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Making your own ice cream is simple and delicious

  • The “Boogie Woogie” Turtle Pecan Sundae at Goodies Frozen Custard & Soda Bar in National Harbor in Maryland. Illustrates ICECREAM (category d), by Becky Krystal (c) 2014, The Washington Post. Moved Tuesday, July 15, 2014. (MUST CREDIT: Washington Post photo by Yue Wu)

    The “Boogie Woogie” Turtle Pecan Sundae at Goodies Frozen Custard & Soda Bar in National Harbor in Maryland. Illustrates ICECREAM (category d), by Becky Krystal (c) 2014, The Washington Post. Moved Tuesday, July 15, 2014. (MUST CREDIT: Washington Post photo by Yue Wu)

  • From left, Maple Banana Frozen Yogurt, Lemon Sky Sorbet, Fresh Mint Ice Cream With Chocolate Flakes, Spicy Pineapple Cilantro Sorbet, and Coconut Fig Ice Cream. Illustrates ICECREAM (category d), by Becky Krystal (c) 2014, The Washington Post. Moved Tuesday, July 15, 2014. (MUST CREDIT: Photo for The Washington Post by Deb Lindsey)

    From left, Maple Banana Frozen Yogurt, Lemon Sky Sorbet, Fresh Mint Ice Cream With Chocolate Flakes, Spicy Pineapple Cilantro Sorbet, and Coconut Fig Ice Cream. Illustrates ICECREAM (category d), by Becky Krystal (c) 2014, The Washington Post. Moved Tuesday, July 15, 2014. (MUST CREDIT: Photo for The Washington Post by Deb Lindsey)

  • The “Boogie Woogie” Turtle Pecan Sundae at Goodies Frozen Custard & Soda Bar in National Harbor in Maryland. Illustrates ICECREAM (category d), by Becky Krystal (c) 2014, The Washington Post. Moved Tuesday, July 15, 2014. (MUST CREDIT: Washington Post photo by Yue Wu)
  • From left, Maple Banana Frozen Yogurt, Lemon Sky Sorbet, Fresh Mint Ice Cream With Chocolate Flakes, Spicy Pineapple Cilantro Sorbet, and Coconut Fig Ice Cream. Illustrates ICECREAM (category d), by Becky Krystal (c) 2014, The Washington Post. Moved Tuesday, July 15, 2014. (MUST CREDIT: Photo for The Washington Post by Deb Lindsey)

A month before the planned grand opening, Victoria Lai stands in the middle of her D.C. scoop shop, Ice Cream Jubilee.

It is, ahem, a work in progress. Appliances are still shrink-wrapped. The wall murals aren’t finished. The outdoor seating is indoors for the time being, and, truth be told, it’s all a bit dusty.

Lai might as well be leading a tour of the Taj Mahal. She’s that proud, especially as she dips into her portable freezer to offer samples of her smooth, slightly fluffy ice creams that will transport you from Phuket (a refreshing Thai iced tea flavor) to Provence (honey-lemon-lavender) in the most delightful form of culinary whiplash.

Lai’s is a story of persistence, long hours, happenstance and, yes, ice cream, lots and lots of ice cream.

In 2010, prompted by her longtime love of desserts and a New York apartment without air-conditioning, the law school graduate scored a $25 bargain on a Cuisinart ice cream maker that typically retails for around $60. “That’s probably why I got into ice cream in the first place,” says Lai, 34. “There was a machine for the right price at the right time.”

At the other end of the spectrum from Lai, at least conceptually, is Brandon Byrd. His new Goodies Frozen Custard & Soda Bar in Maryland’s National Harbor offers exactly one flavor: vanilla bean.

On its own, that solitary option would satisfy most any summer craving for cold treats. The milk-and-cream-based custard, enriched with whole eggs and egg yolks, is smooth as silk. It sings with a clear, comforting vanilla flavor. It’s clean on the palate, rich without leaving a heavy slick. Byrd describes the custard as “soft serve meets Haagen-Dazs.”

As if that weren’t enough, Byrd’s menu uses his custard in a variety of indulgences inspired by “classic American desserts.” There’s a “Route 66” Root Beer Float, a “Juke Box” Cookies ‘n’ Cream Concrete, a “Boogie Woogie” Turtle Pecan Sundae and a “Jitterbug” Peanut Butter Shake.

Calories? What calories? Did anyone in the 1950s, the era that inspired Byrd’s throwback business, worry about calories?

In 2011, he was the marketing director at XXL, a hip-hop magazine. He describes his decision to leave as a mutual one: The magazine was cutting back, and he wasn’t happy with his career.

Almost a decade of living in Wisconsin had instilled in him a passion for frozen custard, and even as a high school student, he knew he wanted to get into the frozen dessert industry.

