DIY ICE CREAM BAR TIPS

The ice cream line-up (from top to bottom): mint chocolate chip, rocky road, vanilla, coffee toffee. All stored in various Tovolo containers.

The ice cream line-up (from top to bottom): mint chocolate chip, rocky road, vanilla, coffee toffee. All stored in various Tovolo containers.

This past Saturday was my sister’s baby shower, and I, of course, took on the task of handling dessert. I feel like for most baby showers, there’s usually a cutesy dessert table filled with pink cupcakes, blue candies or a donut wall, but if you know my sister and I, that’s not really our style. We both just wanted simple, summer-y desserts that both men and women would enjoy, since it was a co-ed baby shower. My initial plans were to make about three Victoria sponge cakes with each one highlighting a summer fruit (peaches, strawberries, etc.) but the closer we got to the date, the temperature continued to rise and the less I wanted to turn on the oven to make 6 or more cake layers.

So eventually I thought to make ice cream, which by now, I’m sure you all know is my favorite dessert to make. Everyone loves ice cream, and there’s something nostalgic about eating it that makes you feel like a kid, which I think is perfect for a baby shower. So, I set out to make an ice cream bar with homemade ice cream and even though it was my first time tackling such a large task (the party had about 70 attendees), it was actually super fun and not that daunting due to simple planning and organization. Here are my steps and tips to a successful ice cream bar.

(I apologize that I don’t have more photos of the ice cream bar setup - it was a looooong day, starting with my mom breaking her arm and winding up in the hospital. So once the party finally began, I tried to relax and indulged in many, many margaritas. Photos weren’t my priority by ice cream time!)

Rocky road and mint chocolate chip ice creams both in 2.5 quart-sized Tovolo containers

Rocky road and mint chocolate chip ice creams both in 2.5 quart-sized Tovolo containers

1) Buy quality ice cream containers: before you begin making the ice cream, make sure you have good containers to store it in. All these years that I’ve been making ice cream, I’d always stored them in either random mismatched Tupperware containers or various cake pans covered with plastic wrap, which was obviously an eye sore. Although this worked just fine for a single batch of ice cream consumed by myself, it wasn’t going to cut it for 8 batches of ice cream on display at a party. I had been eyeing Tovolo’s ice cream containers for years and finally purchased 5 of them in different sizes. Not only are they adorable, but ensure that there’ll be no freezer burn with its double wall insulation and secured lids. Tip: the cheapest place I found the containers for sale was at Sur La Table! Not Amazon!

2) Choose ice cream flavors and quantity: pick however many flavors that you are comfortable with making and how much you’ll make of each (based on how large the party will be). Furthermore, stick with recipes that you’re also acquainted with: I wouldn’t suggest making a new recipe that you’ve never tried before, which could lead to a disaster. I ended up making 4 different flavors - coffee toffee, fresh mint chocolate chip, rocky road and plain vanilla - all recipes found on my blog - and either did a single, double, or triple batch. I wanted to use 3 classic flavors because I knew everyone would love them and threw in the coffee toffee since it’s my favorite and not something you can find at the store (it ended up being the most popular at the party). Once you have all your flavors picked out, you can then make your grocery shopping list.

The ice cream toppings selection: rainbow sprinkles, chopped peanuts, mini chocolate chips, crushed Oreos, toffee bits and gummi bears.

The ice cream toppings selection: rainbow sprinkles, chopped peanuts, mini chocolate chips, crushed Oreos, toffee bits and gummi bears.

3) Go shopping for the ice cream bases and extra toppings: since all of my ice creams were custard-based, I bought my eggs in bulk at Costco, but everything else either came from Trader Joe’s or a standard grocery store. I also set up a toppings section for those that wanted to jazz up the plain vanilla or the other flavors. My toppings included: crushed Oreos, mini chocolate chips, Haribo gummi bears, toffee bits, chopped peanuts and sprinkles. If you want to make it more baby shower themed, you can opt to put out only pink or blue candies.

4) Plan out making your ice cream. The best part about ice cream is that you can make it well in advance as long as you have room in your freezer. I decided to dedicate one flavor per day and spread it out over the week leading up to the party so that 1) I didn’t lose my sanity and 2) my ice cream maker’s freezer bowl had significant time to freeze between batches. I also did the most time consuming ice cream first (rocky road) and left the easiest (vanilla) to be my last.

