Hello, My Name Is Ice Cream
The Art and Science of the Scoop
By Dana Cree
Suzy Chase: Welcome to the Cookery by the Book Podcast with me, Suzy Chase.
Dana Cree: My name is Dana Cree. I'm the Executive pastry chef for The Publican, and I just released my first cook book, Hello, My Name is Ice Cream.
Suzy Chase: You're a two-time James Beard nominated Pastry Chef at Publican Quality Meats in Chicago. What makes ice cream magical for you?
Dana Cree: Oh, how much time do you have? One of the things I love about ice cream most is that it's one of the food that we don't even remember having our first bite of. It's been with us for so long, and we eat at such a young age that it's always been there with us. There's so many foods that I make now that I discovered along my life like cream puffs or old-fashioned donuts, stuff like that. But for ice cream, it's just so ingrained than who we are as Americans and probably most of the world too. That seems very magical to me. But cooking wise, when I learned how to make ice cream in culinary school, it really seemed like a magic trick to me like, I don't even know if I realized that you could make ice cream. When they taught us how to stir milk and sugar and eggs together and thicken it and then pour this liquid into a machine and watch it ice cream come back out of it, it really just seemed like a magic trick.
Suzy Chase: I'm curious. What is ice cream college?
Dana Cree: Ice cream college is sort of a nickname that has been given to the Penn State Ice Cream Short Course. Pennsylvania State or Penn State has a dairy science program, and they've been running this ice cream short course for over a hundred years. It started as a extended education course for dairy farmers in the area during the winter season when their cows weren't milking. So they could come in and learn how to make a value added product for the milk that they were producing. Nowadays it's less dairy farmers and more people who work in the industry. There was a woman who's a food scientist for a chocolate company that wanted to add ice cream to their product line. There are people who work for the companies that manufacture the machines. There are people who work for the companies that make flavorings for ice cream. There were lots of people with food science degrees. A handful of people who own ice cream shops. A couple people who were just there for fun, which is a pretty intense course to take just for fun. And then there was me.
Suzy Chase: Is it more hands-on or more kind of book learning?
Dana Cree: It's a lot of book learning. We did have some labs. So we watched demos of a bunch of different machines churning and got a lot of equipment demos, but for the most part, it was all lectures. They don't teach you how to make ice cream there. They teach you how to manufacture ice cream.
Suzy Chase: So, the science behind ice cream is so interesting. Tell us about the five components of ice cream.
Dana Cree: So, the five components of ice cream are sort of these invisible ingredients that make up what ice cream is and it's sugar, fat, water or ice, protein, and air. These components all combine together to create the texture of ice cream. Each one of them plays a very structural part in helping sort of weave together the texture of ice cream, which is a liquid, a solid, and a gas all at the same time. Getting all three of those states of matter to stay put and in harmony requires an incredible amount of balance.
Suzy Chase: You wrote in the book about how various sugars change the texture. How many types of sugars are there?
Dana Cree: There's sucrose, which is the table sugar that we use. Which is a disaccharide, which means it is two sugar molecules bonded together with a hydrogen bond and those two molecules are glucose and fructose. Fructose is the sugars found in fruit. Honey and agave syrup are almost entirely made out of fructose, which is why they're so sweet and why they're so sticky. There's maltose, which we didn't really go over because it's not super relevant. Lactose is the sugar in milk.
Each of those sugars has a different perceived sweetness. So we consider table sugar to be 100 on the chart of perceived sweetness and that's just because it's the most familiar and sort of the standard that everybody relates other sugars to. Fructose is much, much sweeter than sucrose and then glucose is less sweet than sucrose.
As far as adding sugars to control the level of sweetness, that's one of the things that we do in the book, we call for glucose. There's no glucose in the aisle in your grocery store next to the corn syrup or honey. So, it's one of those ingredients that there are options you can use in the book if you can't find it, but if you do go out and find glucose, it will help you maintain a very pleasant level of sweetness on your ice creams.
