The Scoop on DIY Ice Cream Makers
For the past month, food critic Bill Addison has been sleeping on a borrowed blow-up mattress, but soon he will be reunited with his precious belongings, namely his "Simac Il Gelataio 800."
Addison, who had made Atlanta, Ga., his home for several years, recently left his job as food critic at newsweekly Creative Loafing (full disclosure: he was my editor for two-plus years) to join the merry band of diners at the San Francisco Chronicle's Food section.
As someone who eats in restaurants for a living, Addison's kitchen shelves are often lonely, but when he does cook, he goes into overdrive. I call him the "Kamikaze" cook, a term from "The Mindful Cook" by Isaac Cronin describing cooks who overextend and run around the kitchen more in keeping with television show, "The Amazing Race."
A former pastry chef, Addison is known not just for his out-of-orbit desserts but for his ice cream. So when Billy is having you over on New Year's Day for some hoppin' John, chances are he's whipped up not one but TWO flavors -- with seasonal ingredients-- and you're a dope to pass them by.
With DIY ice cream makers all the rage this year, I caught up with Addison this week for tips on selecting your very own ice cream maker (today) and then how to make the stuff (recipe/how-to details Thursday).
Our Q & A follows.
Does an ice cream maker have to be expensive to be good?
It depends on the individual's definition of "good." Folks who are organized enough to plan ahead of time and/or just want to experiment should by all means try the $50-$80 variety ice cream makers. They typically require space in the freezer and the foresight to freeze the container 8 hours or more in advance.
I am the antithesis of organized, and I'm also passionate about making my own ice cream, so I gravitate toward the self-contained ice cream machines with built-in compressors that do the freezing themselves.
What should you look for when shopping for an ice cream maker?
In a word: simplicity. You could solve a Rubik's cube in less time than it takes to assemble and figure out how to operate some of these machines. (KOD: I could never figure out a Rubik's cube, so who's he kidding?)
There are dozens of machines out there. Know how much you're willing to spend, then go to a kitchen store that you trust and ask a retailer for their advice. Most ice cream recipes in cookbooks make 1 to 1.5 quarts of ice cream, so look for machines that have canisters around that capacity.
I'd also stick with brands that have solid reputations. Ice cream machine parts can get lost or broken fairly easily - it'll be less frustrating to find replacement parts if the brand company is easy to contact.
Are those fancy double/triple kinds, allowing you to make three flavors at once, worth the trouble?
Not in my book. On how many occasions do most of us need to be making three flavors of ice cream simultaneously? (KOD: This is coming from a man who makes 2-3 flavors for one dinner party!)
And, as with combo DVD/VCR gizmos, the more components a machine has, the more likely something is going to break.
Favorite brand you'd recommend?
I'd go with Cuisinart. I used the "Cuisinart ICE-20 - Cuisinart Automatic Frozen Yogurt, Ice Cream, & Sorbet Maker" that retails for around $50 with an organized friend (read: organized cook) recently, and the ice cream (it was Meyer lemon ice cream) came out fluffy and smooth.
I have an antiquated ice cream maker from the early 90s that keeps on keeping on. If it died tomorrow, I'd invest in Cuisinart's ICE-50 self-refrigerating machine for $250.
Ever use one of the hand-cranked jobs?
Only in childhood. Most of my mother's relatives are farmers on Maryland's Eastern Shore, and I remember - yes, the classic nostalgic tale - taking turns hand-cranking vanilla ice cream. My memory is of the ice cream being slightly icy but very intensely vanilla.
What's the best ice cream experience you ever had?
Probably receiving an ice cream maker in the first place. It was right before I started doing pastry work in kitchens (I learned on the job). I was working in a vegetarian restaurant in Atlanta in 1995 and a fellow waiter, Andrew Fox, gave me the machine. He'd owned a restaurant in Fort Lee, N.J. and had kept the ice cream maker after his restaurant had closed. He went radically raw food/vegan and decided he didn't want it anymore.
It was summer, so I bought peaches from a guy who sold produce from a truck and made ice cream that night. I couldn't believe how much the flavor of the peaches shown through. It was so much better than any retail ice cream I'd ever tasted.
I haven't spoken to Andrew in years, but I've carried that machine with me across the continent more than once and it hasn't given out on me yet.
The machine is called a "Simac Il Gelataio 800 -- The Ice Cream Boy," by the way. It's a whale of a machine, and makes an inescapable amount of noise, but I don't care. I Googled the name recently and found only about 14 entries.
Simac still makes ice cream machines, but this baby is long out of production. It certainly has made restaurant customers, dinner party guests and me rapturously happy over the years.
Stay tuned Thursday, as I share Bill Addison's recipe for vanilla ice cream, plus a report on my own ice cream-making shopping adventures!
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