In spite of my questionable culinary skills, I absolutely adore kitchen gadgets. I could peruse the floor-to-ceiling displays of gadgetry at Bed, Bath, and Beyond for hours. The myriad of options to choose from for can openers, garlic presses, and spatulas makes me giddy. It’s too bad that I don’t like shrimp, because now I have no excuse for buying a shrimp cleaner. And, unfortunately, I avoid doing dishes at all costs, or else I would have purchased one of those soap squirting dish wands long ago.
In my last post about my amazing lemon ice cream, I forgot to tell you about one of my most important gadgets—the Zak Designs Ice Cream Tub. Chester got these for me as a Christmas gift this past year, and I love them.
What’s so special about this container, you ask? Why don’t I just use one of the 50 Rubbermaid or Chinese take-out containers that always fall on my head, every time I open the cabinet near the microwave? (I swear that containers are like rabbits. Every time I throw one out, 20 more take its place).
No, I can’t.
I went that route when I first started making ice cream, but they didn’t really do the job. They don’t have an airtight enough seal—the ice cream either never froze all the way and/or ice crystals would form on top of it, even when I covered the top of the ice cream with plastic wrap. Plus, they just didn’t look pretty when I took them out of the freezer to serve guests.
The Zak containers seem to be solution to both of these issues. I have three of these pint-size ice cream tubs, and two of them are sufficient for storing the amount of ice cream produced by my Cusinart. The containers have a foam insulated core and a freezable gel lid that acts like an ice pack to keep ice cream cold for over an hour out of the freezer.
- They have a pretty airtight seal, which keeps the ice cream from getting those gross crystals and helps it stay fresh longer.
- They are multipurpose. A few of the reviews on Amazon.com suggest that you can freeze the gel lid in advance of a supermarket trip and use the container to transport pints of ice cream home. Or, you can fill it with other food items that need to be kept cold (like potato salad) during transport.
- The ice cream is easy to scoop out. Just let the container sit out at room temperature for about 10 minutes or so.
- They come in fun colors. I also have a blue one, in addition to the orange and green ones in my photo above.
- They are dishwasher safe.
- They are reusable. Yay for environmental sustainability!
- Because they are so well insulated, the ice cream takes awhile to become completely frozen. So, you may want to make your ice cream a day in advance, to give it time to set.
- They have a pretty airtight seal. I know, I said that was a pro, right? But, the lid is extremely difficult to remove, once frozen. There’s this little indented spoon thing at the top that seems like it should be a handle, but doesn’t really work for opening the darn thing. My solution: don’t fill it to the brim and don’t put the lid on super tight. I still cover the top of the ice cream with plastic wrap to safeguard against ice crystals forming—this is probably not necessary, but makes me feel better about it. If you forget this part, you end up trying to get pry the thing off with a knife or running it under hot water, cursing the entire time.
The containers sell for about $12 or so, but I think they are worth the investment, especially if you plan to become a homemade ice cream making queen or king. Which, we all know, I am.
Last week, I made my baby brother a batch of strawberry ice cream for his birthday. He actually sent me a two line text message telling me how delicious it was. He hardly ever texts me, and when he does, I’m lucky if I get a two syllable word. So, I should probably put this recipe in the definitely make again category, as a result of that rousing endorsement.
When I made this, Chester was sleeping, and I was too lazy to take any photos of the process or the finished product, but here’s the recipe I used anyway. It’s kind of a hybrid of a recipe from Epicurious and the booklet that came with my ice cream maker. There are a few recipes that I came across that simply called for tossing sliced strawberries into the ice cream maker about five minutes before it was done freezing, and I almost went with one of these because I was kind of pressed for time the day I made the ice cream. But I think taking the extra two hours to let them macerate in lemon juice and sugar before using them was worth it—it gave the ice cream a more concentrated flavor and a pleasingly pink color.
Baby Brother’s Strawberry Ice Cream
- 3 ½ cups heavy cream
- Fresh lemon zest (I use a heaping teaspoon)
- Pinch of salt
- 2 eggs
- ¾ cup of sugar
- 1 lb strawberries
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Combine cream, zest, vanilla, and salt in a heavy saucepan and bring just to a boil. Remove from heat.
- Whisk eggs with 1/2 cup sugar in a bowl, then add hot cream in a slow stream, whisking. Pour back into saucepan and cook over moderately low heat, stirring constantly, until slightly thickened.
- Immediately pour custard through a fine sieve into a bowl, then cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally. Chill, covered, at least until cold, about 2 hours.
- Cut the strawberries into quarters. In a small bowl, combine the strawberries with the lemon juice and 1/2 cup of the sugar. Allow strawberries to macerate in the juices for 2 hours (I covered the bowl in plastic wrap and had them chill out in the fridge). Strain the berries, reserving juices. Mash half the berries with fork (you could also puree in a blender, but this just makes extra dishes). Keep the other half as is, for later.
- When custard is chilled, pour reserved strawberry juice and mashed berries into the custard. Stir. Pour into freezer bowl of ice cream maker and allow to chill for about 30 minutes. Five minutes before the end of the cycle, add the other half of the (non-mashed) berries and let mix in completely.
- Transfer ice cream to containers, and allow to set in freezer for at least two hours.
So, this concludes my second consecutive post about ice cream. The past couple of weeks have been pretty busy and I’m hoping to squeeze in some more posts about real food and restaurants soon. Ice cream has been about all I’ve been able to manage lately.