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Fear Conquered: Smooth and Creamy Strawberry Ice Cream
“The problem is,” I say, letting out a very long and dramatic sigh, “I can’t get rid of the crystallization. The water from the berries turns into little crystals and makes the ice cream freeze hard as a rock.”
It’s a late summer evening three years ago and I’m standing in my friend Dan’s kitchen, pouring out my woes over homemade strawberry ice cream. It’s the kind of thing we do: predict the future of Apple technology, plot out novels yet to be written, lament over epically awful Star Wars prequel films - and solve culinary predicaments.
Dan adjusts his glasses in thought. “Well…if the problem is the water in the berries, then I suppose you could cook the berries down and try to boil off some of the water,” he says thoughtfully. “I don’t know if it would work, but it might.”
“That’s not a bad idea,” I say. It’s actually a very good idea. And the key to creamy-smooth strawberry ice cream. “So I’d basically make a strawberry syrup as a base before I made the ice cream,” I muse, wondering why I didn’t think of it sooner.
“The trick will be to get the right proportion of sugar to fruit,” Dan says, leaning back against the kitchen counter and crossing his arms. “If you get too much or too little sugar to everything else, it won’t freeze up right.”
“There has to be a way to do this!” I say insistently. And I take a calming breath to relieve some of my passionate hatred for ice crystals. “So…you think cooking the berries down might work…”
Dan shrugs and weaves his head noncommittally. “It’s worth a shot,” he says. “You’ve got to get rid of the water somehow.”
Indeed you do. As it turns out, if you want velvety-smooth, scoop-able ice cream free from jagged ice crystals, you simply cannot use whole, sliced or even macerated strawberries. They retain too much water. Instead, take all those fresh berries, add some sugar and make a homemade strawberry sauce. The water from the berries joins the sugar to transform into a thickened sauce - and now you’re ready to make creamy-smooth strawberry ice cream.
Which is perfect - unless of course you enjoy crystallized tooth-cracking frozen berries. In that case, consider skipping the labor of ice cream altogether and just grab a bag of frozen berries instead.
STORY | PRINTABLE RECIPE | HUNGRY FOR TIPS?
|4 large pasteurized egg yolks, at room temperature.|
|Add 1 cup of granulated sugar to the egg yolks.|
|Whisk yolks and sugar together on medium speed for 3-5 minutes until lightened in color and yolks form a smooth ribbon.|
|To the yolks, add 1 3/4 cups homemade strawberry sauce.|
|Add 1 3/4 cups whole milk, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and 1 1/2 Tablespoons vanilla extract.|
|Whisk the ingredients together until well combined and uniform.|
|Add 1 cup heavy whipping cream.|
|Gently stir in the cream until fully combined. Chill the ice cream base in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.|
|Pour the chilled ice cream base into the ice cream freezing element and let churn for 25 minutes, then optionally add the liquors and churn for another 5 minutes.|
|Ice cream should be the consistency of soft-serve ice cream before transferring to a container to freeze more firmly.|
|Transfer ice cream to an air-tight freezer-safe container and freeze for at least 2 hours before serving.|
|Ice cream will remain smooth and scoop-able for months.|
STORY | PHOTO TUTORIAL | HUNGRY FOR TIPS?
Fresh Strawberry Ice Cream
Prep Time: 1 hr 20 min
Ingredients (makes 2 quarts)
- 4 large pasteurized egg yolks, at room temperature
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 3/4 cups whole milk
- 1 1/2 Tablespoons vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 3/4 cups homemade strawberry sauce, chilled
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 2 teaspoons framboise, reserved (optional)
- 1 teaspoon raspberry vodka, reserved (optional)
- In a large bowl (or stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment), vigorously whisk egg yolks and sugar until thick and pale, about 4 minutes
- Add the milk, vanilla, kosher salt and strawberry sauce to the eggs/sugar and whisk gently until well combined and completely smooth; stir in the heavy cream
- Chill the mixture for 30 minutes, then pour into the frozen ice cream maker freezer canister and let churn until soft and creamy, about 25 minutes
- Add the optional framboise and vodka to the ice cream and let churn for another 5 minutes
- Transfer the ice cream to an airtight container and freeze for at least 2 hours before serving
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STORY | PHOTO TUTORIAL | PRINTABLE RECIPE
Hungry for Tips?
- Make Ahead: Do yourself a favor and make the all-important strawberry sauce at least a day in advance. That way, the sauce has time to chill - and you can still enjoy ice-cream-making experience. If you’re planning to make “soft-serve” ice cream fresh from the ice cream maker for guests, you can make the ice cream base up to a day in advance and just keep it chilled in the fridge until you’re ready to pour it into the freezing element.
- Custard Style: Technically, because of the egg yolks, this is a custard-style ice cream. You say custard, I say creamy. And frankly, creamy is the only texture I want when it comes to ice cream. However, unlike traditional custard-style ice creams, I do not start with a full-on creme anglaise - I cheat and just thoroughly beat the sugar into the egg yolks. It’s so much easier and the results are just as good, I think.
- Whole Berries: I love whole strawberry pieces as much as the next guy, but adding berry pieces to ice cream ultimately results in dreadful crystallized chunks instead of creamy-smooth ice cream. So I skip the whole berries and use a strawberry sauce instead. Plus, I can pack in more strawberry flavor using the sauce verses whole berries.
- Alcohol: You don’t have to add alcohol to your ice cream, but it does improve the texture as it helps to inhibit the formation of ice crystals. And you don’t need much. Just a few of teaspoons will improve the texture of your final ice cream (and keep it creamy even after hanging out in the freeze for a few days).
- Freezing Element: Always make sure your freezing element has been in the freezer for at least 24 hours before making ice cream. Every ice cream maker is different, so follow the instructions for your machine to determine the correct amount of time required to churn the cream mixture into a thick yet soft mixture