By Mary Smith
Karen Pace, owner of Kafe Lila in Pawtucket, has a lot to say when it comes to “homemade” ice cream. Pace is ready to bust the myth of what “homemade” ice cream is at most cafes by letting me follow her step by step through her process of making ice cream from scratch. Most of the time, ice creamÂ classified as homemade means that a pre-made base has been combined with other in-house ingredients on premises. When it comes toÂ Pace’s artisan ice cream, however, it is the product ofÂ two years ofÂ experimentationÂ with methods and mixtures to develop the perfect technique for making high-quality ice cream. An experimentally driven, science-minded artisan, Karen PaceÂ gives us the scoop on how real homemade ice cream is made.
It all begins with a base. Beyond milk and sugar, pre-made ice cream bases may include any or all of the following: corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, mono and dglycerides, cellulose gum, guar gum, and carrageenan. Now let’s contrast that withÂ the base that Pace uses: it includes milk, half & half, heavy cream, salt, vanilla, and sugar. All of Pace’s milk is Rhody Fresh, part of herÂ commitment to using local products from milk to eggs and farm-fresh produce. Pace’s base is whisked and heated to 100Ëš. She then tempers the egg yolks, a process by which the yolks are heated by mixing them with the 100Ëš base. It is important for the yolks to be heated in this way so they do not cook andÂ they maintain their liquid consistancy. The tempered eggs yolks are then combined with the base and heated to 166Ëš. At this temperature, the dairy is pasteurized, and the mixture begins to resemble custard, what Pace likens to crÃ¨me anglaise.
After the heating process, the concoctionÂ isÂ cooled. Pace thenÂ puts the milk and egg mixture through a strainer (the flecksÂ visible in these photographs are tea leaves that have been heated with the base to infuse the base with flavor). When the temperature of theÂ mixture is loweredÂ to 40Ëš, itÂ is ready to be frozen. Pace uses a Carpigiani batch freezer with low-medium overrun to produce a dense ice cream. The density factor is important because a dense ice cream with a low overrun has been slow churned and contains a small amount of air, giving it a creamier, fuller flavor.
Speaking of flavor, Pace’s base-producing method not only eliminates the amount of foreign ingredients–it also allows her to infuse flavors into her ice cream at an earlier point in the process. Ingredients such as white pepper, Earl Gray tea, and orange blossom water are included in the initial heating and then strained before cooling. Pace’s distinctive method flavors the base so subtly that there might be several ice creams that appear to be vanilla but they have been infused with any number of exotic, unusual, and ultra delicious flavors!
Pace’s methodology is all her own. She spent two years developing her technique and the result, lucky for her patrons,Â is theÂ perfected art of ice cream making. Stop by Kafe Lila for a free sample of any of her invigorating flavors,Â or visit her at the Winter Farmer’s Market at Hope Artiste Village until it closes for the season on May 29, 2010. Open every Saturday from 11am-2pm
Karen encourages Kafe Lila enthusiasts to follow her on twitter, to find out where the bicycle powered ice cream cart will be stationed throughout the summer.
Mary talks to Karen about making ice cream at Winter Farmer’s market.
Mary Smith is a freelance writer who lives on the West Side of Providence. To see more of her writing and pictures, visit her blog at allthingsace.wordpress.com/.
Photo Credit: Mary Smith