Ice cream is especially important right now when we are finally getting back to the UK summers I remember from when I first returned to England ten years ago. Thankfully I received an invitation from Great British Chefs to join them at an event with Häagen Dazs last Monday where I was promised to be shown the “secrets to real ice cream”. I took that to mean there’d be samples too. Thankfully, that was true. Thought first – and even more happily – there were cocktails. This was a Strawberry Rossini. But unlike their ice cream, this prosecco was combined with a strawberry liqueur. It did come with a real strawberry though.
I remember my shock finding out – some years ago now – that Häagen Dazs was not actually a European company, but an American one, where the founders chose a foreign name to give the impression it had a more authentic history. At the time I was appalled and I’m sure my estimation of the “realness” of their ice cream went down, but now… well, choosing a name is hard and anything is fair game. Godiva is hardly a Belgian name so why should I criticise Americans doing the same in reverse?
Cake is my Achilles heel. Ice cream I can usually pass up. Unless it is the incredible Gelupo or La Gelatiera. My mum makes pretty spectacular ice cream too. OK, so I do like good ice cream. In my snobbery I had assumed that Häagen Dazs was also full of unnecessary fillers like most of the ice cream brands that have been around for more than ten years. Maybe if ice cream was something I ever bought for myself from a supermarket I might have bothered to find out. Regardless, I was intrigued about their #realornothing campaign and especially so when I received this invitation to a Häagen Dazs event where they promised to prove how their ice cream was all natural, made only with real ingredients.
The team had rented a beautiful apartment by Waterloo and taken it over – there were empty pints of Häagen Dazs everywhere and fake grass on the terrace which, after being lead up there initially, was hard to be drawn away from into the hot kitchen. After watching the process of vanilla ice cream being made – in Blue Peter-style stages, of course, where we sampled the ice cream pre-freeze, like a hug of thin, warm custard – we were then guided by one of the company’s product developers through a taste analysis of four ice creams. They were all vanilla and the last was disgusting. It was clearly included to show the difference between real ice cream and the watered-down then gummed up and aerated version found in most supermarkets. Although they wouldn’t reveal to us the brands except which was Häagen Dazs. The Häagen Dazs Vanilla is a little too strong in vanilla for my personal preference but it’s impressive the recipe hasn’t changed for the last 53 years and as the next stage of our ice cream adventure was to taste through the range of eight ice creams I found plenty to like Especially the Macadamia Nut Brittle. And the Salted Caramel. And the Mint Leaves and Chocolate. And the Strawberries and Cream. OK, I liked them all. They sent us home with some beautiful Clarence Court Eggs, vanilla pods and caster sugar. Just need cream and milk and I’m ready to make my own version of Häagen Dazs. Or I could just go and buy some…
#realornothing is definitely how food should be. It’s my unofficial rule to (almost!) everything I eat and along with rarely drinking anything other than water and herbal teas I think it’s the biggest factor in me staying pretty much the same dress size for the past nine years of running Chocolate Ecstasy Tours.
If you do want to make ice cream at home, here’s some tips I picked up from our demonstration and the official Häagen Dazs recipe below:
- dehydrate the used vanilla pods and place in sugar to make lovely vanilla-scented sugar
- mix sugar with the eggs at the last possible minute or else it starts to “cure” (cook) the eggs
- stir through the warmed cream and don’t overbeat
- get an LED thermometer – £10 online to keep an eye temperature
600ml double cream
200ml whole milk
2 vanilla pods
6 egg yolks
150g vanilla infused caster sugar
Pour the double cream and milk into a saucepan.
Split the vanilla pods lengthways and scrape the seeds out using the back of your knife and add to the pan with the milk/cream and the scraped pods.
On a medium heat warm until nearly biling point then turn off the heat and allow to infuse for a minimum of 30 minutes. The longer you leave, the more the vanilla infuses.
When infused, reheat to a simmer.
In a mixing bowl whick the egg yolks and sugar together until light and fluffy.
Slowly whisk the infused cream into the bowl with the eggs and sugar. You must keep whisking otherwise you may end up with scrambled eggs.
Pour back into the saucepan and cook – stirring constantly – until it reaches 80C then remove from the heat. Strain the mixture through a fine sieve so it catches the pods/seeds into a new saucepan.
Allow to cool to room temperature.
Once cooled add to your ice cream maker and churn for 35-40 minutes until it reaches ice cream consistency. Serve straight away.
If you don’t have an ice cream maker you can always freeze it in a container in your freezer and after the first 20 minutes give it a good mix. Depending on your mix and the freezer you might have to do this once or twice more, but if you haven’t overbeaten the mixture there’s a good chance you won’t get too many ice crystals.
For extra deliciousness warm some more cream, with a dash of milk and some good quality dark chocolate to pour over the top. Or melt chocolate alone (in the microwave or in a bowl above simmering water) and then it will freeze hard as you pour it over your ice cream.