Saturday, July 4, 2015

Caroline's Vanilla Ice Cream

A lot easier to make than you might think!

Happy Independence Day, everyone! Hope your 4th of July is going well, and boy, do I have a treat to share with all of you.

Homemade ice cream is always something I've been interested in making, but never had the means to try out until last year. I bought a Cuisinart ice cream maker for my birthday last year, and... promptly didn't get around to using it until this summer. Oh well, better late than never, right? And it turns out, this is an easy, extremely tasty treat that's way easier than I ever imagined it being.

I know this is the second year in a row where I haven't done a Felicity post on the 4th, but I've been dying to give homemade ice cream a shot. Some American Girl enthusiasts might be wondering why I'm not introducing ice cream with Addy or Samantha, since ice cream makers play a part in both their birthday stories and came with their birthday treats sets, but I promise, there's a really cool reason Caroline's getting featured in today's post.

What is that reason, you ask?

Frozen treats similar to the ice cream we know today have been enjoyed by people all over the world for centuries, and there are definitely records of Americans enjoying ice cream before the War of 1812. However, much like Thomas Jefferson gets credit for introducing eating pasta with cheese sauce (what would become macaroni and cheese) to America, Dolley Madison, First Lady of the United States is acknowledged as the first person to really popularize the dessert in the new country after serving it at the White House.

Dolley Madison is better known to most casual historians as the woman who established what exactly the duties of the First Lady of the United States were, and her other claim to fame is that she ordered the iconic portrait of George Washington be removed from the White House before it was burned down by the British in 1814. The story has been embellished over the years - Dolley didn't bust into the burning White House and cut the picture out of its frame herself - but there's no question that we owe her and the other members of the White House staff our thanks for taking steps to preserve our national treasures during war time.

Although ice cream was eaten in America before Dolley's husband James' time in office, it wasn't especially popular or easy to come by. This was before the age of the hand churned ice cream makers, and required a lot of chipped ice to make, which was a huge extravagance in warm weather during a period before refrigeration. Dolley Madison served ice cream at her husband's second inaugural ball during the War of 1812, and almost immediately, it became associated with the First Lady. Mrs. Madison was extremely well known as a gracious hostess who excelled at both promoting her husband and bringing people of different political mindsets together to talk and enjoy each other's company at her parties. Her example is what other First Ladies have tried to emulate during their time in the unofficial office.

This is just the basic vanilla ice cream recipe that came with my ice cream mixer, and I was slightly surprised at how simple it is. In a medium bowl, you put one cup of whole milk, 3/4's of a cup of sugar and a pinch of salt into a mixing bowl. Using a hand mixer, you mix until the sugar and salt are completely dissolved. Then, stir in two cups of heavy cream and one tablespoon of vanilla extract.

Cover this, and leave it in your fridge for one to two hours, or overnight. I left mine overnight just to make sure it was very, very cold before I put it in my ice cream machine.

Like most household ice cream machines, mine has a freezer bowl you pour the mixture into and a churn, which is quite different from how the cooks at the White House would have made the dish in 1812. This freezer bowl needs to be completely frozen before you pour the mixture into it, which generally means it should be sitting in your freezer for about twenty four hours before you start making your ice cream.

Once it's in the bowl, you put in the churn and the lid and turn on the machine. The recipe said that it would take about fifteen to twenty minutes to thicken up, and I basically hovered the whole time watching it to make sure it didn't over churn. That's something that seems to always happen in Food Network shows when people make ice cream, so it was something I wanted to be mindful of.
At first, nothing was happening. But then, slowly, it started getting thicker and thicker until it actually really looked like ice cream!

I left it in for the full twenty minutes and was left with a pretty thick ice cream, that nevertheless seemed to have a lot less body than a store bought ice cream is. While I was scraping it into a container for storage, the ice cream closest to the walls of bowl got really hard and icy, but the rest of it seemed a little soft.

The recipe recommends freezing it again for about two hours to make it thicker, and I left it in over night just to be sure.

The next day, we had delicious ice cream to enjoy!

One thing I was not warned about was how fast this melted once I took it out of the container! Even after freezing it overnight, the ice cream was very soft and started to melt almost instantly, so of course this was the time Caroline decided to start trying to topple over at every opportunity. Don't face plant in the ice cream!

While this recipe was really simple and isn't exactly a mind blowing, world changing ice cream, it was really tasty! I'm a big fan of boring, vanilla ice cream because it pairs well with everything and is tasty to eat by itself, too. It's cool to know that I can whip together my own if I'm ever in the mood for something a little different than the store bought varieties on hand, especially because this would be a great base for things like cookie and candy ice creams. It was a big hit with the rest of my family, too, and my mom has been similarly bitten by the ice cream bug. This definitely won't be the last time you see my ice cream machine!

That being said, I don't think I'm going to be trying out Dolley Madison's favorite ice cream. Oyster ice cream doesn't exactly have much appeal to me! To think we have strange, unusual flavors in our day and age.

This recipe makes about five cups of ice cream, which is the equivalent of ten half cup servings. This might vary with your own ice cream mixer's size, but seemed to be a pretty decent amount to serve a fairly large group of people. If you're looking to feed a huge audience, though, it might be better to go for the store bought ice cream so you're not making twenty batches a month in advance of your party.

But hey at least we have freezers now! Imagine how hard that would be for historic chefs trying to cater a giant White House gathering.

Later this month, we'll talk about how the hand crank ice cream machine with a freezer was invented to help make the process easier, but for now, we're going to dig in to this tasty treat.

Might want to get Inkpot away from that, Caroline!


  1. Congrats on succeeding at ice cream! We always use Mexican vanilla in our vanilla ice cream to make it specially yummy.

    1. That sounds delicious! Might need to give that a shot next time. :)

  2. Ooo, have you ever tried sea salt and olive oil on ice cream? It's delicious over standard vanilla.

    1. No I haven't, but that sounds amazing! I am definitely giving that a shot next time I have a bowl of vanilla.

  3. Wow, I knew Dolley Madison was amazing, but I didn't know she was responsible for popularizing ice cream. Cool! My family always has homemade ice cream on the 4th, it is a great tradition. Also, I love the dress your Caroline is wearing. Did you make it?

    1. I wish! I'm terrible at sewing anything that's not a square pillow, haha. I bought it from a member of AGC, and she got it from Kindred Thread:

      It's based on a dress from Caroline's paper doll set and is very, very well made. It might actually be one of my favorite outfits she owns!

  4. Thanks for the interesting Dolley Madison trivia! And I agree, let's pass on the Oyster Ice Cream. But by all means, let's try some other creations.

    1. I definitely want to try making our own Oreo cake batter ice cream sometime!