Central Market Homemade Ice Cream Contest

Sunday, July 27, 2-6pm,
Central Market,
4001 N. Lamar

Are you hungry for ice cream all year round? Do friends sample your homemade ice cream and swear you're likely to be the next Amy, Ben, or Jerry? Every time you discover a new sweet treat, do you wonder how it would taste in ice cream? Is the grinding crunch of an ice cream maker music to your ears? Could you use a $250 cooking spree or free cooking classes for a year? If you've answered yes to more than one of these questions, here's a contest designed just for you.

Central Market Cooking School celebrates National Ice Cream Month with its second annual Homemade Ice Cream Contest on Sunday, July 27. Entry forms are available at the Information Center and must be completed with a $15 entry fee by Monday, July 21. The ice cream entries will be judged by a panel of chefs, media representatives, store partners, and customers. Judging will take place from 2pm until 6pm, with the winners announced on the cafe patio at 6pm. The overall Grand Prize winner will receive a $250 shopping spree, category winners will receive $50 gift certificates, and runners-up will be awarded free classes at the Cooking School. Every entrant gets a contest T-shirt.

Contestants must submit a complete list of ingredients with each entry. Exact recipes will not be required to enter the contest but winning recipes may be requested for publication in the Central Market newsletter or posting on its website. Samples of ice cream should be delivered to the Central Market Cooking School in a clear, quart-size Central Market container between 9am and noon on Sunday morning, July 27. Each sample must be labeled with the recipe name and will then be given an identifying number. The contestant's name will not appear on the sample.

Due to the diversity of entries in last year's contest, two new categories have been added to the competition. The categories are Traditional, Austintatious, Lighter Side (low-fat, sorbets, frozen yogurts, etc.), and Kids, for cooks 16 and younger. Each entry will be judged on a weighted scale that includes Taste (50%), Texture/Consistency (20%), Color/Blend (15%), and Overall Presentation (recipe name, balance of ingredients, judges' preference, 15%). Here are some tips from a former and future judge and ice cream lover to help you maximize your winning potential.

Taste: Remember that freezing diminishes the flavor of everything. Consider the taste of your ice cream as it melts on the tongue and also the taste that remains in the mouth. Large frozen chips or chunks of chocolate won't have much flavor, but shaved chocolate will melt faster in the mouth and could provide the taste you want. Last year's winner, Mint to Be, was perfectly accented with chocolate shavings. Be careful with extracts as they can impart strong artificial flavors if used in large quantities. Innovative flavors can be wonderful, but strangeness for its own sake can backfire. The overwhelmingly unpleasant aroma of an exotic tropical fruit used in one entry last year made the judges hesitant to even taste the ice cream.

Texture/Consistency: One of last year's winners refused to divulge his formula but stressed that the ice-to-salt ratio of his brine mixture was much more crucial to the texture of his winning batch than the actual recipe. Too much ice and not enough salt and it will never freeze; too much salt in the ice and the texture won't be right. Inside the freezer, large chunks of frozen fruit don't have much taste and their texture is unappealing as well. Fruits can be macerated in a little liqueur to keep them from freezing solidly and they'll taste better, too. Liquids added to the basic custard (fruit juices, etc.) can result in an icy texture. Many professionals add a small amount of dry milk powder to ice cream custards to absorb moisture and provide a richer texture. Cooked egg custards generally deliver a creamier product and also solve the problem of concern about salmonella bacteria in raw eggs. One important suggestion may seem too obvious but take it into consideration: Prepare your entry the day before the contest, let it set up in the freezer overnight, then ice it down in a cooler for transportation to the contest. Last year, a few entries were made the morning of the event and then transported to the store in the heat. Their texture was ruined. Although they were put into a freezer as quickly as possible after delivery to the contest, they never even approximated the texture of ice cream. One made a great milkshake, however.

Color/Blend: Most people would swear there could be no such thing as bad homemade ice cream, but they would be wrong. A few of last year's entries really failed when it came to color. If ice cream doesn't even look inviting, how can it be competitive? It's important to bear in mind that some fruits change color when they are peeled, mashed, and/or mixed with other ingredients. Uncooked bananas will turn brown and the result will be unappealing. They can be roasted or sautéed to help avoid this calamity and will probably taste better, too. Mashed blueberries will turn a muddy grey color and render the product visually undesirable. A combination of uncooked bananas and mashed blueberries looks so unappetizing in homemade ice cream that no one will care how it tastes. Trust me on this.

Overall Presentation: A catchy name and familiar flavors that complement each other produced the big winner last year. Bobbie Fuller's Mint to Be was a velvety vanilla base flavored with peppermint extract with shaved chocolate, chopped Oreo™ cookies and peppermint candies. It quickly became a regular addition to my regular homemade ice cream rotation. This is not to say you should duplicate her entry. Fuller makes ice cream year round and is always experimenting with flavors. Play to your strengths, don't get too bizarre, and plan ahead. The judges are eager to see what folks come up with this year.

-- Virginia B. Wood

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