Adventures in Ice Cream Making

by Em on January 9, 2013

 

 

Happy Monday!!

 

I’ve been meaning to write this post for forever so I’m just going to delve right in. It’s more of a personal post than a strictly food related one, so I hope you’ll forgive if it gets a bit rambly. As I may have told you, for the cooking course I was doing in the States I had to complete a number of externship hours working in various food related establishments. I also wanted to get as much experience as possible, so took on a couple of part time jobs in addition to my externships. In fact, for a while I thought I would definitely want to get into the food industry full time … but then I had a little life setback which sort of put a temporary rest to that idea. (I’ll explain more about that later!) This means that for the past three months I’ve been working all over the place – everywhere from a restaurant to an artisan ice cream maker to a relatively large scale bakery. It’s been pretty crazy – but also really fun – and this is the first time I’ve ever really collected my thoughts on all of it. Although some of it was REALLY challenging – turns out I’m REALLY slow at making candied peel – it was also amazing and I definitely learned so much. Given that my mind is like a sieve (fun youth?! Old age?!) its extremely lucky that I wrote down many of the lessons as I went along. I’m going to split up my summaries into a little series – and I’m going to start with my first work placement at a tiny artisan ice cream maker here in London.

(An ice cream maker who also happens to make the best ice cream in the UK. Smug much?)

 

 

Okay guys – you know me and ice cream, this was BY FAR my favourite job. For two weeks I worked with Kitty Travers, helping her to prep ingredients to make ice cream to via La Grotta Ices. Kitty also lectures on ice cream at various universities and designs a range of ice cream for a well known restaurant. Working with her was really a lesson in tiny artisan production – it is literally one incredible lady running the entire business and making ALL the ice cream. Kitty doesn’t use any machines – apart from to churn the ice cream – so much of the work is prepping the fruit and add-ins. (Kitty is famous for her fruit ice creams and once told me her inspiration was to create a means for people to get the incredible taste of fresh fruit, with the creamy texture and mouth feel of ice cream).

The difference in how this ice cream tastes to industrially produced ice cream is unreal. Like seriously. Its like comparing homemade loaf to wonder bread – only the best kind of home made because Kitty obviously knows her trade so unbelievably well. Not only that, but she also knows ice cream so well, she can afford to be adventurous with flavours. On the first day she offered me a taste of cucumber and sour cream sorbet – to which I gave a slightly alarmed ‘um OKAY SURE!’ response… and then ate probably the best sorbet of my life. It’s a testament to her experience with food that these experiments turn out well – when I later decided to add some black pepper to my white chocolate ice cream (made in my own home!) the results were not nearly as promising.

 

 

Working with Kitty was also wonderful because it was just so calm and peaceful. Basically it’s just her working away in a tiny little kitchen that was once a georgian green grocer in a picturesque part of London. She’s like the poster child for aritsan food production. Every day we would just put Radio 4 on, brew some coffee on the stove and get to work. The downside is – as I’m sure you can imagine – the production margins. Doing it all by hand, and yourself, using only the highest quality ingredients.. its not a strategy the modern world is sympathetic to. Kitty has supplemental income through her teaching, her ice cream design and other food projects she has going on (named as one of the ten best young chefs to look out for, she can certainly stay as busy as she needs to!). Kitty also works 12 hour days, many days of the week – and although it might not feel like work in the same way as being a customer services rep does, it still impedes on your free time. I think Kitty has intentions to open up a full time shop – currently she sells at food markets! – and I know then she will need to look at means of expansion. I’m sure she will find people to keep up her high standards, but it will definitely be a change (a good one though because more people need access to her ice cream!). I can see fully the value of the statement ‘if you want a job done properly, you have to do it yourself’. In any case though, it was an incredible experience and a valuable lesson in how food made by hand with love just does taste different. Anyone going anywhere NEAR London, must try La Grotta Ices!

 

Lessons Learned:

ALWAYS use the best quality ingredients you can afford: Anything that doesn’t taste good on it’s own, is unlikely to taste good as an ingredient. Kitty buys only the freshest, in season fruit and tastes it all before putting it into her ice cream. Likewise with using fresh, unhomogenised organic milk and cream! Obviously we can’t all afford these things all the time, but be aware that ice cream is one of those foods (unlike soup for example!) where each ingredient really shines through.

Full fat will ALWAYS taste better. You can make frozen yogurt with low or non fat yogurt – but try using full fat greek style and a decent amount of sweetener. The results will be exponentially better. Adding a bit of condensed milk too yogurt based ices also gives a wonderful flavour.

Patience: After you make the custard base for an ice cream always allow it so sit in the fridge at least overnight before churning in an ice cream maker. This will allow the flavours to develop properly and give a much more rounded result. Sorbet on the other hand, can be churned immediately.

 

Recipes to Emulate:

Rasberry Sorbet (made with GOOD quality raspberries)

Chesnut Custard Ice Cream

Parfait Bars! (pictured below).

 I dont have any specific recipes – those are just ideas for flavour combo’s I particularly loved – I guess just follow the good quality ingredients advice above!

