“Ice cream is never better than when it’s straight from the machine – you can’t get better than that,” says Pat Monnot of Pat and Stick’s Homemade Ice Cream Co., famous for its ice-cream sandwiches. “A vanilla base is really the background of most ice creams – get that right and then play around with flavours and add whatever you like.”
Monnot is one half of Pat and Stick’s, Stick Seach being the other half, and while he completed a course in ice-cream making at the University of Wisconsin – which has its own dairy herd – he’s happy to report that what developed into Pat and Stick’s famous ice-cream sandwiches began in a humble Breville countertop ice-cream maker at home.
“One of the best ice-cream machines I’ve ever had was basically a bucket with a metal cylinder that fit inside it, with a brace and an electric motor to spin the dashers … it would make two-to-three litres at a time. You don’t necessarily need the top-end gear. The old style that my mother had when we were kids – we used to turn the dashers and the cylinder with a hand crank. But nowadays the range of home machines is pretty extensive.”
For Monnot it comes down to getting a really good ice-cream base and then playing around with your own freezing method until you’re happy with the result. From freezing and scraping the base yourself, to counter-top machines that do it for you, if the base is good to begin with you’ll get a good outcome. “The whole theory of making ice cream is that you want something to scrape the sides of the freezing unit, cylinder or surface, to shave off the ice crystals as they grow. The smaller you keep the crystals the smoother the ice cream – It’s about not feeling the crystals on your tongue. That’s what a good machine does and that’s how it thickens it up; you incorporate air and keep the ice crystals small.”
Vanilla Ice Cream by Pat and Sticks
Makes about 2 litres
850ml full-cream milk
2 egg yolks
70g skim-milk powder
2 tbsp vanilla essence
2 tbsp vanilla-bean paste
1 sheet gelatine – to dissolve into the base as you cook it
Separate your eggs and beat the yolks in a mixer with the sugar until pale.
Heat up your cream and milk over a low flame until it’s just warm and then remove from the heat. (Note: do not overheat or it will cook the egg yolks in the next step)
Add the warmed cream and milk to the egg and sugar mixture and whisk it through to dissolve the sugar.
Add your skim-milk power a little at a time and whisk until smooth and all the lumps are gone. (Note: do no over beat or you will end up with butter)
Transfer the mixture into a heavy-based saucepan over a low flame and dissolve your sheet of gelatine into the mixture, stirring continuously to avoid lumps and to create a crème angalise thin custard consistency – the recommended temperature is about 83°C.
The egg yolk and milk need to cook so that it starts to thicken it up. The small amount of gelatine limits the growth of ice crystals when the ice cream is stored in the freezer.
Once the mixture has thickened, chill it down as fast as you can. Ideally place the mixture in the refrigerator for around 12 hours to cool and mature before finishing the freezing the following day.
While the base mixture is cooling combine both your vanillas and then stir them evenly through the cooled base.
“That’s your base. Then it’s just into whatever machine you’ve got – and that’s the home cook’s problem,” says Monnot. “It’ll work for every machine but the type of result will vary depending on the freezing method.”
If you’re doing it 100 per cent by hand, place the mixture in a freezer-safe container in the freezer until it begins to freeze around the edges. Then beat the mixture with electric beaters and place it back in the freezer to freeze the edges again. Repeat this freezing/beating process 3–4 times and then allow it to set completely in the freezer.
“Play around with what you add to the cooled base,” encourages Monnot. “Who knows, maybe you’ve got some great dessert you make at home and you want to put it into your ice cream. Just go for it.”
Notes: If you’re adding alcohol it will affect the freezing temperature of the base, so think about limiting the quantity or diluting it with an essence. Monnot also recommends steeping any berries in sugar before adding them, which will stop them freezing solid and cracking your teeth.