Ice-cream Sundays

No summer weekend was complete without a drive to a local ice-cream stand.

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My Massachusetts hometown may have earned its claim to fame because of the textiles manufactured there, but I'll always remember it for another reason that never made the history books. During my childhood, four dairies sold freshly made ice cream on the city's outskirts. And for my family, no summer weekend was complete without a Sunday drive to one of them.

Each week, I knew I'd have to muster patience to endure the long wait in line. Other families, including grandparents, typically arrived at the ice-cream stand on foot or in filled-to-capacity sedans and station wagons. Even teenagers jumped at the opportunity to tag along and indulge in a hot fudge sundae or banana split topped with a swirl of whipped cream and a maraschino cherry.

When my turn came to step up to the screened window, I made sure I knew what I wanted to order. With all the people standing behind me, indecision at this moment was never an option. Although I gravitated toward chocolate chip during grade school, I was fascinated by flavors with names like tutti-frutti, grapenut, and black raspberry that my parents often chose. By the time I'd reached high school, my favorites list included those regional treasures – along with mocha and butter pecan – and I finally stopped trying to wrangle tastes from my parents' scoops.

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Occasionally, I'd veer from my usual cup or cone and go for a frappe, better known as a milkshake in the rest of America, or a black-and-white soda – a frothy chocolate soda partnered with vanilla ice cream.

Then I would hand the money my parents had given me to the person taking my order, hear the swish of the window sliding shut, and listen eagerly for it to reopen as I was granted my passport to nirvana.

It wasn't until I moved to the Rocky Mountains some years later that I really came to appreciate those countryside ice-cream stands. To my dismay, I discovered freshly made ice cream was neither available locally nor considered a big deal to many people in my new home state. Montanans may be sticklers about their cinnamon rolls, summer sausage, and beef jerky, but it appeared that mass-produced vanilla ice cream was fine as far as my neighbors were concerned.

So I adapted. I found the best supermarket brands and stopped kvetching. Although I eventually met people who churned their own favorites, I didn't make that leap myself until after one memorable hike shared with a hotelier friend from Villarrica, Chile.

Conversations during long hikes take as many twists and turns as a mountain trail, and, given my interest in cooking, it's no surprise the topic of food often arises. As my friend and I trekked along, he mentioned his success in adding homemade ice cream to the menu at his hostería (inn). Not only is it simple to fix, it tastes incredible. In fact, he said, people who read about his ice cream in tour books often made a detour just to sample his creations.

Fortunately for me, he was familiar enough with his chocolate ice-cream recipe to recite it while we ate lunch. I dutifully jotted down every word on a small notepad, realizing I was past due for just this kind of culinary adventure.

Soon after, I purchased an electric ice-cream-maker and gave my friend's recipe a try. As promised, it was easy to prepare. But because the batter has to chill and thicken in the refrigerator overnight, it required far more patience than waiting in line at a countryside ice-cream stand. The deliciously rich results were worth the effort, though.

And while I miss those summertime Sunday drives of childhood, I feel fortunate to live someplace other people escape to rather than from – even if I do occasionally have to make my own ice cream.

Hostería de la Colina Chocolate Ice Cream

3 egg yolks

1 cup sugar minus 1 tablespoon

2 cups whole milk

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa

1/3 cup sweetened cocoa (can substitute 3 tablespoons plus 1/2 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa plus 2 tablespoons plus 1/2 teaspoon sugar)

2 cups heavy cream

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

In a mixing bowl, beat egg yolks and sugar at high speed for 1 minute with an electric mixer. Put mixture in a saucepan and gradually blend in the milk so the mixture is as smooth as possible. Cook, stirring often, over medium heat for 15 minutes. When ready, the mixture should lightly coat (but won't stick to) the back of a metal spoon. Use a flat-bottomed tool when stirring to keep the mixture from sticking or burning.

Gradually add the cooked mixture to the cocoa in a large bowl. Make sure there are no lumps. Blend with the electric mixer for a couple of minutes. Place the bowl in a cold-water bath. Stir in heavy cream and vanilla after the mixture reaches room temperature. Refrigerate for 12 hours or overnight; the mixture will thicken slightly.

Churn the mixture in an ice-cream maker until it's very thick. (Depending on the size of your ice-cream maker, you may need to do it in two batches.) Spoon ice cream into a container, cover with a lid, and freeze until solid. Makes about 1-1/2 quarts.

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