Sometimes it takes the mind of an 8-year-old boy to come up with a brilliant idea. At least when it comes to ice cream.
My son and I had just left a Ben & Jerry's ice cream shop where I'd snarfed down a double-scoop cup of Americone Dream (vanilla with fudge-covered waffle cone pieces and caramel) and Phish Food (chocolate with marshmallow, caramel and fudge fish). My buddy had inhaled Sweet Cream & Cookies (pretty much what it sounds like) and Candy Bar Pie (peanut butter ice cream with fudge, chocolate nougat and pretzels).
And then he got really quiet for a moment, which generally is just a pre-storm calm.
"We need to make our ice cream and sell it this summer," Parker began with rapid-fire excitement. "We can make all sorts of varieties like red velvet cake and chocolate eclair and snickerdoodle and chocolate with chocolate pretzels and dark chocolate bits and..."
And you get the idea. His imagination was sparked and by the time we got back to the car he'd asked for my phone so he could type out the list of flavors we would be selling this summer.
Because I'm always looking for great excuses to get kids into the kitchen, I got excited too. Generally anything that is messy, hands on, delicious and invites them to be creative (this isn't the time for fussy recipes) works well. Do-it-yourself ice cream had all the makings of a perfect kid-friendly kitchen project for summer.
Except that neither I nor most parents have the time (nor kids the patience) to truly make ice cream from scratch. And as my son had so wonderfully demonstrated, the fun isn't in making the ice cream base, but in testing all manner of whacky-delicious things you can flavor it with. The solution? Doctored ice cream. It works like this: Buy a pint of ice cream, then soften it either by leaving it on the counter for 15 to 20 minutes, or nuking it for 15 to 20 seconds. Scoop it into a really big bowl, then add whatever mix-ins do it for you. Mix well, then either serve immediately as soft serve, or transfer to a container, press plastic wrap directly onto the surface and freeze until firm.
The beauty of this approach is that it lets you focus on the fun part. You also can turn it into a fun family activity in which everyone makes a flavor, then everyone can share and compare.
A few tips for making great doctored ice creams:
•Start with quality ice cream in basic flavors (vanilla, chocolate, mint, coffee, etc.)
•Choose mix-ins that either are or can be cut or broken into bite-size pieces
•Go for contrast with your mix-ins, something crunchy (such as pretzels) with something soft (such as marshmallow)
•Think beyond sweet (potato chips, corn chips, peanuts, cashews, wasabi peas, etc.)
•Don't let the ice cream soften too much. Aim for soft serve consistency, then add your mix-ins
To get you started on a summer of ice cream creations, I'm sharing three of the many variations my son dreamed up.
Snickerdoodle Red Velvet Ice Cream
Start to finish: 25 minutes, plus refreezing
•1 pint vanilla ice cream
•2 large snickerdoodle cookies, broken into chunks
•2 frosted red velvet cupcakes, cut into chunks
Soften the ice cream by either leaving it at room temperature for 15 to 20 minutes, or microwaving it for 15 to 20 seconds. Once the ice cream is soft, scoop the entire pint into a large bowl. Add the snickerdoodles and mix well. Gently stir in the chunks of cupcake. Transfer the ice cream to a quart-size food storage container. Press plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the ice cream, then place in the freezer until firm, about 1 hour.