We're just a couple of days away from the start of summer, but it already feels like the season is here. The weather has warmed up. My sons have finished their school year--one of them even just graduated from high school! And soon we'll be getting away for some vacation time.
We all dream about summer vacation. But there has always been one treat that, ever since I was a young boy myself growing up in Austria, made me feel like I was on vacation whenever and wherever I ate it: ice cream. One lick, and I felt like I was miles away from my everyday world, enjoying the good life.
When you make your own ice cream, there's no doubt about what you're eating. Classic versions are based on just a few simple ingredients: cream, of course; milk, because ice creams made with cream alone would be just too rich; egg yolks, which thicken the base mixture of what used to be called "frozen custard," adding distinctive flavor and subtle golden color; some sort of sweetener; and flavors or mix-ins of choice.
As for the flavor, I often choose chocolate, one of my all-time favorite sweets in any form. And I'll make my ice cream good and chocolaty--in fact, I use so much in my Milk Chocolate Malt Ice Cream that I don't even include any extra sugar to sweeten the mixture. But I do add something that gives the ice cream an extra dimension of flavor--malt powder, usually made from a combination of wheat and malted barley, which contributes a wonderfully full, toasty flavor that complements that of the chocolate and makes many people who taste the results think of the old corner soda fountains or malt shops of their childhoods.
It's the feeling of returning to childhood, I think, that makes ice cream so appealing to just about everybody. Whether you enjoy this recipe on its own in a bowl or cone; sandwiched between two big cookies; drizzled with chocolate sauce or topped with a dollop of whipped cream; or elaborated with toasted nuts or candy sprinkles or anything else you might care to add, it will help make you feel like the pleasures of a long, happy summer are stretching out in front of you.
MILK CHOCOLATE MALT ICE CREAM
Makes about 1-1/2 quarts
2 cups milk
2 cups heavy cream
8 large cage-free egg yolks
10 ounces organic milk chocolate, broken or cut into small chunks, or milk chocolate chips
1/2 cup malt powder, such as Horlick's brand
In a large, heavy saucepan, combine the milk and cream. Place the pan over medium heat and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.
Meanwhile, put the egg yolks in a large stainless-steel mixing bowl. With a wire whisk, beat the egg yolks just until smooth.
When the milk reaches a boil, remove it from the heat. While whisking the yolks continuously, slowly and carefully drizzle in the hot milk.
When all the milk has been incorporated into the yolks, pour the mixture into the saucepan. Place the pan over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon and taking care to scrape the bottom and sides of the pan, until the mixture has thickened enough to coat the back of the spoon, 7 to 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, bring about 2 inches of water to a boil in the bottom pan of a double boiler or in a small saucepan. Reduce the heat to maintain a bare simmer. Put the chocolate in the top half of the double boiler or in a small stainless-steel bowl resting on the rim of the pan without its bottom touching the water. When the chocolate has melted, whisk it into the hot milk mixture.
With a ladle, transfer 1 cup of the hot milk mixture to a small bowl. Add the malt powder and stir until it has dissolved completely, then pour back into the saucepan and stir thoroughly.
Pour the mixture through a fine-meshed strainer into a clean, large mixing bowl. Set the bowl inside another bowl half-filled with ice cubes and water. Stir occasionally until the mixture has cooled.
Transfer the mixture to an ice-cream maker and freeze, following the manufacturer's instructions. Serve immediately. Or transfer to a covered container and store in the freezer, transferring the ice cream to the refrigerator about 15 minutes before serving to soften it for scooping.