Over the past couple of years, I’ve amassed a small library of ice cream cookbooks. Four books, to be precise. Okay, it’s not exactly a library, but it’s enough to start making comparisons. Many will enter, only one will win. It’s the Ice Cream Cookbook Smackdown.
Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home
As the first book in my ice cream collection, this one will always hold a special place in my heart. Jeni’s recipes yield a consistently rich, smooth texture without being too heavy, and I love her vibrant flavor pairings (think: Lime Cardamom, Kona Stout, and Goat Cheese with Roasted Red Cherries). In addition to ice cream and frozen yogurt recipes, the book includes recipes for fruit sauces, baked goods, candies, and other “sundae accessories.” Not to mention the concise, helpful notes on ingredients, equipment, and the craft of making ice cream. And then there are the mouth-watering full-color photos . . . enough to make you want to buy the book just to drool over the pictures. (Note: Jeni recently came out with a new book, Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream Desserts. Can’t wait to check it out!)
Molly Moon’s Homemade Ice Cream
I got this book at the same time as Sweet Cream and Sugar Cones (below). They present two alternative methods of making ice cream: the Philadelphia, or “American,” style and the French, or “custard,” style. Molly Moon’s uses the Philadelphia style, which omits eggs, resulting in a lighter, milkier texture. The shop is based in Seattle, giving it access to great local ingredients from the diverse farms of the Pacific Northwest. Its geography is reflected in the delightful, often-fruity flavors like Blackberry Sage and Lavender Lemonade. And then, of course, there’s your go-to Seattle staple: Cappuccino. The flavors are every bit as luscious as Jeni’s, but I’ve had a bit of trouble getting the base to set up quite as well. The sorbets, however, are second to none in both flavor and texture.
Sweet Cream and Sugar Cones
This book uses the French “custard” style of ice cream making, which achieves a thicker consistency by whisking egg yolks into the cream. The flavors in this book are perhaps a little more prosaic than those in some of the other books (lots of standards like Cookies & Cream and Peanut Butter Fudge, although it has some wild cards too, like Balsamic Strawberry). Overall, these are good, basic recipes that offer dependable results with a rich, creamy texture. Plus, the cookbook authors began their culinary careers as pastry chefs, so the book is chock full of great recipes for shortbread, spritz cookies, gingersnaps, and other desserts of the non-creamy variety. I’m dying to try the Ricanelas Ice Cream, which combines a cinnamon base with snickerdoodle cookies (it plays up perfectly to my love of all things cinnamon).
Ample Hills Creamery
This one holds the distinction of being the only book whose associated shop I’ve actually visited. The book also gets brownie points for taking its name from a line in one of Walt Whitman’s poems (Crossing Brooklyn Ferry: “I too lived—Brooklyn, of ample hills, was mine . . .”). Ample Hills Creamery is famous for such innovative flavors as Breakfast Trash, Salted Crack Caramel, and The Peanut Butter Munchies. Although I love the spirit of creativity in the recipes, I have to admit the flavors tend a little too much toward the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink style of ice cream making for my taste. But if you like cookies and candy and crackers and all other things chunky and salty and sweet in your ice cream, then this is the book for you. And even if you don’t, you’re sure to find something you love among the ample recipes, games, cartoons, stories, and photos.
So which is the winner? I have to go with Jeni’s. The others, though, are all tied for second and any of them would make an excellent first book in your ice cream collection.