At 35, Byrd admits he’s too young to be nostalgic for an era he never lived through. Still, he describes himself as an “old soul” with an affection for nostalgia.

In Virginia, another frozen-dessert business has found a new home. Arlington’s Nicecream Factory opened in May. The twist: It uses liquid nitrogen to flash-freeze ice cream.

Sandra Tran, 24, launched Nicecream last year with her boyfriend, Gil Welsford, 24.

They make each serving of ice cream to order. The process starts with cream, milk, sugar and the flavor-specific ingredients, which go into the bowl of an eight-quart commercial KitchenAid stand mixer. As the mixer’s paddle begins to spin, the liquid nitrogen is poured in and immediately begins to evaporate, freezing the ice cream and sending clouds of gaseous nitrogen over the counter like a super-cool science experiment.

Freezing times for different flavors vary, but each serving is finished within 30 to 60 seconds. The result is dense and creamy.

Less churning time means less air whipped into the ice cream and smaller ice crystals. The stuff is so thick, you might question the structural integrity of your plastic spoon.

Before Nicecream, Tran had been working at Living Social. Her frequent interactions with local small businesses gave her insight into her dream of opening a dessert shop. A trip to California with Welsford convinced her that liquid nitrogen ice cream was the way to go.

Nicecream sells four flavors of ice cream a day, culled from a rotation of 70. They include bacon, honey lavender, strawberry, mint mojito, lemony Jenny and pistachio; for the last, Nicecream grinds its own nuts – no extracts or fluorescent green food coloring allowed.

That effort may be one reason customers favor the pistachio, which is laced with crunchy specks and tastes like sweetened, frozen nut butter, in a good way.

“People really flock to this concept,” Tran says. “Lots of kids love it. Adults love it.”

Customers tend to clump around the counter watching this sweet miracle of science – jaws slack, hands waving through the evaporated nitrogen – as it’s repeated over and over again in rapid succession.

Don’t have any plans to travel for ice cream this summer? You can make your own right at home. Here are some recipes to get you started:

Lemon Sky Sorbet

11/4 cups lemon juice (from 5 large lemons)

1 cup organic cane sugar

2 tablespoons light/clear corn syrup

4 large egg whites

1 teaspoon ginger puree/paste

21/2 cups water

1/3 cup limoncello

Fill a large mixing bowl with ice and water.

Whisk together the lemon juice, sugar, corn syrup, egg whites, ginger puree and water in a medium saucepan. Place over medium heat; cook, stirring often, until the mixture registers 165 degrees on an instant-read thermometer.

Transfer the saucepan to the ice bath; cool for 15 to 20 minutes, then stir in the limoncello. Pour the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer into a freezer-safe storage container. Cover and refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours or until completely chilled.

Transfer the chilled mixture to an ice cream maker. Churn according to the manufacturer’s directions (about 45 minutes), then transfer the sorbet to the storage container. Seal, and freeze for 8 to 12 hours.

Makes 10 servings (5 cups).

EQUIPMENT: You’ll need an instant-read thermometer and an ice cream maker.

MAKE AHEAD: The base mixture needs to be refrigerated for 1 to 2 hours. The sorbet needs to be frozen for 8 to 12 hours before serving.

Adapted from “Ample Hills Creamery: Secrets and Stories From Brooklyn’s Favorite Ice Cream Shop,” by Brian Smith and Jackie Cuscuna with Lauren Kaelin

Maple Banana Frozen Yogurt

2 or 3 firm but ripe bananas (about 1 pound total, before peeling)

2 cups whole-milk, plain, Greek-style yogurt

1 cup maple syrup

1/2 cup heavy cream

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

pinch kosher salt

Fill a large mixing bowl with ice and water.

Combine the bananas, yogurt, maple syrup, cream, lemon juice and salt in a food processor or blender; puree until smooth. Transfer to a mixing bowl that fits inside the one you’ve used to create the ice bath. Seat the bowl inside the ice bath; chill for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until very cold. (This step helps prevent discoloration.)

Pour the chilled mixture into the ice cream maker; churn according to the manufacturer’s directions (about 45 minutes). Spoon into a freezer-safe container; press parchment or wax paper directly on the surface. Freeze until firm, about 2 hours or up to 3 days.

Makes 10 servings (5 cups).

EQUIPMENT: You’ll need an ice cream maker.

MAKE AHEAD: The churned yogurt needs to be frozen for at least 2 hours and up to 3 days.

Adapted from “The Ice Creamery Cookbook: Recipes for Frozen Treats, Toppings, Mix-Ins and More,” by Shelly Kaldunski

Coconut Fig Ice Cream

3/4 cup packed organic pitted dates, preferably honey or halawi

2 cups canned coconut milk (do not use low-fat; see headnote)

1 1/2 cups fresh, very ripe figs (about 12 ounces), stemmed

Combine the dates and enough water to cover in a small bowl.

