Wild Alaskan salmon and halibut have squatting rights in most of our freezers this time of year, but you might want to consider giving up some prime real estate for ice cream made locally by Elissa Brown and Chris Pike. Their brain-freeze child, Wild Scoops, is only a few months young and already has a cult-like following among ice cream lovers in the know.
Brown and Pike met in North Carolina, where Brown was teaching science and Pike finishing a masters degree in renewable energy technology. After stumbling upon an ice cream cookbook at the library four years ago, Brown bought a basic home ice cream maker and soon started churning.
"I loved the creativity involved," she recalls. "Every Saturday, I would go to the local farmers' market and browse the stalls, searching for freshly grown products to feature and blend into new flavors."
In the classroom, she urged her middle school-aged students to experiment, take risks, hypothesize and learn from mistakes. At home, Brown felt like a mad ice cream scientist. "I ran controlled experiments of different recipes, conducted blind taste tests and read everything I could about the science behind the ice cream making process. There are so many variables with artisan ice cream. Even now, I'm always wondering, 'What if I used more of this ingredient? What if I steeped this 10 minutes longer? What if I swirled this in differently?'"
During one of her monthly ice cream tastings, she met Pike, who soon became a loyal attendee, but then moved back to Alaska; eventually he was able to convince Brown to pursue her ice cream dreams in one of the states known to consume the most ice cream per capita.
In Anchorage, Brown started searching for ice cream with unique, handcrafted flavors. "There's been a flourishing scene of craft breweries, and there are amazing bakeries and coffee shops and even restaurants starring innovative, local food," she says. "But aside from Carmen's Gelato -- I love what they do -- there wasn't much of a craft ice cream scene."
But Wild Scoops is more than ice cream. With their combined backgrounds in science, photojournalism, renewable energy sources and teaching, Brown and Pike have created a small business with big ideas that's also community-oriented, working as much as possible with local farmers and producers. And since food is often a platform for telling stories, ice cream for Brown and Pike is their way to connect to their surroundings, and offer food that "shines with a sense of place."
Brown says she loves creating new flavors -- Ship Creek Sriracha and Midnight Sun Brewing's Arctic Rhino Coffee Porter with dark chocolate fudge -- but what she really enjoys is being able to collaborate with farmers and artisan business owners and to educate customers on what we have around us. "Ice cream connects to everything," she assures me. "And it makes people happy."
-- Kim Sunée is the bestselling author of "Trail of Crumbs: Hunger, Love, and the Search for Home." She ate and lived in Europe for 10 years before working as a food editor for Southern Living magazine and Cottage Living magazine. Sunée has appeared several times as a guest judge on the Food Network's Iron Chef America. She lives in Anchorage and her latest cookbook is "A Mouthful of Stars." For more food and travel, visit kimsunee.com or instagram.com/kimsunee.
Wild Scoops The Unbeetable ice cream
2 cups whole milk, divided
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
2/3 cups sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup (not high fructose)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 cup roasted beets, peeled and pureed*
1 orange, peeled and juiced (reserve peel and juice separately)
Optional Garnishes: Dark Chocolate Shavings, Toasted Walnuts
*To roast beets, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Trim beet of greens (reserve greens to sauté in olive oil with salt, pepper, and garlic); place on aluminum foil or parchment paper and drizzle with olive oil (this will make peeling easier). Roast for about 35 minutes or until tender when pierced with a fork. Let cool enough to handle; peel with a knife or vegetable peeler. Cut into quarters and pulse in a food processor or blender until smooth.
1. In a small bowl, mix together 1/4 cup of the milk and cornstarch to make a slurry; set aside.
2. Combine the remaining milk, cream, sugar, corn syrup, vanilla and salt in a large saucepan; bring to a rolling boil over medium-high heat. Add orange peel and boil for four minutes. Remove pan from heat, slowly whisk in the cornstarch slurry. Bring the mixture back to a boil over medium-high heat and cook, stirring, for one minute more. Remove from heat and stir in roasted beet purée and 1 tablespoon of orange juice. Cool mixture by pouring it into a metal bowl set inside a larger bowl of ice water. Stir occasionally, then cover and put in fridge to chill completely. Make sure ice cream canister has been pre-chilled in freezer at least 24 hours.
3. Pour mixture through strainer to remove orange peel and beet lumps. Freeze in ice cream maker according to manufacturer's directions.
4. When churning is done, ice cream will have a soft-serve consistency. Enjoy as is, or cover with parchment paper and chill in the freezer for several hours more. Garnish, if desired, with shaved dark chocolate or toasted walnuts.
Recipe by Elissa Brown and Chris Pike of Wild Scoops, inspired by a recipe from "Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream cookbook"
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