ICE CREAM has come a long way since Congress put an end to Prohibition 50 years ago this December. You might say it's grown up, or at least become a grown-ups' dessert when loaded with orange brandy, framboise, armagnac or full-bodied red wines, to name a few.
It wasn't until some 20 years after the 1933 repeal of one of the Constitution's most unpopular amendments that testers in Manhattan's Shrafft's Ice Cream Co., put liquor-flavored ice creams on the map. They poured liquor directly into their ice cream mixtures and came up with two new flavors to sell in their restaurant chain: Black Cherry Rum and Coffee Brandy.
"Our restaurants always appealed to a very sophisticated clientele and liquor ice creams were just part of a repertoire of ice creams we sold," says Schrafft's president John LeSauvage. While Schrafft's restaurants have almost disappeared, the company's ice creams have hung on. Manufacturers everywhere are following suit and moving into this rapidly growing market. Variety is unlimited. Just when you thought you'd tasted it all--delicate champagne sorbets or strawberry-cointreau combinations--someone comes up with a new flavor like Rum and Coke or Gin and Tonic.
"If you look at patterns, you'll see that liquor flavors are really popular in this country right now," LeSauvage says, "so it only stands to reason that liquor ice creams would be very chic now too. The population is looking for something different," he concludes.
Five weeks ago Godiva Chocolatiers entered the scene, releasing six new ice creams through Godiva boutiques in New York and Washington, Macy's department stores and various New York restaurants. An estimated 1,500 pints sold in the first week, says Roberta Karlin, a publicist for the com- pany. Its two liqueur ice creams are among its most popular sellers. New York's favorite is French Vanilla with Amaretto; Washington prefers Chocolate Grand Marnier.
"I would say half of our ice cream sales are liqueur ice creams," says Washington Godiva boutique manager Mark Sieber, adding that he is unable to give exact figures because the product is still being test-marketed and the company doesn't want to release early figures. "People in Washington were asking for the ice cream three weeks before it got here, after hearing about it in New York."
And if that's not enough, there are three ice cream happy hours on Friday afternoons in Washington at the Inside Scoop on 19th St., The Ice Cream Lobby on Pennsylvania Avenue and LeSouperb on Connecticut Avenue. Between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m., customers choose from a variety of liqueur ice creams and get two scoops for the price of one. Says Inside Scoop's co-owner, Andrew Shapiro, "It's our most popular feature. People are always calling to see what we have. Not everybody likes to drink, but they all like their ice cream."
For those who like eating ice cream and making it too, there is good news: Liqueur ice cream is simple to make. In addition to having an ice cream freezer, you must bear in mind two additional rules of thumb: If you heat the ice cream mixture, don't add the liqueur until the mixture has cooled or you'll evaporate the alcohol; and use the best quality liqueur you can afford. In ice cream you can taste the difference.
Ice cream has three basic ingredients: cream, sweeteners and flavorings. Choose the cream according to the density you like. Heavy whipping cream is about 35 percent butterfat and will make a denser ice cream than will light cream, which is about 20 percent butterfat, or half-and-half, which is about 12 percent butterfat. You can taste artificial sweeteners and flavorings in ice cream, so be sure to use only granulated sugar and no artificial flavorings.
In addition, many recipes call for eggs, which add richness and flavor. Still others call for gelatins which act as stabilizers to prolong the ice cream's life. In ice creams where you heat the mixture before churning, add sugar just before the mixture has completely cooled to help it dissolve.
What gives ice cream its good texture is the high density of butterfat in the cream, Shapiro says. But, as butterfat tends to drown out the flavors in ice cream, be heavy-handed with the liqueur when using heavy cream instead of half-and-half or milk.
When the ice cream mixture is ready and in the canister, first place it in the outer tub, then if using an electric machine, turn the churn on before adding the ice. Otherwise you might find later that a piece of ice is stuck, the canister is not free to move, and you have to dump out the ice and start over. If cranking by hand, however, you should pack the ice before churning.
Put a 2-inch layer of ice in the bottom of the churn and then spread a quarter-inch layer of rock salt on top of it. Salt lowers the freezing point of ice and turns it into water. The melting process uses energy, thus absorbs heat from the ice cream, lowering its temperature towards freezing. Repeat the packing procedure--salt between ice layers--until you have come 1 1/2 inches below the top of the canister (don't fill to the top, as the brine may leak in and will surely ruin the ice cream). Dribble in a half-cup of hot water to start the melting process. Churn until the motor stops (or until the hand crank is too hard to turn), adding ice and salt as needed to keep the level constant.