Cover and refrigerate for several hours or overnight, then drain (reserving the soaking water to use as a sweetener in drinks, if desired).

Combine the coconut milk and figs in a blender; puree until smooth. With the motor running, gradually add the soaked, drained dates; blend on high until silky smooth, for at least 1 minute.

Place the blender pitcher in the freezer for 1 hour or in the refrigerator for at least several hours or overnight, until well chilled.

Pour the mixture into an ice cream maker.

Churn according to the manufacturer’s directions; the ice cream will have a soft-serve consistency. Serve right away, or transfer to an airtight container and freeze for up to 3 months.

Makes 8 servings (about 1 quart).

EQUIPMENT: You’ll need an ice cream maker.

MAKE AHEAD: The dates need to be soaked for several hours or overnight. The ice cream base needs to be frozen for 1 hour or refrigerated for several hours or overnight before churning. The churned ice cream can be frozen in an airtight container for up to 3 months.

Adapted from Rogers’ “Vegan Ice Cream”

Fresh Mint Ice Cream With Chocolate Flakes

13/4 cups heavy cream

11/2 cups whole milk

3/4 cup packed fresh mint leaves

4 large egg yolks

3/4 cup sugar

1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

2 drops green food coloring (optional)

5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely grated

4 handfuls crushed malted milk balls (optional)

Combine the cream, milk and mint leaves in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until the mixture starts to bubble at the edges, about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat a few inches of water in a saucepan over medium heat.

Combine the egg yolks, sugar and salt in a heatproof bowl that will fit over the top of the saucepan; whisk for about 2 minutes or until that mixture has lightened and about doubled in volume. Remove the bowl from the saucepan; discard the heated water.

Whisk about 1 cup of the cream mixture into the egg mixture until smooth.

Pour that blended mixture into the saucepan, whisking constantly, over medium heat. Use a wooden spoon to stir for 1 to 2 minutes, until the mixture becomes a custard thick enough to coat the back of the spoon. Do not let it come to a boil.

Meanwhile, fill a large mixing bowl with ice and water; seat a smaller bowl inside it. Pour the custard through a fine-mesh strainer into the smaller bowl; stir occasionally until cool. Remove from the ice bath; stir in the food coloring, if using. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours and up to 3 days.

Pour the chilled custard into the ice cream maker; churn according to the manufacturer’s directions. Add the grated chocolate and crushed malted milk balls, if using, during the last minute of churning.

Transfer the ice cream to a freezer-safe container. Place parchment or waxed paper directly on the surface. Seal and freeze until firm, for at least 2 hours, before serving.

Makes 8 servings (1 quart).

EQUIPMENT: You’ll need an ice cream maker.

MAKE AHEAD: The ice cream base needs to be refrigerated for at least 4 hours and up to 3 days.

The ice cream needs to firm up in the freezer for at least 2 hours before serving.

Adapted from “The Ice Creamery Cookbook: Recipes for Frozen Treats, Toppings, Mix-Ins and More,” by Shelly Kalduns

Spicy Pineapple Cilantro Sorbet

For the base:

2 cups simple syrup (see note)

1/2 cup water

squeeze of fresh lemon juice

pinch kosher salt

For the sorbet:

flesh of 1 very ripe pineapple, chopped (no core)

6 tablespoons chopped cilantro leaves

1 serrano chili pepper, stemmed and seeded

To make the base: Combine the simple syrup, water, lemon juice and salt in a large mixing bowl; stir until well blended.

For the sorbet: Combine the pineapple, cilantro and serrano in a food processor or blender to make a smooth puree. Pour into the simple syrup mixture and stir until well blended, then pour into the ice cream maker and churn according to the manufacturer’s directions.

Scrape the sorbet into a freezer-safe container. Seal and freeze for at least 2 hours before serving.

Makes 8 servings (1 quart).

NOTE: To make simple syrup, combine 2 cups water and 21/4 cups sugar in a saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Reduce the heat to medium-low; cook for 5 minutes, then remove from the heat and cool completely before using.

EQUIPMENT: You’ll need an ice cream maker.

MAKE AHEAD: The simple syrup can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 months. The base can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 months. The sorbet needs to freeze for at least 2 hours before serving; it can be frozen for up to 2 weeks.

Adapted from “Coolhaus Ice Cream Book: Custom-Built Sandwiches With Crazy-Good Combos of Cookies, Ice Creams, Gelatos & Sorbets,” by Natasha Case, Freya Estreller and Kathleen Squires

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