter, variations abound. Banana Sorbet becomes Banana Daiquiri Sorbet. Blood Orange Sorbet becomes Moroccan Blood Orange Sorbet. Cider Sorbet becomes Maple Cider Sorbet. Coffee Granita morphs into Vanilla Coffee Granita (sorry, I got tired of saying “becomes”).

Also as in the ice cream chapter, Mr. Weinstein likes to step off of the beaten path. You’ll experience Cucumber Mint Granita, Lychee Sour Cherry Sorbet, and Pineapple Chipotle Sorbet. Don’t miss the Texas Tomato Granita.

One of my favorites is the Raspberry Champagne Sorbet – the tartness of raspberry with a certain sweet tingling to it. The Honey Tea Granita, when made with herbal tea, is also incredibly flavorful and delicious.

But wait, there’s more! (I feel like a $19.95 infomercial.)

Ice cream toppings

Not one to give ice cream only a partial treatment, Mr. Weinstein has even included a chapter of ice cream toppings, each of which has its own variations. (I like this variation thing. You turn one recipe into three, four, even eight recipes.)

So, there’s Apple Spice Topping (Dark Caramel Apple Topping!), Banana Topping (Banana Marshmallow Topping!), Butterscotch Sauce (Butterscotch Rum Topping!), and on and on. Lemon Sauce, even, and then Lemon Licorice Sauce. Don’t forget the Tropical Thai Topping, and, oh dear, the bane of my diet: White Chocolate Cinnamon Sauce. I’ve never seen such a glorious array of ice cream toppings before. Truth be told, I usually skip toppings. Artificial marshmallow and artificial chocolate sprinkles don’t do a whole lot for me. But this…this is miraculous.

Ice cream drinks

As if all of this weren’t enough (at least three times as much as any other ice cream book I’ve gotten my hands on), there’s a chapter of ice cream drinks, once again with countless variations.

There’s the Banana Thick Shake, which becomes the Spiced Banana Shake, among other things. Then there’s the Mexican Chocolate Soda, the Brandy Alexander Freeze, a Chocolate Malt, a Coffee Thick Shake, Grasshopper Mist, Mandarin Vanilla Shake, and so on. You’ll need a blender, but I’d wager that more households have blenders than ice cream machines, so that isn’t a huge stretch.

In all, this is the best ice cream book I’ve ever laid my hands on, and we have at least four such cookbooks. Mr. Weinstein has created a true treasure of ice cream creation, and deserves no less than a full five stars for his glorious work.

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