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The Quest for the Perfect Frozen Confection - by Ron Skaar - August 2015


The Quest for the Perfect Frozen Confection

by Ron Skaar

Three renowned civilizations of antiquity share credit in the creation of ice cream;  Persian nobles, of the Euphrates river valley, built ice houses to combat the summer heat. Roman slaves were sent into the mountains to retrieve blocks of ice to crush and serve with fruit, nuts and spiced syrups. Ancient Chinese had mastered the freezing process by using salt and saltpeter to lower the freezing point of ice.

During the Tang dynasty guests were served a sweet iced treat made from camphor-laced water buffalo milk. Six centuries later Marco Polo indulged in sorbets and ices when he was a visitor to the court of the Kublai Khan. Around this same time the affect of salt on freezing, to set off the desired chemical reaction, was refined in the Arab world. 

By the 1600’s ice cream and water ices were being featured at aristocratic banquets in Florence, Naples, Spain and Paris. In Florence, the Medici sponsored a contest “searching for the greatest frozen dessert”. A local chicken farmer, Ruggeri, concocted a sweet treat of fruit juice and ice (similar to sorbet) and won the coveted award. 

Catherine de Medici, a true queen of cuisine, brought the legendary Ruggeri, and her troop of cook-savvy servants, with her to France where she was to marry the future French king. He made the frozen dessert for her wedding to compete with the many fabulous French confections. The enchanted guests were served a different flavored ice each day of the month long celebration! 

Back in Italy, the Medici commissioned artist Bernardo Buontalenti to prepare a feast for the king of Spain. He featured that creamy frozen dessert we now call gelato. Records reveal a “plate of ice cream” was served to King Charles II at a banquet in 1671. Three years later his Neapolitan steward published a recipe for a milk sorbet laced with candied pumpkin.        

By the time of the American Revolution, the French had discovered that frequent stirring of the freezing mix produced a finer, less crystalline texture. The recipes for frozen desserts had crossed the Atlantic with the colonists. One of the few recipes Thomas Jefferson wrote down was for French style vanilla ice cream fortified with egg yolks.

In 1784, George Washington bought a mechanical ice cream maker for Mount Vernon.

An American woman, Nancy Johnson, invented the hand-cranked machine for making ice cream in 1846. Ice cream sodas and sundaes are created in Midwestern “fountains” after the Civil War. The banana split became an extravagant caloric indulgence, along with milkshakes and “black cows”. In 1919, a Danish–born Iowan candy store owner discovered a way to make a thin coating of chocolate adhere to ice cream. After being renamed the Eskimo Pie, by a business partner, they soon sold a million bars a day.

The greatest frozen desserts heighten the extraordinary silky characteristics of cream. For catered events, I’ve created a rich, meltingly smooth and luscious frozen lemon frost soufflé. The pastry cream base can be infused with raspberry, strawberry or any other fruit puree. Another favorite is a frozen white, dark and mocha chocolate mousse terrine, served with   a hot fudge sauce. The following recipe is very versatile, much simpler to prepare than those others yet just as stunning in its presentation.  This is a classic frozen ice-cream dessert. 



Ice Cream Bombe

One container (1.5 quarts) dark chocolate ice cream

¾ of a container (1.5 quarts) vanilla-bean ice cream

1 container (14 ounce) raspberry sorbet

Cocoa powder, dark chocolate or white chocolate shavings, for garnish

Line a 8-9” inch metal bowl with plastic wrap, over lapping the edges. Take out chocolate ice cream and let temper for 10 minutes. Using a large thin stainless spoon, scrape 1 inch slabs of ice cream and line the insides of mold. Once you’ve finished the sides, fill the bottom. Fill in any crevices, line with plastic and press a similar 6-7 inch metal bowl firmly down to remove any air bubbles. Remove inside bowl and freeze for 1 hour. Take out vanilla ice cream and let temper for 10 minutes. Remove first layer from freezer, and take out plastic wrap. Fill in with a 1 inch layer of the vanilla ice cream, cover with plastic wrap and use a 4-5 inch bowl to firm down. Remove bowl and freeze two layers for 1 hour. Remove from freezer and take out plastic wrap. Fill with tempered raspberry sorbet, smooth top, cover and freeze over-night. Take from freezer, invert on serving platter, remove plastic wrap, add garnish and cut into wedges. Serves 8-10.  

Use your personal favorite flavors for the layers and any number of garnishes.

Ron Skaar is a Wine Country Caterer and can be reached at