Amuse-bouche The scoop on ice cream

THE SCOOP ON ICE CREAM

Pasatiempo - - PASATIEMPO - Laurel Glad­den

Proust can keep his madeleine. As far as trans­porta­tional food recol­lec­tions go, I have home­made vanilla ice cream from a hand-cranked ma­chine. One of my sem­i­nal sum­mer­time mem­o­ries in­volves a churner that ran on ice, rock salt, and a lot of el­bow grease. In our fam­ily, it was a Fourth of July tra­di­tion: My mother stirred to­gether a mix­ture of sweet­ened milk and cream and poured it into the metal can­is­ter; out on the back pa­tio, in the mid­sum­mer heat, un­cles, aunts, and cousins took turns crank­ing the han­dle and re­plen­ish­ing the ice and salt.

Cool­ing off with ice cream is a sum­mer rit­ual that seems as Amer­i­can as base­ball, hot dogs, and ap­ple pie, but we cer­tainly didn’t in­vent it. The an­cient Greeks re­port­edly ate snow mixed with honey and fruit, and Alexander the Great is said to have fla­vored snow and ice with nec­tar. Ro­man Em­peror Nero dis­patched run­ners to the moun­tain peaks to re­trieve snow, to which he added fruits and juices. Sim­i­lar chilled del­i­ca­cies ap­peared in China around 200 B.C., in an­cient Per­sia, and in 16th-cen­tury In­dia.

We’ve come a long way since then — Baskin Rob­bins, Ben & Jerry’s, and Häa­gen-Dazs are prac­ti­cally house­hold names. Baskin Rob­bins has three lo­ca­tions in Santa Fe — one in DeVar­gas Cen­ter and two on Cer­ril­los Road — and from time to time I hear the siren song of their green-tinted mint cho­co­late chip; Daiquiri Ice, with its fruity chill and faux rum fla­vor; or more com­pli­cated, so­phis­ti­cated fla­vors like Jamoca Almond Fudge that in my child­hood were left to the adults. Häa­gen-Dazs (56 E. San Fran­cisco St.) churns out a heav­enly caramel-striped Dulce de Leche and a prac­ti­cally per­fect cof­fee, and just last week the com­pany re­leased a lim­ited edi­tion Japon­ais double matcha con­densed milk and brown sugar syrup fla­vor. The tiny shop on the Plaza is pop­u­lar with lo­cals and tourists alike — it’s even ru­mored to be the high­est-gross­ing Häa­gen-Dazs out­post in the U.S.

You may be some­one who prefers the lux­u­ri­ous den­sity and vel­vety tex­ture of gelato. At Ecco Espresso & Gelato (128 E. Marcy St.), Al­bu­querque na­tive Matt Durkovich con­cocts an im­pres­sive sta­ble of lus­cious frozen treats, like the sub­lime Si­cil­ian pis­ta­chio, a Girl Scout-cookie-in­spired thin-mint-cho­co­late, and other in­trigu­ing fla­vors like laven­der and pluot.

Xza­vian Cook­bey “stir fries” ice cream at his Freezie Fresh cart, pour­ing, spread­ing, chop­ping, and freez­ing a cus­tard base on a su­per-chilled steel plate be­fore scrap­ing it into coils. The cart isn’t al­ways in the same lo­ca­tion, though, so check Face­book or Twit­ter for Cook­bey’s lo­ca­tion.

In re­cent years, the U.S. has seen some­thing of an ice-cream re­nais­sance, with par­lors and cream­eries across the coun­try mak­ing bold strides with cre­ative fla­vors and com­bi­na­tions: Salt & Straw out of Port­land, Ore­gon; Jeni’s Splen­did Ice Creams in Colum­bus, Ohio; Am­ple Hills Cream­ery in New York; and Sweet Ac­tion in Den­ver, to name a few. With its tra­di­tional and “uniquely South­west­ern” fla­vors, Taos Cow has been a New Mex­ico stal­wart since 1993, but the new trail­blazer is Santa Fe’s La Lecheria (1708 Lena St.), manned by chef Joel Cole­man of Fire & Hops fame.

Thoughts of a sweet re­ward made tol­er­a­ble our slog down the Lena Street side­walk in sear­ing midafter­noon heat. La Lecheria’s menu of eight fla­vors con­sists of four sta­ples — vanilla, cho­co­late-sea-salt, mint chip, and Iconik cof­fee — and four ro­tat­ing fla­vors — which on the af­terwe noon vis­ited were green chile, turmeric co­conut, Cey­lon cin­na­mon, and straw­berry-gin­ger sor­bet. A flight al­lows you to sam­ple up to four fla­vors, eas­ing the de­ci­sion-mak­ing process.

