Ice Cream for Hackers

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You know how you go into Williams Sonoma and see the perfect gadget for every kitchen scenario? If I just bought this boiled egg slicer, you think, my lunches would be perfectly elegant, and my life would be infinitely better. What you don’t think about is how one organizes all those things — outside a dedicated retail display — nor the perennial question: is my cooking life improved more by a collection of perfect tools or by the organizational simplicity of a multi-tasking kitchen?

A couple years ago, I borrowed my grandmother’s ice cream maker. It had been living in a cabinet for some time, and I thought it deserved liberation. The thing was compact, as small kitchen appliances go, but it took up space in both the cabinet and the freezer. Those are hints of high-maintenance already, but I’ll put up with a lot for great ice cream.

On our first attempt, the ice cream never really froze. This worked out fine, since we’d made a mudslide-inspired flavor. Still, I don’t need large equipment to make slushy shots. On take two I chilled the ice cream bucket for a solid 24 hours before ice cream prep, and it still didn’t freeze. I’ll put up with a lot, but not a wasted ice cream base. At that point, I called uncle.

But the question remained: What’s a girl to do when she wants quality ice cream outside the Ben & Jerry’s flavor spectrum?

Nigella Lawson had the answer. Her magical formula needs just two key ingredients: condensed milk and heavy cream. After that, it’s mostly a matter of elbow grease and a standard household freezer. Her recipe calls for coffee flavoring, and I think that’s how we made it initially. Lawson offers coffee flavoring alternatives, but cautions, “This works so perfectly for me that I have no desire to meddle.”

H and I, however, can’t resist a good meddle. After all, the whole point of a home ice cream base is to experiment with new flavors (cardamom and black pepper being our most exotic to date). But this month we had girl scout cookies on hand, and the only thing better than a samoa is samoa ice cream.

To make it, we used Nigella’s base formula of two parts cream to 1 part condensed milk. We also use about ¼ teaspoon of vanilla per batch as our standard. We doubled the recipe, crumbled up a box of samoas — minus a few tasting casualties — in our hot little hands, and mixed it all together. Then we layered it in mason jars with swirls of caramel sauce in a procedure that’s roughly one regular spoonful of caramel sauce atop every one or two serving spoonfuls of ice cream. Freeze overnight and enjoy at will. Personally, I think ice cream tastes best straight from the jar while curled up on the couch, but use your best judgment.

Happy weekend!

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