For the recipes in this book, use large eggs, preferably free-range and date stamped so you know how old they are. While very fresh eggs don’t produce a good volume of whisked egg whites, you should avoid using eggs that are more than 8 to 10 days old, especially if they will not be cooked. Pregnant women are advised not to eat ice cream containing raw eggs.
Milk & cream
Most recipes in this book use whole milk or heavy cream. Lower-fat products can be substituted if you prefer, but nonfat and very low-fat products are not recommended for ice creams, except in the chapters at the end of the book.
Sugar, sugar syrup & flavored syrup
Most recipes use superfine sugar, because it dissolves easily, but granulated sugar can be substituted. Most ice creams can also be made with light or dark brown sugar, or you can use honey and light corn syrup. Experiment to find your preferred sweetness. Artifical sweeteners can be used; follow the package instructions, at least the first time you try them.
Many ices and sorbets require a sugar syrup. Mix 1 cup granulated sugar with 1 cup water to make approximately 1 1/2 cups sugar syrup. In a small saucepan, heat the sugar gently in the water until fully dissolved, then bring to a boil and simmer for a couple of minutes or until slightly syrupy. Cool, then refrigerate no longer than a day until ready to use; if refrigerated for longer it will crystallize. Or, store in a covered jar in a cool dark place. Occasionally a recipe calls for a flavored syrup. For vanilla syrup, add 1 vanilla pod, cut open to release the seeds. For lemon syrup, add 2 or 3 large strips of lemon zest (no pith, just the yellow rind). For chile syrup, add 1 small red chile, seeds discarded. Add the flavoring when you start dissolving the sugar in the water. Remove the flavoring when the syrup is cold.
Although it is possible to buy coffee syrup, homemade coffee syrup gives a truer and subtler flavor. Dissolve 1/3 cup light brown sugar in 1/2 cup very strong espresso, then simmer gently until reduced to about 3 to 4 tablespoons or the strength you prefer. Don’t boil hard, because this can produce a bitter flavor. Chill and store as above.
Flavorings & fruits
It is best to buy ice cream flavorings fresh for the recipe. Use vanilla pods or a pure vanilla extract, not a synthetic extract. The best chocolate has a high cocoa solid content, so read the package before you buy — look for at least 60 percent, preferably unsweetened. Nuts are used in many recipes; be sure they are fresh and firm. When fruit or berries are used in the ice cream, use the most unblemished, perfectly ripe fruit you can find. Ripe fruit and berries at their peak give the sweetest, best flavor, which is just what you need for ice cream. Frozen fruit and berries can be used for some sorbets and can give very quick and delicious results.
Sorbets, water ices, and granitas depend on a good fruit purée. Any well-flavored fruit can be used to make a purée. Avoid cooking the fruit if possible, because cooking destroys the fresh fruit flavor. Purée the prepared fruit (peel if the skin is tough, and remove pits, seeds, and stalks as necessary) in a blender or food processor. If the fruit is one that discolors easily, add lemon juice. Strain or push through a sieve only if you want a really smooth result, because this removes much of the body and texture from an ice cream.