The other thing glucose does when we add it to our ice creams is it's a monosaccharide, which means it is a single sugar rather than a double sugar bonded together. By weight, like if you just look at the same volume or weight of sugar, a disaccharide can bond with two water molecules but a monosaccharide there are twice as many monosaccharides because they're half the size within the same weight. So they can each bond with two water molecules as well, so a monosaccharide will bind twice as much water for the amount you put in there. So basically, whenever you see a ice cream suggest if you add corn syrup it'll make your ice cream less icy. Or if you add corn syrup it'll make your ice cream softer. Well, corn syrup, that we can buy on the shelves in our store, is all glucose. So basically, it binds with twice as much water, and therefore that water can't freeze when we churn our ice cream, and it keeps it just a touch softer.
Suzy Chase: How does the speed of churning make a difference?
Dana Cree: When we churn ice cream, we add air to it just like a whipping cream. So the faster the beater turns, the more air we whip into our ice cream, which makes it lighter and fluffier or denser and firmer depending on the faster or slower we go. There's really only one machine on the market that gives you any sort of option to change the speed on your ice cream maker, and that's the Kitchenaid Ice Cream Maker. Since you have control over the paddle, you can turn it up a little bit and make a lighter ice cream, or you can turn it down and make store ice creams. Otherwise, all home machines really move at a pretty slow pace.
Suzy Chase: I want to talk to you about the measuring terms in this cookbook. You use cups, spoons, grams, and percentages. Talk a little bit about that.
Dana Cree: One of the things that I introduced in the book is something that Michael Ruhlman wrote about a while ago and wrote a whole cookbook on that is so important to ice cream, and it's the ratio. Ice cream is so much about the way the ingredients interact with each other that I really wanted people to see exactly what that was. When you work with cups and spoons, it's very hard to conceptualize how the ingredients are interacting with each other because the volume measurements don't necessarily compare to each other very well. Like three egg yolks compared to 3/4 of a cup of sugar is really hard to conceptualize, but 75 grams compared to 200 grams it's very easy to see how those two things relate to each other and conceptualize that and even more so when we know that a batch of ice cream 100%. 10% to 25% is very, very easy to see.
Professionally, I use ratios and then I use grams defined by the ratios. I wanted to give people the option to use any measurement that was comfortable for them. When you work in grams, the measurements are so much smaller that you can add a layer of detail and nuance to your recipes that you can't with cups and spoons because when you are working with cups and spoons, you only have a few options 1/4 cup, 1/3 cup, 1/2 cup, 2/3 cup. These are very large increments.
The gram recipes and the cups and spoons aren't exact translations of each other. The cups and spoons are balanced within their own recipe, and the grams are balanced within their own recipe. They don't add up to exactly the same thing because when you see cookbooks with the exact translations, they end up making one of the disciplines too hard to use. So, you either have the grams are very balanced and then you have measurements like one cup minus a teaspoon minus a tablespoon, which just feels really clunky and irritating. So, we actually went ahead and tested all of the recipes in two different measurements to make sure that each of them worked for our readers depending on which style they felt more comfortable with.
Suzy Chase: Wow, that sounds laborious.
Dana Cree: Yes, this whole book was laborious in the most wonderful way.
Suzy Chase: Ice cream really became popular after refrigeration became common. Howard Johnson's had 28 flavors, then Baskin Robbins outdid them with 31 flavors, one for every day of the month, and now you've taken ice cream to the next level with hundreds of flavor profiles. One of them is haystack ice cream, talk a little bit about that.
Dana Cree: I spent a little bit of time in Denmark, and at the time they had started using hay as an ingredient. I had staged at Noma for a summer as an intern, and one of the dishes I saw them make was fresh strawberries with a chamomile broth, wild herbs, and hay ice cream. It was one of the most delicious things I'd ever tasted.
