Buying too many ice cream books is one of the job hazards here at Underbelly. To help save your valuable time and money and bookshelf real estate, we offer the following highly opinionated recommendations. These are tailored to our typical readers: enthusiasts, pros, and aspiring pros who are familiar with the basics, and want more.
Ice Cream, 7th Edition, Goff+Hartel
Douglas Goff is possibly the most famous name in ice cream science, up there with Drs. Cesar Vega and Michael Mullen. This book is the reference work that every process engineer at an ice cream factory has on her shelf, and is probably the fist expensive, toe-breaking text book required by every university ice cream science program. Nevertheless, it offers greater breadth than depth, which positions it primarily as an introductory text or technical reference. It’s also aimed solidly at industrial production. For artisanal ice cream, you’ll have to skim through dense chapters to find useful information. Considering the price and immensity, this one is worth finding at a library, but I wouldn’t recommend buying it. You can get a taste for free with the online version, The Ice Cream eBook, courtesy of the University of Guelph.
The Science of Ice Cream, C. Clarke
Chris Clarke. Same target audience as the Goff and Hartel book, but much more condensed, at 200 pages. Worth a look if you find it at library.
Frozen Food Science and Technology, Judith A. Evans.
A book with a scope much broader than ice cream, and a scientific focus much deeper than what you need to make ice cream, this book might nevertheless appeal to your inner geek if you’re trying to model a thermal process or understand the behavior of ice crystals. Most people will probably choose to leave this one at the library.
I Segreti del Gelato, Angelo Covitto
An excellent textbook aimed at gelato production. It’s bilingual, with the main text in Italian, and smaller-type English translations. I find it’s a little slow finding my way around in English. Corvito defines gelato as lower-fat ice creams, served at a relatively soft consistency. This constitutes a stylistic bent, but the fundamentals are the same as with any ice cream, giving his book a broad appeal. Notable to anyone with more restricted ideas of what constitutes gelato, Corvitto includes both custard-based and non-custard-based formulas.
Corvitto’s introductory text on ingredients, theory, and technique is compact but very good. Compared with other professional ice cream book authors, I find that he does the best job of integrating the theoretical with the practical. His explanations are clear, and his formulas and analyses are laid out in an elegant manner. Corvitto makes his formulas easy to understand, modify, and scale. He makes thorough use of POD and PAC values (for mathematically estimating sweetness and hardness), and introduces a simple method of compensating for flavor ingredients that increase hardness (chololates, nut pastes etc.). This kind of thinking should be standard, but is surprisingly rare even the world of professional ice cream making.
While Corvitto’s focus is gelato, with all the ambiguities attached to that label, his book will be useful to professionals and enthusiasts regardless of their chosen style.
Frozen Desserts, Francisco Migoya (Culinary Institute of America)
Typical CIA text book—introductory level for beginning pastry chefs. Much more breadth than depth; it covers a wide range of desserts beyond ice creams and sorbets, getting into granitas, semifredos, etc., and then into related components and plated desserts. I’m not convinced by some of the formulas in the book, and wonder if there’s some ghost writing and hurried editing at work here. Migoya is one of the best and most knowledgable pastry chefs in the world, but some of the basics here (like stabilizer formulas) are poor. I’d recommend this book as a supplement if you need an introduction to plated frozen desserts, with a scope beyond ice cream. There’s a fair amount of content concerning standard pastry components (glazes, sauces, compotes, meringues, savarins, financiers), although it’s far from thorough, and the recipes themselves are not organized in a very user-friendly manner. Aspiring pastry chefs will want a more solid reference for all of this.
The Perfect Scoop, David Lebovitz
This is a popular book, full of approachable beginner-level recipes for home ice cream makers. The base formulas are all standard homemade ice cream fare, and as such probably won’t be interesting to readers of this blog. Unsurprisingly, it’s guilty of the most egregious cookbook sin: no weight measurements. If you expect me to measure in 1/3 cups, tablespoons-minus-teaspoons, and pinches, you had better be the all-knowing, exhumed spirit of Escoffier himself. Otherwise, you’re just telling us you’re unserious, and that you assume your readers are unserious.
All this said, many of Lebovitz’s flavor combinations are interesting. They’re worth borrowing or riffing on. This makes the book worth checking out of the library, even if just to write down flavor ideas from the recipe names.
Hello My Name is Ice Cream, Dana Cree
I’d been hearing about this book for a while, and finally got my hands on a copy (it was out of print for months, during which Amazon added weeks to the delivery time whenever I checked). I’m very pleasantly surprised. Dana Cree knows her topic, and does a much friendlier, laid back job of explaining advanced topics to beginners than I’ll have the patience for. She even manages to sell her audience on stabilizers without calling anyone names. Maybe this is a Midwestern character trait? HMNIIC is solidly a home cookbook, but it gently (if insistently) asks readers to up their game. Recipes are in metric weights, as all recipes should be. She offers several stabilizer options, from simple and accessible to roll-you-own raw ingredients to just using a commercial formula. And she’s unique among ice cream cookbook authors in her understanding of fat content—she varies it depending on the flavor, to give the appropriately intense flavor release.
