If Christina Tosi and David Lebovitz had a love child, it would be named Humphry Slocombe. The flavors and inspiration behind some of the ice cream served up at the Mission District scoop shop in San Francisco, and recipes shared in the Humphry Slocombe Ice Cream Book, remind me of the similar combination of wisdom and madness written about in Tosi's Momofuku Milk Bar Cookbook. Lebovitz, author of The Perfect Scoop, is the godfather of the homemade-ice-cream craze and master of the creamy, eggy, European-style custard base. And his book introduced many Americans to the joys of the combination of salty and sweet, and the perfection that is salted-caramel ice cream.
Why do you need this ice cream book? Not because it has recipes for the foie gras and balsamic-caramel ice creams Humphry Slocombe has become famous for. Not for the behind-the-scenes stories of how owners Jake Godby and Sean Vahey rub elbows with some of the luminaries of the San Francisco culinary scene. And definitely not because there's a recipe for sorbet called Jesus Juice. No, you need this ice cream book because you will make better ice cream.
At least that is what happened for me. The recipes for ice cream in the Humphry Slocombe Ice Cream Book all begin with a standard custard base. There are really no surprises there. Heat milk and cream; Mix eggs, and sugar; Stir everything together over heat; Cool and freeze. These steps for "Base 101" are the first recipe in the book. They admit that this is the boring part, but the most important. They repeat the custard base recipe in nearly all subsequent recipes, and maybe it's that repetitiveness that fosters success. But I also suspect it's because Godin and Vahey don't take themselves too seriously and neither should you. It's just ice cream.
But it isn't just ice cream. I lied earlier. You should buy this book because there are recipes for foie gras and balsamic caramel ice creams. And because there are recipes for "secret breakfast," which includes bourbon and crumbles of crispy cornflake cookies; strawberry candied jalapeno; and olive oil ice cream. There are various add-in and topping recipes for making ice cream sundaes and sandwiches too. Bacon peanut brittle is crumbled and folded into a banana ice cream called Elvis (the fat years). Fluffernutter ice cream includes a recipe for homemade marshmallow fluff, even though the authors admit you can probably get away with the store-bought stuff. You should buy this book because it will introduce you to ingredients like cubeb peppercorns, which are steeped with mint in the custard base for mint chocolate chip ice cream. But also because they use black Red Vines to make salted black licorice ice cream.
I loved the hell out of this cookbook. The introduction is one of the more entertaining cookbook introductions I've read. It tells the story of opening the Humphry Slocombe shop, with insights into the seemingly twisted minds of Godby and Vahey. It also includes tips on equipment and ingredients, but more than anything it reminds you that ice cream is fun. Experimenting with crazy flavors and ideas is low-risk with ice cream, but it can have huge payoffs. So what are you waiting for?