The vanilla is mild and re­li­able, while the chocopow­er­fully, late is richly sat­is­fy­ing, the salt adding a real ro­bust­ness. The ra­tio in the mint chip seems off — heavy on the chip (morsels rather than chunks or shav­ings) and light on the mint for my taste. Sim­i­larly, while the green chile is in­trigu­ing, I longed for more of the com­pelling veg­e­tal-pep­per

In La Lecheria’s Cey­lon cin­na­mon, the pure fla­vor comes shin­ing through, and the no-foolin’ Iconik cof­fee is a pow­er­house. Com­bine cin­na­mon and cof­fee in one bite for some­thing akin to eat­ing the best cap­puc­cino ever.

fla­vor or even a touch of heat. In the Cey­lon cin­na­mon, the pure fla­vor comes shin­ing through, and the no-foolin’ Iconik cof­fee is a pow­er­house (and talk about lo­cally sourced: the roaster is just across the street). Com­bine cin­na­mon and cof­fee in one bite for some­thing akin to eat­ing the best cap­puc­cino ever.

Here’s the one mi­nor snag: The con­sis­tency is of­ten icy, at times even crumbly. This might be be­cause Cole­man and his staff, in the in­ter­est of pro­duc­ing “ice cream with in­tegrity,” es­chew sta­bi­liz­ers, preser­va­tives, and “ar­ti­fi­cial any­thing.” This could also be at­trib­uted to re­duced lev­els of sugar, which bonds with a liq­uid and low­ers its freez­ing point. More sugar pre­vents the water in milk and cream from fully freez­ing, keep­ing it from de­vel­op­ing that crunch­i­ness. All of this I un­der­stand thanks to ice-cream nerd (and two-time James Beard Best Pas­try Chef award fi­nal­ist) Dana Cree, whose fas­ci­nat­ing new vol­ume Hello, My Name Is Ice

Cream is a com­pre­hen­sive guide to the science of ice cream. The word “sta­bi­lizer,” Cree writes, “has come to sug­gest any­thing ar­ti­fi­cial, used to al­ter whole­some food into un­nat­u­ral, fake, pro­cessed food, for the pur­pose of ex­tend­ing its shelf life at the ex­pense of your health so as to max­i­mize profit.” But she goes on to ex­plain that sta­bi­liz­ers are not “poi­son,” and they are not “cheat­ing.” And they are of­ten com­mon things you have on hand, like corn­starch, pectin, milk pow­der, and eggs.

This means you can whip up some se­ri­ously lus­cious and pro­fes­sional-cal­iber ice cream at home. Cree also of­fers recipes, rang­ing from a cou­ple of “blank slates” to cre­ative fla­vors like toasted hay and Parme­san. Hello is merely the most re­cent in a slew of re­cent vol­umes that pro­vide ideas and tech­niques for home-churn­ing ad­ven­tur­ists across the coun­try. Check out David Le­bovitz’s The Per­fect Scoop (2007); Am­ple Hills Cream­ery: Se­crets and Sto­ries From Brook­lyn’s Fa­vorite Ice Cream Shop by Brian Smith, Jackie Cus­cuna, and Lau­ren Kaelin (2014); and Food52’s Ice Cream & Friends (2017).

You won’t be stuck crank­ing a churn­ing han­dle in the hot sum­mer sun, ei­ther. Com­pact elec­tric ice-cream mak­ers are widely avail­able and af­ford­able. Their one down­side is that the cool­ing-gel-filled bowl must be frozen at least eight hours in ad­vance, a process you must re­peat be­fore each batch. (Hand-crank ma­chines, on the other hand, can be re­filled end­lessly, pro­vided you have enough ice on hand and enough mus­cle to keep on churnin’.) If you’re se­ri­ous enough to con­sider an up­grade, Cuisi­nart and Bre­ville (among other brands) of­fer ma­chines with built-in com­pres­sors, al­low­ing for back-to-back batches. With a lit­tle cap­i­tal out­lay, some re­search, and a bit of ex­per­i­men­ta­tion, pretty soon you could be crowned the em­peror — or em­press — of ice cream.

La Lecheria

Ecco Espresso & Gelato

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