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Before I was lucky enough to find a second-hand copy of this book, I had made quite a few ice creams but not 100% successfully. They tasted fine but I struggled to get a really good smooth and creamy texture. I knew that an ice cream maker would probably solve some of my problems but I didn't really want to squeeze another gadget into my small kitchen if I didn't have to. So one of the reasons I was attracted to this book was the fact it appeared to contain a lengthy "how-to-make" section as well as recipes. Just what I needed to solve my problems!
GENERAL INFORMATION INCLUDED
The first few pages of the book detail the history of ice cream making. They are charmingly illustrated with old photographs and pictures of 1950's ice cream parlours, Edwardian street sellers and the like. I enjoyed reading this as learning about the terrific efforts our ancestors went to to obtain and store ice certainly made me appreciate my freezer.
Following the history section, comes the beginners guide to ice cream making that I was so keen to read. The first time I read this part I was struck by how it seemed that the authors had given real thought to the sort of information that real cooks want to know. For example, they tell you how to store and make use of the egg whites that are often left over having used the yolks in the ice cream. They also tell you how to double the recipe if you need to, what types of milk you can use if you have run out of the one recommended in the recipe and many other details that are so useful to know.
As well as miscellaneous general information, this part of the book gives a step
by step illustrated guide to making the main types of basic ice cream. At first I thought that the recipes that followed would simply be suggestions for flavouring this basic recipe. That is not the case. Instead, these easy starter recipes are suggested as ones that once mastered will give you the essential skills to tackle the trickier ones later in the book. I found the level of detail in these instructions very reassuring. Most importantly, they helped me to identify what I had done wrong previously. This mainly involved not beating my ice cream enough or at the right times. I also picked up tips that ensured I didn't over cook those ice creams that are custard based. This is the sort of precise information that is lacking in many of my general cookbooks that include ice cream recipes. Although I was mainly interested at making ice cream by hand, there is also information on choosing and using ice cream making machines, which will be more useful to me should I decide on making a purchase after all. Furthermore, all the recipes are written so they can be followed by those using the makers as well as those who are not.
Lastly there is an extensive section on making traditional accompaniments such as sauces and sweet biscuits, as well as information on presenting your creations attractively. Some of these ideas are really simple- such as decorating the edges of ready made ice cream cones with melted chocolate and toasted nuts. Others are more time consuming such as making bowls of ice or chocolate leaves. I like the fact that there is a range of ideas to suit how much time you have. My favourite idea here is a method of creating a sweet looking chocolate nest for serving a sorbet etc in. It is created using circles of melted chocolate left to dry on baking parchment draped over an upside down tumbler. The baskets seemed fiddly to make at first but once I had made a few I was able to speed up and get a production line going!
RANGE OF RECIPES INCLUDED
If you are already a confident ice cream maker, I suspect this book would still be worth buying because of the excellent range of recipes included. [150 plus.] Sorbets, parfaits, traditional ices, iced desserts, granitas and ice lollies are all there. [If like me you are not too sure of the difference between all the types of ices, you will be pleased to know that this book has an helpful glossary explaining all.] A particular pleasure is the number of suggestions for interesting flavour combinations, based around chocolate, fruit, nuts, even herbs. This is one of the reasons I first wanted to make my own ice cream - to taste flavours that couldn't be bought in the shops. It is hard to pick some favourites from amongst the shamefully large number I have tried! I think the most popular with my family were a coffee-toffee swirl and a peach and cardamon ice. The last is one of several recipes that are yoghurt based which helps to keep the fat content lower. There is in fact a good range of low fat ideas, others based around coconult milk for example. I don't think you can tell that these are the healthy option, they have great flavour and are delicously smooth.
ARE THE RECIPES EASY TO FOLLOW?
I think the authors have done a good job of providing detailed instructions without the information becoming overwhelming. You can guarantee that any technique used in a recipe will be carefully described in the front section, from toasting nuts to making meringue pieces.The book feels self contained for this reason. The recipes themselves are well organised in easy steps arranged over 2 or 3 columns. Photos illustrate points in the preparation method as well as giving you a lovely picture of the finished article. I found every one to be easy to follow and reliable. The only difficulties I have experienced are more to do with the process of ice cream making itself than the information given, such as remembering to beat the ice cream and the necessity of carefully watching the custard bases. I feel that the authors have made the process as simple as can be.
WOULD I RECOMMEND THIS BOOK?
As you can probably tell, I think this is a great book. I have been able to use the guidelines here to tackle ice cream recipes in other books with much more confidence. The range of flavour and decoration ideas has been a real source of inspiration too. If they had been boring I would have been less motivated to make use of this book. I would recommend the book for both experienced and beginner makers as I think there is inspiration for the former and excellent instructions for the latter. In conclusion, I would happily have paid full price for this had I not been fortunate enough to find a used copy.
ISBN 184 309 4908 Cover Price: £11.99. Available for £10.79 on Amazon for a new copy and as little as 1p for a used one, plus P&P. Paperback, A4 size but wider. Published by Select Editions/ Anness Publishing, 2002.
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