Baking and dessert cookbooks
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Ice Creams, Sorbets and Gelati: The Definitive Guide
Caroline and Robin Weir Grub Street, £25
This second, expanded edition of Caroline and Robin Weir's ‘Ices: The Definitive Guide' (1993) is an encyclopaedia and recipe book, written by authors who have become world authorities on the subject.
The opening chapters are a history of landmark moments in frozen treats, detailing how fashions and techniques have evolved. Basic ingredients and methods are explained, and eventually the book moves on to more than 400 recipes. It rounds off with an appendix on the science behind freezing sugar solutions.
The Weirs dismiss most mass-market ice cream as ‘unpleasant'. At the same time they realise that, for many, childhood nostalgia plays its role in determining preferences. They also provide versions of classic recipes so that commercial tastes can be replicated at home. Without an ice cream machine, we used the still freezing method: an infuriatingly lengthy process of repeatedly freezing and blending. Even with our freezer at the recommended -18C, it took hours to achieve a smooth ice cream and left us wondering if we should have tried the antiquated but faster method of stir-freezing with ice and salt - or bought a really good ice cream maker.
The recipe for vanilla gelato - a milky, egg-based frozen custard - came out a little too sweet for our taste. Earl Grey tea gelato, made with slightly less sugar (though still enough for those who prefer sugary tea), was noticeably icier. Out of the 26 options for chocolate flavoured ice, we tested the ‘ultimate chocolate ice cream' and it was supremely creamy and indulgent. Intensely chocolatey with both cocoa powder and 70 per cent chocolate (as recommended), the flavour was further deepened by a touch of vanilla and coffee.
Vast amounts of research and attention have gone into these recipes. Instructions are precise and give specific reasons for their intricacy: cocoa simmered slowly with milk was significantly more cohesive and less powdery tasting. Tea infused in cold milk for several days gave flavour without the drying tannins that heating creates.
Lychee and kaffir lime leaf sorbet was an inspired combination which tasted of Thailand, though the recipe called for tinned lychees in natural juice instead of syrup (more difficult to find) and didn't give alternatives.
We would have liked to see more about how to influence the texture - with inverted sugar syrups, for example. But for any level of ice-creamer, this is a book to wallow in.
Zoe Kamen, Time Out London Issue 2115: March 3-9 2011