By Daniel Neman

St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Ice cream makers used to be my go-to gift for weddings. Everybody loves ice cream, right? I have it on good authority that we all even scream for it.

But apparently ice cream makers don’t sell like they used to. Perhaps we have access to too much great ice cream now.

Still, there is no ice cream like homemade ice cream.

If you’re one of those people who, heartbreakingly, does not have an ice cream maker, you can make a batch magic vanilla ice cream.

The magic part is the way it creates that unmistakable ice-cream texture without doing what a maker does: constantly stirring the mix while simultaneously freezing it.

There are a couple of secrets behind the magic. One is that you use softly whipped cream, which makes it creamy and light. The whipped cream is folded into a mixture of condensed milk (another secret) and melted white chocolate.

The melted white chocolate is the biggest secret of all. It creates a depth to the flavor not provided by the other handful of ingredients and makes it taste just like high-quality vanilla ice cream.

If the magic vanilla was the easiest of the ice creams to make, the salty caramel is the hardest.

The trickiest part is the caramel. First, you put sugar in a pot over medium-high heat and let it sit without touching it until a good-sized ring of amber-colored melted sugar surrounds a shrinking island of white sugar.

Then you push and pull the melted part into the unmelted, mixing the two until it is all melted. And then you keep stirring until the color is a dark copper and little bubbles are popping on the surface. It doesn’t take long in the grand scheme of things, but patience is required for this step.

Three more steps make the salty caramel ice cream exceptional. One is that you continue to make the caramel by pouring in not just cream but a mixture of cream and corn syrup. Then you thicken the base slightly with a slurry of milk and cornstarch.

The third is whisking the still-hot base into a small amount of cream cheese and salt before freezing it.

The result is out of this world: rich, creamy and velvety, with an impeccable balance of caramel and salt.

The secret to lemon lotus ice cream is that the almost effervescently light ice cream is counterbalanced by pieces of flavorful lemon peel. The peel is sliced thin so it is perfectly edible — think of it as being like large pieces of zest — and it adds just the right touch of bitterness to the dessert.

The superb Italian chocolate ice cream is more of a gelato than an ice cream. Its secret is the six egg yolks and the stick of butter that go into the mixture, making the end product almost ridiculously smooth and rich.

Other ingredients also make it outstanding such as two types of chocolate, semisweet and unsweetened. Coffee generates low bass notes to complement the sweeter highs. Three different forms of dairy — whipping cream, light cream and condensed milk — add to the intrigue. A hit of dark rum and a splash of creme de cacao add allure and help to keep it soft and creamy.

MAGIC VANILLA ICE CREAM

Yield: 1 quart

1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk

1 ounce white chocolate chips

1/4 cup sour cream

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Pinch of salt

1 1/4 cups heavy cream, chilled

1. Microwave sweetened condensed milk and white chocolate in large bowl until chocolate melts, stirring halfway, about 30 seconds. Let cool. Stir in sour cream, vanilla and salt.

2. Using stand mixer fitted with whisk, whip cream on medium-speed to soft peaks. Whisk 1/3 of whipped cream into white chocolate mixture. Fold remaining whipped cream into mixture until incorporated.

3. Place in an airtight container and freeze until firm, at least 6 hours or up to 2 weeks.

Per serving (based on 8): 226 calories; 18 g fat; 11 g saturated fat; 54 mg cholesterol; 3 g protein; 14 g carbohydrate; 14 g sugar; no fiber; 331 mg sodium; 94 mg calcium

Recipe from “Kitchen Hacks,” by Cook’s Illustrated

SALTY CARAMEL ICE CREAM

Yield: 1 quart (or a little less)

2 cups whole milk, divided

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch

1 1/2 ounces (3 tablespoons) cream cheese, softened

1/2 teaspoon plus 3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt, see note

1 1/4 cups heavy cream

2 tablespoons light corn syrup

2/3 cup plus 2 teaspoons granulated sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Note: The total of 11/4 teaspoons of salt makes for a fairly salty ice cream. It’s supposed to be salty, but if you want it to be less assertive you can add less than 3/4 teaspoon in step 5.

1. Mix 2 tablespoons of the milk with the cornstarch in a small bowl to make a smooth slurry. Whisk the cream cheese and salt in a medium bowl until smooth. Mix the cream with the corn syrup in a measuring cup with a spout. Fill a large bowl with ice and water.

2. Heat the 2/3 cup of sugar in a 4-quart saucepan over medium heat. Stand over the pan with a heatproof spatula ready, but do not touch the sugar until there is a thin ring of melted and browning liquid sugar around the edge of the sugar. When the edges of the melted sugar begin to darken, use the spatula to bring them into the center to help melt the unmelted sugar. Continue stirring and pushing the sugar around until it is all melted and evenly amber in color, like an old penny.

3. When little bubbles begin to explode, give the sugar another moment and then remove from the heat. Immediately, but slowly, pour about 1/4 cup of the cream and corn syrup mixture into the burning hot sugar. Be careful — it will pop and spit. Stir until it is incorporated, then add a bit more cream and stir, then continue until it is all in. Do not worry if the melted sugar seizes and solidifies.