I brought my own collection of ice cream scoops to the party. It added a personal touch to the ice cream bar and made it feel more rustic.

I brought my own collection of ice cream scoops to the party. It added a personal touch to the ice cream bar and made it feel more rustic.

5) Purchase servingware for ice cream: this includes small bowls, spoons and ice cream cones. I got plastic bowls and spoons from the dollar store to save money, but for a more eco-friendly option, you can buy bamboo utensils and biodegradable bowls. As for the cones, I bought a few packs of my favorite waffle cones from Trader Joe’s which honestly taste like they’re freshly made from an ice cream shop. Also, try to have enough ice cream scoops so that there is one per flavor. I collect vintage and new ice cream scoops, so I had plenty to bring with me to the party, but you can find cheap ones at the dollar store as well.

6) Have dry ice, will travel: if you plan on setting up an ice cream bar at a location that’s not at your house, I strongly suggest buying dry ice the day of the party. My sister’s baby shower was in Culver City in LA, which with traffic, is about an hour and a half drive from my house. I bought about 10 lbs. of dry ice, put the ice cream containers at the bottom of a large cooler, and placed broken up pieces of the dry ice on top, since cold air travels downward. Since dry ice lasts up to 24 hours, the ice cream is safe from melting and could stay in the cooler all through out the party if there happens to be no freezer available.

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7) Setting up: I didn’t worry about setting up the ice cream bar until about an hour after everyone at the party had eaten the main course. I used the same table that the main meal was served on and put out three trays - one that held the ice cream toppings, one for ice cream scoops, and the last for the waffle cones/bowls and spoons. I had intended on putting the ice cream on ice in big buckets to prevent any melting but since everyone came in at once to serve themselves, the ice cream went pretty quickly before it had a chance to melt. Since I didn’t make placards detailing each ice cream flavor or ice cream topping, I stuck around and answered any questions people had (but I definitely do recommend making cute placards if you have the time). But I actually enjoyed hanging around because it was so rewarding to see people’s reactions to the ice cream that I made and to hear their nice comments about it all. It was a lot of work, so it was nice to be praised, not gonna lie.

So there are my tips! Once again, I really enjoyed setting up the ice cream bar (more than when I did the desserts for my sister’s wedding) and I think it’s a great idea for not only baby showers, but for birthday parties or any other celebrations. If you plan on doing one in the future and need some more guidance, let me know!

One party-goer’s ice cream creation: plain vanilla with rainbow sprinkles in a waffle cone. Classic.

One party-goer’s ice cream creation: plain vanilla with rainbow sprinkles in a waffle cone. Classic.

LEMON + PISTACHIO ICE CREAM SANDWICHES

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By the time you’ll be reading this, I’ll most likely be sitting by the pool, sweating in 105°F weather, sipping on a frozen strawberry margarita. Alex and I are celebrating the 4th of July in Scottsdale, Arizona this year (this will be our third time for the holiday) and it’s something that we LOVE doing. The house that we stay at is perfect for relaxing and having fun in the pool, and the neighborhood we stay in (Paradise Valley) is pretty dead since most of the residents leave Arizona for the summer once the temperature begins to rise. We jump in the pool all day and night, BBQ, blast bad music, and occasionally leave the house to get a couple of meals from our favorite spots (Pizzeria Bianco for the best pizza west of the Mississippi and Tee Pee for giant margaritas and amazing tamales). The 4th of July had never been my favorite holiday until we started celebrating it in Scottsdale.

In the past few weeks, I’d been having some trouble in the kitchen with creating a successful recipe for the blog. It all started with wanting to post a recipe for my favorite gelato flavor, hazelnut, and even though the finished product came out okay, I wasn’t completely sold on it. I was attempting to recreate the exact feeling when I had my first bite of hazelnut gelato in Rome years ago and unfortunately my recipe just wasn’t it. From there, I worked on a baked peach doughnut with a crumb topping and that was an utter disaster, followed by a summer berry olive oil cake which I was not a fan of. So, with all of these unsuccessful kitchen moments, I returned to my two favorite sweets to make in the kitchen and combined them together to give you my first ice cream sandwich recipe. I’m happy to report that it is anything but unsuccessful.