It's tempting to eat the ice cream as soon as the freezer stops, but for the best results let it harden in the churn for two or three hours before serving. To harden ice cream, remove the freezer, take the dasher (the piece that sits inside the can and agitates the ice cream) out and scrape the ice cream down. Plug the hole in the lid with its cork and replace it on the canister. Pile ice and salt on top.
Contrary to popular belief, homemade ice cream deteriorates rapidly, and has passed its peak within two weeks. It will also pick up strong odors in your freezer, so cover it tightly when storing. Do not refreeze ice cream once you have softened it. Hard crystals will form and you will have lumpy ice cream.
"Don't be afraid to experiment," advises Shapiro. Things you would never guess would go together will in ice cream. Then again, he adds, use your common sense; things you like together naturally will probably work in ice cream combinations. Shapiro says he spends as much time mixing up his standard favorites, such as Irish Cream, Amaretto and Chocolate and Rum Raisin, as he does inventing new combinations, like Double-Stuffed Oreo Cookies and Kahlua, and Melon Ball Cocktail.
Here are some recipes to get you started. The pear-Chambord is light and delicate. The coconut rum is particularly rich with the addition of coconut cream, and the flavor is intensified by coconut flakes. Chocolate buffs will find good news in the chocolate-rich Grand Marnier. Red wine sherbet is here as much for technique as for its delicate pink beauty. Be sure to use a good red wine for this one, because the flavor comes through with a bang. Prunes with armagnac is a sophisticated dessert which goes well with cigars and a light summer rain. PEAR-CHAMBORD ICE CREAM (Makes about 2 quarts) 4 fresh pears, peeled and cored 2 tablespoons lemon juice 1/4 cup chopped crystallized ginger 3/4 cup sugar 2 cups milk 1 cup whipping cream 1/4 cup Chambord liqueur
Pure'e pears with lemon juice in a blender or food processor. While processing, add ginger. Remove to large bowl and add sugar, stirring until well mixed. Add milk, whipping cream and Chambord. Chill in ice cream canister and process. COCONUT RUM ICE CREAM (Makes about 2 quarts) 1 quart half-and-half 1 cup chopped coconut 1 1/2 cups sweetened coconut cream 1/3 cup rum Toasted macadamia nuts for serving
Heat half-and-half to scalding (until tiny bubbles form along the edges of the pan and a skin has formed on top). Cool and pure'e with 1/2 cup coconut in a blender or food processor. Stir in remaining 1/2 cup coconut. When mixture cools to room temperature, add coconut cream and rum. Chill in ice cream canister and process.
Serve topped with toasted macadamia nuts. CHOCOLATE GRAND MARNIER ICE CREAM (Makes about 2 quarts) 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate 2 cups heavy cream 2 cups milk 3/4 cup sugar Salt (to taste) Grated zest of 1 orange 2 teaspoons vanilla extract 6 tablespoons Grand Marnier
Melt chocolate in double boiler over boiling water, stirring occasionally until melted. Combine cream and milk, and stir enough into the chocolate to make a paste. Add remainder and heat to scalding. Remove from heat and strain out any lumps. Add sugar and a pinch of salt, stir to dissolve. Cool to room temperature and add orange zest, extract and Grand Marnier. Chill and process. ARMAGNAC AND PRUNE ICE CREAM (Makes about 2 quarts) 2/3 cup sugar 2/3 cup water 3 cups pitted prunes 8 egg yolks 1 1/3 cups sugar 4 cups half-and-half 2/3 cup armagnac (substitute cognac)
Put sugar, water and prunes in saucepan and bring to a boil. Turn off heat and set mixture aside until it cools to room temperature. Pure'e in blender or food processor. Beat egg yolks and sugar together until light lemon-colored, about 2 minutes. Bring milk to a boil and whisk into egg yolk mixture. Return to pan and place over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly, just until mixture coats the back of a wooden spoon, being careful not to let it come near a boil. Immediately dip pan in cold water to stop cooking. Let cool. Add prune pure'e and armagnac. Chill and process. (Adapted from "Leno tre's Ice Creams and Candies," by Gaston Leno tre) RED WINE SHERBET (Makes about 2 quarts) 2 cups good-quality medium-bodied red wine 3 1/4 cups water 2 1/4 cups sugar
Place all the ingredients in a chilled ice cream canister and stir to dissolve sugar. Chill and process. Or freeze into ice cubes and drop into a food processor with the motor turned on, processing until a fine powdery ice is formed.