The book isn’t perfect. Cree introduces the concept of using different sugars to control sweetness and freezing point depression, but doesn’t use these powers as effectively as she might; the recipes are all too sweet. She introduces the idea of adding milk solids for all the textural benefits, but then is shy about implementing it; most of the recipes would benefit from more dry milk. Some of the technical information goes beyond what the book’s intended audience is likely to understand, and some contains inaccuracies, or is made more confusing than necessary. For example, she invents the term “destabilizers” to describe one of the functional properties of ice cream emulsifiers. But no one else uses this term, and the ingredients that perform this function are already in the mix serving other functions. I appreciate the effort here, but think this would confuse more advanced students of ice cream, and fly right over the heads of the intended audience. But these are very, very minor quibbles.
Cree more than makes up for this with features like the appendix, “Ratios, or How Math Will Help You Make Your Own Ice Cream Recipes.” It’s a basic introduction to formula analysis and balancing, and probably too much work for the typical reader … but it drives home the point that there’s a reason behind everything in a good recipe. And that if you’re willing to work it out, you can understand those reasons and put them to use. This kind of thing warms my cockles.
The book’s greatest strength is these solid technical underpinnings, which Cree only waters down a bit for her popular audience. Cree is a pastry chef, with experience at Michelin 3-star restaurants The Fat Duck and Alinea. Her flavors and execution befit her impressive history.
This said, the flavors in the book are mostly simple and foundational (like the flavors I share in this blog). If you’re looking for the more adventurous side of her imagination, find her menus online (currently at Publican in Chicago). You’ll find ideas like “Hay, Burnt Honey, Blackberry, & Thyme.” Think about that flavor combination for a minute. Don’t mistake it for the next pumpkin spice chai, or some Brooklyn Food Truck hipster’s reach for novelty.
In summary: Cree’s book is excellent, deserving a spot on the shelves of beginner and fanatical ice cream makers alike.
Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream Desserts, Jeni Britton Bauer
Jeni Britton Bauer knows as much about ice cream as anyone. Her industrial process is unique, drawing deeply from the science of milk protein denaturization to produce exquisitely textured, vibrant tasting, egg-free ice creams from local raw milk. Much like Dana Cree and David Lebovitz, she has a great imagination for flavors and a well-honed palate.
Based on all this, I expected to like her book more. It’s fine, if you just want to make home kitchen-level recipes in her style, or if you want it as a flavor reference. But unfortunately, Jeni doesn’t show much trust in her readers to understand the underpinnings, as Dana Cree does. Also unlike Cree, she doesn’t offer the options of using serious stabilizing ingredients.
Instead, as a concession to label-friendliness and pantry-friendliness, her recipes use cornstarch and cream cheese. The former is standard, but a B-team player. The latter isn’t as ridiculous as it sounds; it’s a concentrated source of milk solids, and usually contains locust bean gum or carrageenans. But using cream cheese sacrifices the control you get from grownup ingredients. And I just don’t want to put cream cheese in my ice cream, unless I’m making cream cheese-flavored ice cream. The book also greatly simplifies the cooking process that Jeni developed so carefully for her commercial ice creams. As a result of all of this, you can expect that the book recipes will produce results quite different from the versions she’ll sell you. Finally, there are no weight measurements. Sadness.
For all these reasons, I consider this book little more than an interesting flavor reference, and as a recipe book for ice cream accompaniments (small cakes, tart shells, sauces, etc.—more on this in a minute) Ideas like Juniper & Lemon Curd, Cumin & Honey Butterscotch, and Wheatgrass, Pear, & Vinho Verde are imaginative without being gimmicky.
Important note: this is Bauer’s second book, intended to accompany her first, Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home. I bought book #2 without realizing that book #1 existed. I’m waiting for book #1 to arrive, and will update these reviews accordingly. Book #1 emphasizes ice cream content, and so is more likely of interest to readers of this blog. #2 emphasizes companion recipes and plated desserts. Think of it as a home cook’s version of Migoya’s Frozen Desserts book. The recipes are all adapted for easy-to-find ingredients, simple techniques, and #$!&%# imperial volume measurements. I have not evaluated any of these component recipes, but based on Bauer’s reputation, I trust that they’ll be tasty.
Overall, this book is worth checking out to see how Jeni combines flavors in ice cream, or if you’re looking for a dead-simple reference on components and home-style plated desserts. Stay tuned for a review of her first book.
The Ice Cream E-Book. Short and sweet summary of key points from Douglas Goff’s research at the University of Guelph.
DairyScience.info. Dr. Michael Mullan and associates share a wealth of knowledge. The site offers for sale several well-designed formula balancing spreadsheets (choose #7 for artisanal ice cream).
- If you only have time or space for one book, get Dana Cree’s Hello My Name is Ice Cream.
- If you can get a second—or if you’re making ice cream commercially or plan to specialize in lighter Italian styles—get Corvito’s Segretti del Gelato.
- Consider Migoya’s Frozen Desserts for a broader range of frozen dessert topics.
Books worth borrowing include Lebovitz and Briton-Bauer (for flavor ideas) and Goff/Hartell (to seek answers to your more arcane questions).