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I love ice cream sandwiches because of the endless amount of combinations that you can create. You can essentially bake any type of cookie flavor that you love (plain old chocolate chip, brownie, snickerdoodle, white chocolate macadamia nut, etc.) and sandwich it between any ice cream flavor you can get your hands on (rocky road, cookie dough, mint chip, etc.). Today, I turned to a classic flavor combination that I turn to time and time again (Exhibit A and Exhibit B): citrus and pistachios. In today’s case, we’ll be working with soft and chewy lemon cookies and creamy pistachio ice cream. It’s perfect.

The lemon cookies get their flavor from three additions to the dough: lemon juice, lemon zest and lemon extract. We really want the lemon flavor to stand up against the rich, custard-y ice cream, so these three components are vital to achieving that bright citrus taste. I chose a cookie that was a bit softer and chewier, a texture that after being placed in the freezer (this is of course how you will need to store ice cream sandwiches) will not yield a hard and crunchy cookie when biting into it. Much like my funfetti cookies, this dough has cornstarch added to it to achieve that softer and chewier texture, and it’s also important to not over bake the cookies! The moment you see that the edges are set, quickly take them out of the oven (this should be right before the 10-minute mark).

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As for the ice cream, it will require you to use quite a bit of pistachios (1 1/2 cups plus more if you roll the ice cream sandwiches through chopped pistachios after they’re assembled). I suggest using raw, unsalted shelled pistachios, which you can find at a Trader Joe’s for a good price. I personally prefer roasting the nuts myself before adding them to the food processor to finely chop them, but if you can’t find them raw at your grocery store, buying them unsalted and roasted would be the next best thing. The only problem with this option is that they are usually still in the shell aka you’ll be cracking a bunch of nuts open which can take a while.

But here’s the thing: if you want to only make the lemon cookies and go out and buy your favorite store bought pistachio ice cream or gelato, that’s totally fine! Or if you just want to make the pistachio ice cream to enjoy on a warm summer night, that’s okay too! Making both components of this recipe is time consuming so I understand if you’d rather just do half of the recipe. But, I will say it’s a very rewarding feeling when you bite into your first ice cream sandwich knowing that you made every component of it from start to finish. And if you do plan on making both the cookies and ice cream, I suggest making the ice cream first since it’s a longer process but can also stay in the freezer for days.

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The cookie recipe yields 10-12 large cookies and the ice cream yields about 1 quart, which will give you 5 or 6 very large ice cream sandwiches. And if you plan on serving this to more than 6 people, you can easily make the cookies smaller or cut the ice cream sandwiches in half (just wait until they are completely frozen). I store my ice cream sandwiches in the freezer by putting them in tupperware, but you can also wrap them in plastic wrap individually.

Happy Fourth of July!

Pistachio Ice Cream

Yields about 1 quart

Recipe adapted from David Lebovitz

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups unsalted shelled pistachios

  • 1 cup whole milk

  • 2 cups heavy cream, divided

  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt

  • 5 large egg yolks

  • 1/8 tsp. vanilla extract

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Toast the pistachios for about 6-8 minutes, keeping a careful eye on them. Transfer the pistachios to the food processor fitted with the S-blade and finely chop them.

  2. In a small saucepan, warm up the milk, 1 cup of the heavy cream, granulated sugar and salt over medium heat. Do not let it come to a simmer. Turn off the stove, remove the pan from the heat, and add the chopped pistachios. Stir until they are all fully submerged, cover the pan with a lid, and allow the mixture to steep for one hour at room temperature.

  3. After an hour, pour the pistachio-infused mixture through a strainer over a medium saucepan. Press down on the nuts in order to extract as much flavor from them as you can. Discard the pistachios and begin to rewarm the pistachio-mixture over medium-low heat. Meanwhile, pour the remaining 1 cup of heavy cream into a large bowl and set a strainer over the top (use a bowl that will be able to fit over an ice bath for later).

  4. In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks together. Just as the pistachio mixture is beginning to simmer, gradually add some of it to the bowl of egg yolks, whisking constantly as to not scramble the eggs. Once the egg yolk mixture temperature has raised, pour the mixture back into the saucepan. Stir constantly until the mixture thickens and coats the back of your spatula or spoon.