Suzy Chase: Really?
Dana Cree: Yes! The story behind it was incredible, of course, because with Noma it's about time and place. They had gone out to the strawberry field and picked strawberries, and they had seen wild chamomile growing within the fields, but between each of the rows of strawberries, it was packed with hay. I was like, "Oh! That's the straw in strawberries. It makes so much sense."
Suzy Chase: You're right! I've never thought of that.
Dana Cree: Yeah, so it's very common to pack hay in strawberry fields to keep the moisture.
Suzy Chase: Does the hay take on a strawberry kind of flavor at all?
Dana Cree: No. I've used a lot of different hays. If you think about hay is really not that much different than wheat, it's just a different part of the plant. So, it takes on these very, very grassy green tea notes but it also has a very toasty flavor like toasted wheat. Depending on the hay they can have so many other undertones to it. I made a hay ice cream at another restaurant in Denmark that had so many cinnamon notes to it people kept asking if I put cinnamon in it, but it was truly just the hay. We've since gotten oats at Publican that have the same quality. It's not easy to find, and it may be the least made recipe in the book, but I still just wanted to put it out there. If you can get your hands on some hay and I told everybody what I do, which is just go down to the farmer's market and harass everybody until someone agrees to bring me some. Usually, I can find by the third or fourth person that I ask. It's really delicious.
Suzy Chase: What equipment do home cooks need to use this book?
Dana Cree: Well, you do need an ice cream maker. That is the one make it or break it piece of equipment that you have to have. There are a lot of things online, and I've gotten a lot of questions about, "Well, how do you make ice cream if you don't have an ice cream maker?" I've seen all of the hacks and tried a few, but they're always going to give you kind of a hacked texture. If you're taking the time to make this ice cream base and put all this labor into it, you really just need to break down and get the machine and put it in the machine.
Honestly, they're not that expensive. I think the Cuisinart ones ring between $60 and $80 and then there are lower cost machines as well on the market. It's one of the more common things that you can find on Craigslist, and I have friends who share machines between each other sometimes as well.
So, the machine is really the one piece of equipment that you need to have, and there's a section on the machines that talk about what different machines are available. How each of them work, what I think is favorable about each different style, and then I sort of leave it up to the reader to make a choice for themselves. Even those hand crank ones with ice and salt are a really great option.
Other than that, you need a pot, you need a couple bowls, you need some ice, and a whisk, and a spatula. There's an optional step to strain your ice cream, which will give it a really, really smooth texture. But if you don't have a strainer and you don't want to wash it, you don't have to strain your ice cream. There are a lot of infusions to flavor the ice cream that need to be strained out, so if you do choose one of those flavors, you do need a strainer if going to get the tea back out of your chai tea frozen yogurt.
Suzy Chase: Where can we find you in Chicago and where can we find you on the web?
Dana Cree: In Chicago, I am lurking around any of the restaurants with the name Publican on it. So, Publican Quality Meats is our butcher shop/retail outlet/sandwich shop/pie shop with freezer cases of pints of ice cream and cookie cases that I fill every day. Across the street is The Publican restaurant. It's a big beer hall, and we have ice cream on that menu. Then we have Publican Anker in Wicker Park, and there's ice cream on that menu too.
Then on the web, I have www.hellomynameisicecream.com, and that website houses a little bit of information for the book right now, but it will live on to house reader submissions. So, there's a blog where readers can go and submit the flavors that they're creating with the book. You can post pictures and talk about if you took the coffee base and mixed it with the cookie and marshmallows or combined different things, or used the blank slate base to invent a different flavor. So, I just built a place where all of the readers could go and share what they were creating with the book. It was a little selfish on my part because I secretly just want to see what everybody's making.
Suzy Chase: Totally! That's great! Thanks for sharing the joy if ice cream and thanks for coming on Cookery by the Book Podcast.
Dana Cree: Well, thank you for having me.