BenGusto Disasters: Rum Raisin Ice Cream

Have you ever wondered what happens when you overheat your custard for ice cream? It becomes sweet scrambled egg soup. This is the story of how my grandfather’s christmas gift went from smooth to scrambled.

Rum raisin ice cream is my grandfather’s (my American grandfather, not Italian) favorite flavor. Which makes it his favorite dessert as well, considering ice cream is the treat he loves most. So for Christmas, I decided that instead of making him a bag of truffles like I made everyone else (see that story and recipe here), I would make him a batch of homemade rum raisin ice cream. Now I was already going into this weak, because the Christmas before I tried making him mint chocolate chip ice cream, but it wouldn’t freeze. I had to get this right.

The night before I began making the custard, I placed some raisins in a bowl of rum to soak overnight. This act provided a good start, but things wouldn’t be too good for long…

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I had my usual ingredients set out to make the ice cream. Heavy cream, whole milk, sugar, and the raisins I had soaked in rum were all set out to work. I had my ice cream machine thingy chilling in the freezer to freeze the custard later on. I was ready to begin.

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First, I whisked the egg yolks with the sugar. MISTAKE NUMERO UNO! The sugar must be whisked into the milk and cream instead.

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Already unknowingly on the road to failure, I proceeded to heat the yolks, sugar, milk and cream all at once. MISTAKE NUMERO DUE! The yolks must not be heated with the milk and sugar, but incorporated after the milk has heated and sugar has dissolved.

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It started to foam instead of thicken, but I didn’t really worry..

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… Until I got this breakfast form of custard. The scrambled eggs (or, shall I say, “yolks”) were tasty, but would they be frozen? Blehh.

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So in the end, I never did give my Grandpa his Christmas present. I tried making another batch of rum raisin ice cream the day after, and it came out soupy because I was out of whole milk, so I used 2% milk. With ice cream you can’t cut out the fat! To be honest, I ate the soupy ice cream anyway, which made me feel guilty because I’m sure my grandfather would have eaten it as well. But I just couldn’t give away rum raisin sludge as a present (and that is my excuse for not doing so).

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I really haven’t been able to grasp an understanding of the science behind making ice cream until about a month ago when I made a batch of vanilla bean for a group of guests, after 3 years of having my ice cream maker (see my latest ice cream recipe: Vanilla Bean Ice Cream). I’m not sure if making ice cream requires too much cooking chemistry knowledge, is too complicated, or if it’s just not my forte. But it sure is an exciting work in progress!

6 responses on “BenGusto Disasters: Rum Raisin Ice Cream

  1. Your grandmother (the American one not the Nonna in Italy) told me that I should write about your venture into “icecream land”. The best thing you can do is find someone who makes custards and watch. The important thing is that the milk is scalded but not boiled. It’s okay if there are little bubbles around the edge of the pot but but that’s the indication that it’s ready to roll and not going to curdle. It takes a little time to paractice to get the right temperature and the time between a scald and a curdle is about 30 or less seconds. You need to watch someone who does a lot of baking, though most chefs are pitifully lacking in baking skills and readily admit it. Baking/custards/crusts are like working in a chemistry lab but you also have to get a feel for what each different form needs to be consistently good. that’s why most older bakers work pie crust by hand to that it’s got enough moisture to roll out nicely but not so dry that it breaks up. I enjoy your blogs and will look forward to the next one! Keep up the good work. I’m the old lady who lives across the road from your grandparents in Maryland! AHAHAHAHA!

    • Thanks, Mrs. Rittenhouse, the “old lady from across the street”! Haha!
      You made some great points. Yes, I agree it’s a fantastic learning experience to watch trained chefs prepare these difficult dishes. I am happy to announce that I think my ice cream skills have improved quite a lot. Now I can make a delicious custard that will freeze well, but stay soft, creamy, and dreamy (see my recipe for vanilla bean ice cream). Thanks for the tips! You are completely right: the time between a scald and curdle is very little. Timing is crucial to prevent scrambled eggs, or over-cooked custard!
      I appreciate the comment and advice! I look forward to seeing you in Maryland sometime soon!
      -Ben Gaiarin

  2. Rum raisin’s chemistry
    Is tough to get right;
    With Ben’s tenacity
    The future is bright!
    Joseph aka grandpa

    • Grandpa, I loved your poem so much I started laughing out loud non stop. Hahaha! It’s the best comment I’ve received so far.
      You really have a knack for writing poems, and I think it’s wonderful. Not to worry, I WILL make your ice cream some day!

  3. Haha! Loved this post. I’ve had the scrambled eggs disaster myself and now prefer to follow ice cream recipes that don’t make a cooked custard. Of course then there is the issue of raw eggs – but in the grand scheme of things I figure they are pretty harmless!

    • Thanks, Mary! I’m glad the “disaster stories” are entertaining. Yeah, it really is tricky to heat the custard without getting scrambled eggs. You can always make an eggless custard (which I think is actually better in some ways), but it would require almost all heavy cream.
      -Ben

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