  5. Pour the mixture over the strainer and into the bowl with the remaining 1 cup of heavy cream. Stir in the vanilla extract. Let the ice cream base sit over an ice bath for about an hour before moving to the refrigerator. Chill for at least 4 hours, or overnight.

  6. Churn the ice cream in your maker according to the manufacturer's instructions and allow it to harden in the freezer for about 2 hours before enjoying.

Soft and Chewy Lemon Cookies

Yields 10-12 large cookies

Recipe adapted from Averie Cooks

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature

  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar

  • 2 tbsp. brown sugar, light or dark works

  • 1 large egg, room temperature

  • 1 tbsp. honey

  • 1 tbsp. lemon extract

  • 2 tbsp. lemon zest

  • 2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour

  • 1 tsp. baking soda

  • 2 tsp. cornstarch

  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt

Directions

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a large bowl if using a hand mixer) cream the butter and sugars together until the mixture is light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg, honey, lemon extract, zest and juice and mix again for a couple more minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

  2. Add all the dry ingredients (flour, baking soda, cornstarch and salt) to the bowl and mix until just combined. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour. (Tip: you can scoop out the dough before or after chilling).

  3. Preheat the oven to 350°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Using a large cookie or ice cream, scoop out the dough and place them on the sheet. If you don’t have an ice cream scoop, each cookie will be about 1/4 cup of dough. Do to the size of the cookie, do not bake more than 6 on a given tray.

  4. Bake in the oven for about 10 minutes. The cookies will be a light golden brown on the edges and just set when they are ready - they may look underbaked, but they won’t be since these are a softer texture of cookie. Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.

To assemble the cookies;

  1. Make sure the cookies are completely cooled and the ice cream is frozen solid before assembling the sandwiches.

  2. Try to find two cookies that match exactly in shape and size. Using a ice cream scoop, scoop out about a 1/4 cup of ice cream onto one of the cookies, add the other on top, and gently press down until the ice cream spreads to the width of the cookie.

  3. Roll the ice cream sandwiches through chopped pistachios (optional).

  4. Place the ice cream sandwiches onto a large plate and put it in the freezer for about an hour. Then, either store them in Tupperware or wrap each one individually in plastic wrap.

FRESH MINT CHOCOLATE CHIP ICE CREAM

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And just like that, it’s springtime. Even though in my last post I was craving summer and all the flavors and desserts that come with it, I of course wasn’t going to brush over spring! It’s a time when everything is blooming and coming back to life, and I’ll never get over how beautiful it is. Living in an apartment, I so look forward to the day when I’ll have my own house with a huge backyard (a girl can dream, ok?) where I’ll harvest my own fruits and veggies, and have flowers everywhere. Until that day, I’ll settle on having little flower pots dedicated to certain herbs and random house plants in my living room that brighten up the place.

One herb plant that I keep in my kitchen window is mint, which if you’re a gardener, you know is a plant that is nearly impossible to kill. It thrives in sun and shade perennially and has the tendency to spread and conquer as much territory as it can. To combat this weed-like herb, you must pick and trim it, and what better way to use up that mint than making homemade ice cream!

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I’ve always been a huge fan of mint chocolate chip ice cream, but over the years, I’ve honed in on what to me “mint ice cream” means. When I was younger, store-bought neon colored and artificially flavored mint versions reigned supreme in my house. It’s what most people in America are used to when they think of mint ice cream - the color has to be that greenish blue. When I got a little older, I remember my mom coming home with a tub of Breyers mint chip and I was seriously skeptical of it because it wasn’t a green color, but rather a creamy white. The moment I took a bite, I was blown away and vouched to never touch any brand that added dyes to their ice cream. FYI, to this day, if I’m ever too lazy to make my own, Breyers ice cream is still the winner for me in that department.

And then once again, a couple years later, I had another epiphany with mint ice cream. My dad and I went to Sweet Rose Creamery at the Brentwood Country Mart in LA for the first time because we both share a love of ice cream and wanted to check out the shop. My dad ordered a brownie ice cream sundae with vanilla ice cream and I opted to try a scoop of their “fresh” mint ice cream. I was completely taken aback by the taste of it - after years of artificially flavored mint ice cream and added dyes, I could not believe that I had been missing out on the real thing for so long. Fresh mint ice cream is truly a different experience than what you can find at the grocery store and really tastes light, fresh, and worlds better than the fake stuff.