 


{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Lou January 9, 2013 at 9:07 am

Oh what an amazing experience! It’s so cool to hear of passionate foodies creating the absolute BEST products…. it take time, energy and persistence, yes but I bet the results are just YUMMO. Sounds like you learnt a fair few valuable lessons as well as getting to sample all that creamy deliciousness – win and win!

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Em January 15, 2013 at 6:34 am

Well exactly Lou!! Well exactly.. xxx

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Kathryn January 9, 2013 at 10:01 am

This was such an interesting post, thank you! I’ve often wondered how these artisan food producers make a living and what their working life looks like.

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Amanda @ Once Upon a Recipe January 9, 2013 at 7:37 pm

What a wonderful experience! That top photo is absolutely gorgeous. I think I would have gained about 10 pounds over the course of those two weeks. I like reading these posts where you share bits of your life, Em. They’re fun!
PS. So what you’re saying is, when I come to visit you in the spring, you will take me to taste La Grotta Ices…right? ;)

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Katie January 9, 2013 at 8:00 pm

Em, glad to see you blogging again!

I know that you made sure to emphasize how much hard work is involved in running your own little artisanal ice cream shop, but it still sounds like an amazing job! Can’t wait to hear about more of your work experiences.

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Em January 15, 2013 at 6:33 am

Aww – thank you Katie. It WAS amazing job… I totally loved it and there was also the added benefit of when you tell people you are ‘making ice cream’ for a job. Everyone basically passes out with envy.. I have never experienced such a popular sounding job! xx

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Tricia @ Saving room for dessert January 9, 2013 at 8:47 pm

Well you know this speaks to me! Good lessons, great inspiration and a wonderful experience for you.

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a farmer in the dell January 9, 2013 at 10:01 pm

What great experiences you are having! I know it’s hard work but that makes it all the more rewarding. And I agree, full fat ingredients are a MUST!

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David Crichton January 10, 2013 at 10:27 am

Hi Emilia, I love the fact you’re posting about Gelato in January. I can never resist ice cream, whether it be a super healthy fruit sorbet to a full fat ice cream. I’ve just made some cornflake ice cream for the hell of it. It was superb. I’ll be popping by La Grotta when I visit London in a couple of months.

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jackie (marin mama) January 12, 2013 at 12:20 am

Hi Em! TGIF! I’m sure its close to midnight there and you’re probably sleeping right about now. I love hearing about your ice cream adventures. Kitty does it right and her flavor combinations sound out of this world. I love how unique they all are. There’s a place in Sebastopol that makes these amazing flavors of ice cream and sorbet. They’re all unique and have fresh and local ingredients. I bet your fingers and hands were spent by the days end. I can only imagine how cold they must have gotten. I still want to hear about your new gig and are you still planning on a move out to Cali???? Miss and love you bunches! Jackie

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Em January 15, 2013 at 6:28 am

Jackie Jackie!! Happy Monday now :) . That place in sebastapol sounds amazing – you know I actually lived in Sebastapol for a while?! I spent the summer working at this dog kennel there and it was one of the best summers of my life. I LOVE it up there! Moving is – as always! – still somewhat up in the air but we ARE very keen. We’re also defo coming back for a visit soon!I should be driving by then which will make us hanging out (and maybe eating ice cream!?) a ton easier. I cant wait to see you anyway! xx

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jackie (marin mama) February 9, 2013 at 3:57 pm

Hey girl! I’m still waiting on that new post ;) Of course, you worked in a dog shelter. That is so you. You are the jack of all trades my dear. I can’t wait for you to come back for a visit. Please let me know well in advance so I can make sure that I’m here. I miss you tons!
xoxo, Jackie

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Monet January 14, 2013 at 3:12 pm

A wonderful post, which left me craving some ice cream made by true artisans. It is amazing the stuff that passes as ice cream here. Yuck! Full-fat and high quality ingredients are musts for me! Thank you for sharing with us, sweet friend. I hope you have a great start to your week. Stay healthy, happy, and warm!

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Em January 15, 2013 at 6:26 am

Hi Monet! soooo lovely to hear from you! Your comment has left me craving one of your delicious white chocolate with some aritsan ice cream = heaven. Hope all is going well with you, hubs and baby! xoxo

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a farmer in the dell January 15, 2013 at 3:58 pm

Thanks for popping in on my blog! I am a hug fan of yours!!!

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Tricia @ Saving room for dessert February 26, 2013 at 6:47 pm

Hope you are well Em!

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Tricia May 2, 2013 at 3:02 pm

Where did you go Em? I don’t even know you but still miss you lots. Hope you are having a wonderful life and a fantastic day – everyday.

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DessertForTwo August 2, 2013 at 2:37 am

I love this series! Thanks for sharing your story, and I look forward to more. How are ya doing? I miss you!

I love your new logo, too, by the way!

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Tricia @ Saving room for dessert March 14, 2014 at 6:06 pm

Every now and then I come across an old comment you posted on my blog and wonder how you are. Another year has passed and still miss your writing and pretty posts! Hope you are doing fantastic :)

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