Scrolling through artist Lili Chin's We All Scream website, one is greeted by a parade of joyful lemons, dapper chocolate bars, and mojitos with maracas, to name just a few of the charming characters in her ice cream recipe illustrations. If there's anyone who can capture the giddy joy of making and eating ice cream, it's Lili. An animator and illustrator by day, Lili spends many an evening making ice cream for friends and food swaps, and I can attest to her brilliantly creative flavor combinations – Peanut and Kaffir Lime is my personal favorite, and just last night I savored a scoop of Sunflower Seed with Sugar-Plumped Fruits. In addition to designing the labels for her pints of homemade ice cream, Lili maintains the delightful site We All Scream, where she shares illustrated recipes and tales of her flavor experiments.
5 Questions for Lili
How did you get into making ice cream?
Three summers ago, on a whim, I bought an ice cream maker, a copy of David Lebovitz's The Perfect Scoop, and started making ice creams for fun. Somehow this developed into an obsession. Believe it or not, I don't eat a lot of ice cream – maybe two or three spoonfuls per day. I am more interested in the process of making the ice creams, tasting the flavors, and feeding my friends.
Where do you draw inspiration for your ice creams?
I am a huge fan of Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams, which have amazing depth of flavor and creamy textures. Most of the flavors that I have made come from or are directly inspired by her book Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams At Home. In fact, I first learned about Jeni's egg-free ice cream technique from Faith Durand's post on The Kitchn even before the book came out.
In general, the Internet is always a huge source of inspiration and I figure that I am never going to know what an ice cream flavor tastes like if I don't make the ice cream myself. I also get flavor suggestions from friends, and then I seek out recipes, which I rework using Jeni's Go-To base technique.
Not all experiments have been successful... One time I made a Soy Sauce Star Anise ice cream, which was way too weird – a friend described this as a Chinese BBQ flavor. I have also made a Haw Flakes ice cream because I grew up with Haw Flakes candy as a kid in Southeast Asia. The result was gross. Some flavors don't really work for me in ice cream form.
On the other hand, a Thai Pineapple Curry ice cream that I made for a friend's birthday turned out great.
What are some of your favorite flavors?
The very first flavor I developed and illustrated was Ginger Lemon. I love ginger in ice cream! I have also made Ginger Orange and Ginger Rose. Most of my recipes are sourced and adapted from books and the Internet. Some favorites: Tamarind Coconut, Goat Cheese and Caramelized Pears, Lemon Lavender, Mint Julep, Tangerine and Dark Chocolate Freckles, and Pineapple Upside Down Cake.
Any advice for other home ice cream makers?
• Alcohol makes everything better. No, seriously. It makes the ice cream softer.
• I always chill my ice cream overnight (at least 10 hours) before churning in the ice cream machine, which allows the flavors to deepen.
• If you make a lot of ice cream like I do, it saves time to keep a permanent ice bath in your fridge. In my case, it's a big metal bowl filled with ice.
• Flavor extracts and essential oils are your friend.
• Never use shrimp paste in ice cream. Ever.
• Your Go-To Recipe for Experimenting
Visit Lili's sites: We All Scream and Lili Chin
(Images: Lili Chin)