Before I entered the ice cream business, I was a 22-year-old who had just quit his job after his boss yelled at him for being too nice. I had no clue what I’d do next. Then my cousin Kim called.
This was in 2011, before she and I had launched the cart in Portland, Oregon, that became Salt & Straw, a trailblazing ice cream operation with shops up and down the West Coast and millions of die-hard fans. For decades, Kim had dreamt of opening a little neighborhood ice cream shop. She had called me to catch up and told me that, after a career at Starbucks dating back to when there were only 30 stores, she was moving back to Portland to make her ice cream dream into a reality.
Immediately I knew, more than I had ever known anything in my entire life, that I needed to be the one who made the ice cream. Unfortunately for me, Kim is incredibly smart and she quickly ticked off the three main reasons that hiring her 22-year-old cousin to make ice cream was a bad idea. One: Her business, like most businesses, would probably fail. Two: Family and business don’t mix. Three, and maybe the best one of all: I had never made ice cream before.
I couldn’t dispute the first two, but I could do something about number three. So an hour after we got off the phone, I walked into Goodwill and walked out $16 poorer and four ice cream makers richer. After a week of maxing out the machines, I had recipes for 30 flavors and sent them to Kim. She was still reluctant, probably because my flavors included unlikely inspirations like grapefruit with sage and coffee with bone marrow. So I upped the ante: If I totally sucked at making ice cream, I’d do whatever else she needed — drive, lug, organize, sweep — and for free. Finally she agreed to give me a shot. And with that, over the span of 10 days, I became the head ice cream maker at Salt & Straw.
Before we officially opened our cart on Alberta Street, I upped my game. I pored over tomes on the science of ice cream, entering the wild, wonderful world of recrystallization, overrun, and xanthan gum. As I churned, I learned, becoming an expert in ice cream alchemy, the magic that happens when sugar and cream transmogrify into everyone’s favorite frozen treat.
When we started, I was self-taught. On my own, I created some truly fun, tasty flavors — Chocolate Gooey Brownie and Almond Brittle with Salted Ganache — that have never left the menu. Yet our ice creams didn’t become what they are today until I found teachers.
Immediately I knew, more than I had ever known anything in my entire life, that I needed to be the one who made the ice cream.
When I wanted to make beer ice cream, I didn’t just dump beer and cream in the machine and get churning; I spent days in the basement at Portland’s Breakside Brewing, helping to clean brew tanks but also working with brewers to dream up a special wort (that is, the mixture that will become beer after fermentation) that through the ice cream making process, rather than the fermentation process, would transform into a frozen treat that tasted like their amazing IPA.
When I wanted to make the perfect caramel sauce, one that would retain its sexy mouthfeel even while frozen, David Briggs, the confectionary wizard from Xocolatl de David, kindly coached me nightly on the science of sugar.
When I decided to collaborate with the city’s best chefs, they invited me into their kitchens and let me live inside their creative minds. Me and Gabe Rucker, the brazenly creative force behind Le Pigeon, engineered French fry ice cream. Gregory Gourdet opened my eyes to clear caramel, which provides the sticky pleasures of the traditional stuff but without the bold flavors that could obscure the delicate qualities of the ingredients with which we wanted to infuse it.
The list of teachers in this city who opened their arms to me goes on and on, and includes some local legends like salt guru Mark Bitterman, Sarah “The Million-Dollar Palate” Masoni, and Thai food ambassador Andy Ricker. The Portland food community has nurtured me from day one, helping our ice creams and business blossom. Now, it’s my turn to teach.
With this cookbook, I hope to inspire you to take your own trip to Goodwill, where you’ll likely find an array of ice cream machines, each one an example of excitement that curdled into intimidation thanks to the myth that making ice cream is hard. I hope to show you that that couldn’t be further from the truth. I’m here to preach the gospel that making ice cream is easy and fun.
Our cookbook features just some of the thousands of people who, through their craft and generosity and enthusiasm, tell the story of Salt & Straw. And it provides a blueprint for how to let loose your own creativity. As you flip through the recipes, you’ll see that each flavor is like a sculpture: grounded in a story, built with food science and traditional culinary techniques, and served with flare. Each one culminates in the press of a button and unleashes the simple magic of ice cream.
INDIA PALE ALE
MAKES ABOUT 2½ PINTS
¼ cup 100-proof unflavored alcohol, such as high-proof vodka
1 teaspoon Citra hop pellets
3 tablespoons golden light liquid malt extract
¼ cup caramel 40L malt, milled by a home brew shop
¼ cup caramel 20L malt, milled by a home brew shop
1 teaspoon Columbus hop pellets
1 teaspoon Falconer’s Flight hop pellets
1 teaspoon Chinook hop pellets
3 cups Ice Cream Base (page 34), very cold
½ cup Breakside IPA or your favorite balanced, fruity-hopped IPA, cold
At least one day in advance, combine the vodka and the Citra hops in a small glass jar, and cover it with an airtight lid. Steep for at least 24 and up to 36 hours.
Pour the vodka mixture through a fine-mesh strainer into a small bowl, pressing the solids lightly to extract as much liquid as possible. Reserve 1 tablespoon of the liquid for this recipe. The rest will keep in the fridge for up to 3 days.
In a small pot, bring 2 cups water to a rolling boil. Reduce the heat as low as it can go, then stir in the liquid malt extract, caramel 40L malt, caramel 20L malt, and Columbus hops. Cover and cook at a bare simmer, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes. Then stir in the Falconer’s Flight hops and cook for 15 minutes more. Finally add the Chinook hops and cook for 10 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and pour the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer into a small heatproof bowl, pressing the solids lightly to extract as much liquid as possible.
Fill another small mixing bowl with ice, then fill it halfway with water. Set the bowl containing the infused liquid into the ice water and stir to quickly cool the liquid. When it’s cold, stir in the reserved 1 tablespoon infused vodka and use the syrup within 1 week.
Put the ice cream base, the cold beer, and ¾ cup of the cold IPA syrup into a bowl and whisk to combine. Pour the mixture into an ice cream maker and turn on the machine. Churn just until the mixture has the texture of soft-serve (see pages 23 to 24 for timing ranges, depending on the machine).
Transfer the ice cream, scraping every last delicious drop from the machine, into freezer-friendly containers. Cover with parchment paper, pressing it to the surface of the ice cream so it adheres, then cover with a lid. It’s okay if the parchment hangs over the rim. Store it in the coldest part of your freezer (farthest from the door) until firm, at least 6 hours. It will keep for up to 3 months.
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is head ice cream maker for Salt & Straw Ice Cream in Portland, Oregon. Since opening in early 2011, Malek and his cousin, founder and owner Kim Malek, have taken their ice cream from a single pushcart to 11 brick-and-mortar locations, creating more than 230 flavors. Malek was selected as one of Forbes’s 30 Under 30 and was an Eater Young Guns Semi-Finalist in 2013. Salt and Straw Ice Cream Cookbook
is his first book.