The last week or so, it was hot. Okay, let me rephrase: it was GODDAMN hot. So hot, an ice cream truck could melt.
The handy Weather Channel app on my phone informs me of this as if I haven’t noticed. As if my t-shirt sticking to my back as I water my vegetables wasn’t a clue. Or as if the fact that even when the A/C is on high it isn’t quite cold enough wasn’t a clue, either. Yeah. I’m pretty much uninterested in anything unless it involves air-conditioning, eating ice cream, eating ice pops, or swimming. Or listening to my summer music on full blast; Dr. Dre, Snoop, Incubus, Sublime, Beastie Boys, Wu-Tang Clan and of course, the Notorious B.I.G. (those just scream summer to me for one reason or another). I also try to avoid the 6 million mosquitos that want to feast on me like I’m one of those naked sushi-platter chicks. Yeah, I know I’ve said it before, but that’s pretty much all I want to do in a nutshell.…
‘Cause really… when it’s this freakin’ hot, who wants to cook? Or bake? Not I, says the girl who runs the BAKING BLOG.
But honestly. I know I’ve posted a lot of baked stuff lately; pie, cupcakes, galettes, etc. In spite of all that even I sometimes really can’t face turning the oven on. Not in this heat, not even with my A/C on full blast and not even at night when it’s slightly cooler. So when you want something sweet, what else is there to have? Ice cream! Ice cream screams summer, too. And coincidentally, July is also National Ice Cream month (thanks to Ronald Reagan; it was probably the best thing he did as President). And I decided that I wanted to make some ice cream inspired by cheesecake after seeing an ad for ice cream made with Philadelphia Cream Cheese. So I adapted it a little to suit my needs.
Hey, it’s also my birthday month. If I want ice cream, I’ll have ice cream. Not only is it my birthday month, but my birthday is in just 9 days. Ice cream is practically a requirement right now! But first, a little history:
In the Persian Empire, people would pour grape-juice concentrate over snow, in a bowl, and eat this as a treat, especially when the weather was hot. Snow would either be saved in the cool-keeping underground chambers known as “yakhchal“, or taken from snowfall that remained at the top of mountains by the summer capital — Hagmatana, Ecbatana or Hamedan of today. In 400 BC, the Persians went further and invented a special chilled food, made of rose water and vermicelli, which was served to royalty during summers. The ice was mixed with saffron, fruits, and various other flavours.
Ancient civilizations have served ice for cold foods for thousands of years. The BBC reports that a frozen mixture of milk and rice was used in China around 200 BC. The Roman EmperorNero (37–68) had ice brought from the mountains and combined it with fruit toppings. These were some early chilled delicacies.
Arabs were perhaps the first to use milk as a major ingredient in the production of ice cream. They sweetened it with sugar rather than fruit juices, and perfected means of commercial production. As early as the 10th century, ice cream was widespread among many of the Arab world’s major cities, including Baghdad, Damascus, and Cairo. It was produced from milk or cream, often with some yoghurt, and was flavoured with rosewater, dried fruits and nuts. It is believed that the recipe was based on older Ancient Arabian recipes, which were, it is presumed, the first and precursors to Persian faloodeh.
Maguelonne Toussaint-Samat asserts, in her History of Food, that “the Chinese may be credited with inventing a device to make sorbets and ice cream. They poured a mixture of snow and saltpetre over the exteriors of containers filled with syrup, for, in the same way as salt raises the boiling-point of water, it lowers the freezing-point to below zero.” Some distorted accounts claim that in the age of Emperor Yingzong, Song Dynasty (960-1279) of China, a poem named Ode to the ice cheese (詠冰酪) was written by the poet Yang Wanli. Actually, this poem was named Ode to the pastry (詠酥; 酥 is a kind of food much like pastry in the Western world) and has nothing to do with ice cream. It has also been claimed that, in the Yuan Dynasty, Kublai Khan enjoyed ice cream and kept it a royal secret until Marco Polo visited China and took the technique of making ice cream to Italy.
When Italian duchess Catherine de’ Medici married the Duke of Orléans (Henry II of France) in 1533, she is said to have brought with her to France some Italian chefs who had recipes for flavoured ices or sorbets. One hundred years later, Charles I of England was, it was reported, so impressed by the “frozen snow” that he offered his own ice cream maker a lifetime pension in return for keeping the formula secret, so that ice cream could be a royal prerogative. There is no historical evidence to support these legends, which first appeared during the 19th century.
The first recipe in French for flavoured ices appears in 1674, in Nicholas Lemery’s Recueil de curiositéz rares et nouvelles de plus admirables effets de la nature. Recipes for sorbetti saw publication in the 1694 edition of Antonio Latini’s Lo Scalco alla Moderna (The Modern Steward). Recipes for flavoured ices begin to appear in François Massialot’s Nouvelle Instruction pour les Confitures, les Liqueurs, et les Fruits, starting with the 1692 edition. Massialot’s recipes result in a coarse, pebbly texture. Latini claims that the results of his recipes should have the fine consistency of sugar and snow.
Before modern refrigeration techniques, ice cream was a rare treat to be consumed only on special occasions. Luckily now it’s something we can have any time we want, in any flavor we want, morning, noon or night. Birthdays or not. And we’re most especially lucky to have it in cute little ice cream cups like I have. ¡Viva Mes Nacional del Helado!
CHEESECAKE ICE CREAM (inspired by & adapted from a recipe from Philadelphia Cream Cheese)
- 1 8-ounce package cream cheese
- 1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
- 1/3 cup whipping cream
- 2 teaspoons lemon zest
- 4 graham crackers, coarsely chopped
- Mix the first four ingredients in a stand mixer until thoroughly blended. Freeze for 4 hours or until almost solid.
- Re-beat the mixture with the stand mixer until creamy. Add graham crackers to mixture, mix well.
- Freeze for 8 hours or until firm. Remove from freezer around 15-20 minutes before serving. Let stand at room temperature to allow it to soften before scooping into bowls.
And that’s basically that’s all. You can sit back, relax, and have a refreshing dessert that doesn’t require an ice cream maker, an oven or a stove-top at all. Hallelujah! It reminds me of the kind of ice cream you get at one of those super cute little retro ice cream parlors. Smooth, creamy, delicious.
And it tastes just like a slightly melted cheesecake!
It reminds me of a much richer, higher fat version of the Red Mango plain yogurt + crushed graham cracker combo I usually get. You can substitute crushed Oreo cookies for the graham crackers too, kind of like an Oreo cheesecake. Or, incorporate fresh berries into the mix before freezing.
Serve it with anything you’d top a cheesecake (or ice cream sundae) with: fresh berries, strawberry sauce, chocolate chips, chocolate sauce, salted caramel sauce, crushed Oreo cookies, etc. I had some fresh raspberries so that’s what I put out for a topping. But even sprinkles are fun. Go nuts. Like I said, it’s National freakin’ Ice Cream month. Do I really need to elaborate further?
No. No, I do not.