I'll start with some basics so you can accurately judge my review:
I own an ice cream maker (just the standard 'freezeable tub with a motor' type)
I've made countless batches of very varied ice creams (estimating 200+ batches based on a fortnightly concoting basis over the last 8 years)
I'm an instinctive cook, and can bake, create recipes and rarely mess things up.
I received this book from a very good friend who knows me well and is also responsible for me owning the aforementioned ice cream maker, so I feel sad that I start my review by assigning the damning 2 star score to such a thoughtful present.
I must also caveat this review by saying that I had very little prior knowledge of The Icecreamist before receiving this, and only caught a cursory glimpse of the 'Baby GaGa' article in the Metro, so feel I am pretty unbiased.
Lots of background on the author - we can trust him as he has a long standing love and career in the ice-cream industry.
There are plenty of photographs throughout
There's a lot of recipes for ice-creams, (the much forgotten) sorbets, cocktails and other things to do with your ice cream.
There's a pragmatic hints and tips section
There's an equipment list (that shows clearly that you don't need every gadget under the sun to make something lucious).
So, as I take my cookery books seriously, I firstly read the headlines of all the recipes: concoction name and main ingredients. Secondly, I went back to a couple of stand-out recipes that appealed to me. Thirdly, I sourced my ingredients.
At this stage, what has struck me about the recipes is: They are nearly all based on the same simple custard premise. OK, simple enough - you have a formula that you know works, so base everything on that. Right?
Well no. As a (yes, previously mentioned) practiced cook, I immediately questioned this. How can an ice cream recipe that can be eaten on it's own, that contains X amount of sugar, and tastes perfectly sweet enough be able to then take the addition of yet more sweet substances without making it extremely sweet.
Well, sadly, (after testing the theory) the answer is it can't.
I was all set to give this the full benefit of the doubt as some of the flavours suggested sounded particularly fabulous, and, well, maybe the base mix wasn't too sweet (though it did look so from previous ratios I am used to).
So, on a quiet Saturday I made the base custard mix without any deviation (even ensuring that the milk merely 'steamed, not boiled'), and that I whisked to exactly the consistency stated.
The first thing that struck me was (as another reviewer mentioned), the 'spoon coating' consistency of the custard on heating was not reached. It merely reached a slightly thicker than milk yellowy liquid. I tasted said liquid and it was very sweet.
OK, as the book states clearly, patience is required, so I cooled as decreed, split the mix in to two batches, and continued my reading. By the time the next steps were to take place, I had read the whole book, cover to cover.
My poisons of choice were the jamaican ginger cake one (I used homemade cake that tastes almost identical to the standard branded one suggested, but with a lot less preservatives, courtesy of a great recipe from Nigella), and the white chocolate one, as 'Jamican Ginger cake and custard' was a childhood camping holiday staple, and the white chocolate one intrigued me as it seemed a good use for a couple of spoonfuls of horlicks!
I prepped the additional ingredients to the letter, even melting my chocolate properly rather than cheating using the microwave, and continued, making sure that before each step that my ingredients were very cold, door open to make sure amibient temperature in the kitchen remained cold... (you get the gist).
So, both batches made, they both looked reasonably liquid (and the taste test again said 'call me a dentist', but mixed and froze nicely, so trying to still be optimistic...
To the taste test:
Jamican Ginger: erm... nope! All I can taste is sugar, sugar, sugar. It's as though I'm eating pure ginger syrup with a dash of cream that's been frozen. I'm liking the lumpy remnants of actual cake, but sadly wishing I'd not wasted them in this ice-cream.
White Chocolate: Urgh. OK, so I CAN taste the malty horlicks, and it is really quite a nice thing, but that is pretty much the only positive thing.
The author talks a little about mouth-feel. This phrase is odd, but important - how things feel in your mouth. Most ice-cream should have a smooth, viscous and non-cloying texture prior to the addition of the lumps and bumps you choose to flavour with. The mouth-feel of the Icecreamists examples I have tested is somewhat lacking, as was sadly so obvious immediately at the cooled custard stage - it is smooth, it's not too fatty, but it is very thin, and as such leaves you with a very thin (and, did I mention, very sweet) base recipe that it would take a lot to enliven.
I sadly have little confidence in the actual recipes going forward, but will persist as the flavour suggestions are very appealing (apple and cinnamon... yum!), but I may combine them with knowledge of previous tried and tested base recipes.
In the book there are a few side-swipes to the likes of Ben & Jerry, but I have to say that their book is no great work of marketing gloss, it is just full of great recipes that always work. They also go through various different 'bases' on which to build, and tell you what the difference is.
So... to summarise: If you like your books all showy and shiny, get this one. If you like some great ideas and know what you're doing, get this one. If you need reliable recipes that you don't have to tweak, avoid this (and get the shine and flim flam free Ben & Jerry's one).