Customized Ice Cream: 5 Tips For Creating Your Own Ice Cream Flavor

Our Best Lick Contest 2008 is ending on Monday, making this your last weekend to tweak, fiddle, and experiment! If you've been having trouble settling on that perfect finishing touch, here are a few tips for boosting flavor and getting your ice cream just the way you like it.

For any of these tips, start with a basic custard or non-dairy ice cream recipe and take it from there.

1. Infuse flavor into the base. While you're cooking the base, you can infuse any number of spices or seasonings. Vanilla beans are a good standard, but you can get creative with tea, lemon grass, cloves and star anise, or citrus zest.

2. Add alcohol. A splash of grand marnier or champagne can give ice cream a little extra zing! Ice cream guru David Lebovitz recommends no more than 3 tablespoons per quart of ice cream, and add it into the custard base right before you start churning. (FYI, alcohol will also make your ice cream softer.)

3. Fold in any extras at the end. The best time to fold in those nuts and berries is when the ice cream is almost done churning and nearly solid. This prevents them from getting smashed during the churning process. Since the ice cream is almost solid at this point, the extras will stay suspended and not sink to the bottom.

4. Freeze extras before adding them. Freezing berries before adding them to the ice cream prevents discoloration and keeps them from breaking apart. We don't have scientific proof, but we also feel that freezing crunchy things like cookie crumbles or cinnamon toast croutons keeps them getting soggy.

5. Use high quality ingredients. When foods are served cold, the flavors can taste muted. To make sure that all the flavors in your ice cream shine through, use the best ingredients you can find with the purest, most concentrated flavors.

What other tips do you have for making your own ice cream flavor?

Related: How to Make Ice Cream Like an Artisan: Splendid Recipes from Jeni's Ice Creams in Columbus, Ohio

(Images: Flickr members Whirling Phoenix, sskennel, Lonely Angel CP, and Andreas Kollegger licensed under Creative Commons)