4. Return the pan to medium-high heat and add the rest of the milk and vanilla. Bring to a rolling boil and boil for 4 minutes. Remove from the heat, give the cornstarch slurry a quick stir, and gradually whisk in the slurry.

5. Bring back to a boil over medium-high heat and cook, stirring with a heatproof spatula, until slightly thickened, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat. If any caramel flecks remain, pour the mixture through a sieve. Add the remaining 3/4 teaspoon salt and the remaining 2 teaspoons sugar.

6. Gradually whisk the hot milk mixture into the cream cheese until smooth. Pour the mixture into a 1-gallon resealable plastic bag and submerge the sealed bag in the ice bath. Let stand, adding more ice as necessary, until cold, about 30 minutes.

7. Pour into ice cream-maker canister and freeze according to product instructions. Pack the ice cream into a storage container, press a sheet of parchment directly against the surface, and seal with an airtight lid. Freeze in the coldest part of your freezer until firm, at least 4 hours.

Per serving: 275 calories; 18 g fat; 11 g saturated fat; 65 mg cholesterol; 3 g protein; 27 g carbohydrate; 24 g sugar; no fiber; 205 mg sodium; 100 mg calcium.

Recipe from “Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home,” by Jeni Britton Bauer.

LEMON LOTUS ICE CREAM

Yield: 12 servings

4 lemons, divided

2 cups granulated sugar

1 quart (4 cups) half-and-half

2 cups milk, see note

Note: For richer ice cream, use all half-and-half instead of milk, for a total of 6 cups of half-and half. (Also, this recipe can easily be cut in half.)

1. Trim off and discard the ends of 1 lemon. Cut the lemon into thin slices. Remove the seeds from the slices and cut the slices in half.

2. Squeeze the remaining 3 lemons and combine the juice with the sugar in a mixing bowl. Add the lemon slices and refrigerate, preferably overnight. Stir until all the sugar is dissolved.

3. Combine the half-and-half and milk (if using) in the canister of an ice cream freezer (you may have to do this in batches). Chill thoroughly, preferably in the freezer, for 10 to 20 minutes. Do no allow the mixture to freeze. Skip this step if your ice cream maker has a canister with a liquid interior that freezes in the freezer.

4. Add the lemon and sugar mixture to the ice cream mixture and install the canister in the ice cream freezer. Freeze according the manufacturer’s instructions. Place ice cream in an airtight container and freeze in your freezer at least 4 hours before serving.

Per serving: 200 calories; 2 g fat; 1 g saturated fat; 8 mg cholesterol; 3 g protein; 43 g carbohydrate; 39 g sugar; 1 g fiber; 95 mg sodium; 123 mg calcium

Adapted from “The New New York Times Cook Book,” by Craig Claiborne and Pierre Franey

SUPERB ITALIAN CHOCOLATE ICE CREAM

Yield: 2 1/2 quarts

6 ounces unsweetened chocolate, broken into pieces

2 (14-ounce) cans sweetened condensed milk

1 tablespoon vanilla

1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces

6 egg yolks

4 ounces semisweet chocolate

1 cup strong black coffee

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

1 cup light cream, see note

1/2 cup dark rum

1/2 cup crème de cacao

4 cups whipping cream

2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, grated

1/2 teaspoon salt

Note: If you can’t find light cream, you can make it yourself by mixing 1/2 cup whipping cream and 1/2 cup half-and-half.

1. Melt 6 ounces broken unsweetened chocolate in the top of a double boiler over hot water. Add the milk, stirring until smooth. Stir in the vanilla. Remove from heat. Add the butter, one piece at a time, stirring until all butter has been absorbed. If the butter does not melt, return pan to medium-low or medium heat before stirring and adding more butter.

2. Beat the yolks in a medium bowl until light and lemony colored. Gradually stir in the chocolate mixture; stir until smooth and creamy.

3. Heat the the semisweet chocolate, coffee, sugar and light cream in the top of a double boiler over hot water, stirring constantly, until chocolate and sugar melt. Stir in the rum and crème de cacao. Cool to room temperature.

4. Combine the two chocolate mixtures, the whipping cream, the finely grated unsweetened chocolate and the salt. Pour into the canister of an ice cream maker (you may have to do this in batches); freeze according to manufacturer’s directions. It will not freeze as firmly as other ice creams. Place in airtight container and freeze in freezer at least 4 hours until relatively firm.

Per serving (based on 20): 597 calories; 38 g fat; 23 g saturated fat; 147 mg cholesterol; 9 g protein; 58 g carbohydrate; 54 g sugar; 1 g fiber; 153 mg sodium; 210 mg calcium

Adapted from “Bert Greene’s Kitchen Bouquets,” by Bert Greene

Copyright 2019 Tribune Content Agency.

Copyright 2019 Tribune Content Agency.

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