PHOTO: Sasquatch Books; Balsamic Strawberry Ice Cream from Molly Moon's Homemade Ice Cream by Molly Moon Neitzel and Christina Spittler
Laura Brehaut/Postmedia News
Originally published on August 9, 2012;
Molly Moon’s Homemade Ice Cream is something of an institution in Seattle. With five locations, including one in Pike Place Market, and an ice cream truck, locals were quick to line up for scoops such as Mexican Chocolate Ice Cream and Blood Orange Sorbet. Founder Molly Moon Neitzel’s love of ice cream runs deep; in fact she’s hard pressed to remember her first ice cream moment. She does, however, remember the moment she knew ice cream would become her career.
Having worked in music and politics for the majority of her 20s as executive director of a nonprofit, she decided a career change was in order in 2006. “I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with the rest of my life,” Neitzel says. “I was on the phone whining to my mom and she said, ‘Molly, why don’t you open up an ice cream shop? You know how to do it and you’re good at managing people.'” It all clicked and she spent 2007 writing a business plan, opening her first shop a year later in the Wallingford neighbourhood of Seattle. From the outset, Neitzel has made it a priority to align the way she runs her business with her political values – namely, paying her employees a living wage, running an environmentally sustainable business and providing employee health insurance. She pays 100 per cent of her employees’ health insurance, which she admits has been very challenging financially as the business grows and premiums increase, uses compostable materials, and local, in-season and organic ingredients whenever possible.
Molly Moon’s emphasis on locally, organically and seasonally sourced gourmet ice cream has extended to a cookbook, which Neitzel co-wrote with head chef Christina Spittler. The book, Molly Moon’s Homemade Ice Cream (Sasquatch Books, 2012) features more than 70 recipes for ice creams, sorbets and toppings, organized by season, and includes four of their ever-present “always” flavours such as Salted Caramel and Vanilla Bean.
All of the ice cream recipes in the book are Philadelphia, or “American” style, which means that they consist of milk, cream, sugar and flavourings, but not egg yolks as in French “custard” style ice creams. If you’re interested in exploring French “custard” style as well, Neitzel and Spittler recommend reading The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz, which is their favourite.
In terms of the tools needed to make the ice cream and sorbet recipes from the book, Neitzel says that most of them are pretty simple and can be easily made with an ice cream machine (it doesn’t have to be an expensive one) and, “a really long-handled wooden spoon, a long-handled whisk, and a saucepan and a knife. But you don’t really need anything fancy.” If you have an ice cream ball, then you already know how much energy they require. Neitzel has one piece of advice for this particular tool, “What you need are small children to do it for you. All of those labour-intensive things, I just say in the book, ‘go find some 8-year-olds with too much energy.'”
Neitzel’s “absolute favourite” recipe in the book is Cherry Chocolate Chunk (recipe below). “It’s cherry ice cream made with local Washington cherries that we all pit by hand, and we have these really fun pitting parties to get all the cherries pitted quickly. And then it has big chunks of dark chocolate in the ice cream as well,” she says. With flavours such as Honey Lavender (spring), Grilled Stone Fruit (summer), Spiced Cider Sorbet (fall), Maple Bacon (winter) and Melted Chocolate (always), you may have a bit more trouble choosing a favourite.
Inspiration for Molly Moon’s flavours comes from the ingredients themselves, what’s in-season and plentiful from local farmers. Neitzel’s advice for those new to ice cream making is to use really fresh ingredients from the start. And that goes for basic ingredients as well. “Like the taste of the milk and the cream that you’re using,” she says. “Be totally intoxicated by the smell of the vanilla beans that you choose or use fruit at the peak of freshness.”
Excerpted from Molly Moon’s Homemade Ice Cream by Molly Moon Neitzel and Christina Spittler (Sasquatch Books, 2012)
Makes 1 to 1 1/2 quarts
2 cups heavy cream
3/4 cup whole milk
1 cup sugar
Pinch of kosher salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups pitted and coarsely chopped cherries
1 cup coarsely chopped dark chocolate (about 6 oz)
1. Put the cream, milk, sugar, and salt into a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Cook over medium heat, whisking occasionally, until the sugar is dissolved. Just before the mixture comes to a boil, remove from the heat and add the cherries. Pour the mixture into a shallow pan or bowl and place in the refrigerator to chill thoroughly, one to two hours.
2. When the mixture is cold, stir in the vanilla. Pour into an ice cream maker and process according to the manufacturer’s instructions. During the last minute of processing, add the chocolate. Using a rubber spatula, transfer the ice cream to an airtight glass or plastic freezer container. Cover tightly and freeze until the ice cream is firm, at least four hours.
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