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So when I eventually got an ice cream maker for Christmas later that year (2012), I chose to make mint chocolate chip ice cream for my first ever homemade batch. And let me tell you: it was a struggle. I of course chose a recipe (the one below!) that probably wasn’t best for a beginner and I remember having my mom help me along every step of the way. To be clear, this was not only marking the beginning of me making ice cream, but also when I was just getting into baking and was less than an amateur. So for example, I had no idea how to temper eggs when making the custard-based ice cream, whereas today, it’s something that doesn't even phase me. Anyway, somehow my mom and I figured out how to make the mint ice cream and I’m pretty sure I cried tears of joy after my first bite. I think I’ve said this before, but making homemade ice cream is quite the accomplishment and something to be proud of. I still get giddy with excitement after every batch I make.

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This recipe requires a little more than 2 cups of fresh mint, which is a lot, so chances are that your garden may not have enough for this recipe. And that’s fine! You can use a mixture of store bought fresh mint and some of your own (or all store bought if you don’t have a garden, of course). Trader Joe’s sells organic fresh mint for a great price. As for the “chocolate chip” aspect of this ice cream, I’m finally able to give my trick for getting those evenly distributed chocolate flecks that you see in my pictures. Instead of chopping up a chocolate bar or adding chocolate chips to the finished ice cream, I melt my chocolate and slowly pour it into the ice cream maker while it’s churning, but almost done. This allows the chocolate to break up into tiny pieces and therefore gives a creamier texture without having bites with big pieces of chocolate in it. If you’re familiar with Thrifty’s chocolate chip and mint chip ice creams, the texture is most similar to theirs (aka the best!).

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Fresh Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

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Yields about 1 quart

Recipe adapted from David Lebovitz

Ingredients

  • 1 cup whole milk

  • 2 cups heavy cream, divided

  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar

  • Pinch of salt

  • 2 cups lightly packed fresh mint leaves

  • 5 large egg yolks

  • 5 oz. bittersweet or semisweet chocolate (in chip or bar form)

Directions

  1. In a small saucepan, warm up the milk, 1 cup of the heavy cream, granulated sugar and salt over medium heat. Do not let it come to a simmer. Add the mint leaves to the pan and stir until every leaf is immersed in the liquid. Remove the pan from the heat, cover with a lid, and let it sit at room temperature for an hour.

  2. Place a strainer over a medium/large saucepan, and pour the mint/milk mixture through (the mint leaves will be left in the strainer). Using a spatula, press down firmly on the mint leaves, making sure to get any and all liquid out of them. In a large bowl, add the remaining 1 cup of heavy cream and set a strainer over the top (use a bowl that will be able to fit over an ice bath for later).

  3. Over medium-low heat, rewarm the mint-infused mixture. In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks together. Just as the milk mixture is beginning to simmer, gradually add some of it to the bowl of egg yolks, whisking constantly as to not scramble the eggs (this is called tempering). Once the egg yolk mixture temperature has raised, pour the mixture back into the saucepan. Stir constantly over medium-low heat until the mixture thickens and coats the back of your spatula or spoon.

  4. Pour the mixture over the strainer-lined bowl and stir the mint-custard in with the heavy cream that is already in the bowl. Let the ice cream base sit over an ice bath for about an hour before moving to the refrigerator. Chill for at least 4 hours, or overnight.

  5. Churn the ice cream in your maker according to the manufacturer's instructions. When the ice cream is almost finished churning, melt the chocolate in a microwave and slowly pour it into the ice cream maker (while it’s still on). This will create tiny chocolate flecks all through out the ice cream. If big globs are created, simply use a spatula to help break it up. Transfer to an airtight container and freeze until solid.

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I’d like to dedicate this post to my dog niece, Dolce. This beautiful girl had to be put down on Wednesday (the first day of spring), and to say that I’m devastated is a severe understatement. I have a million pictures of her goofy, expressive face and it was hard to choose just one. Here she is with her bone looking crazy happy, and sitting on her mom and dad’s bed.

I love you babygirl and I’ll miss giving you tons of kisses, which you always let me do. You made a lot of people smile, but made your mom and dad the happiest.