Humankind has been enjoying the frosty things in life for well over 2000 years. Ancient Persians used to eat snow flavoured with grape juice, while Roman emperor Nero had servants carry ice down from the mountains. It was in Baghdad and Cairo, however, that some clever souls thought to combine milk with snow, creating the world’s first ice cream and then, later, gelateria.
These days, Acland St Cantina’s ice cream maker, John Demetrios, relies on an Italian-made Carpigiani, the Ferrari of ice cream machines and equipment. “It’s one of the best ones going around,” he boasts with a smile.
The process behind Acland St’s ice cream all begins with the flavour. While salted caramel is a perennial favourite at the Cantina, Demetrios concentrates on typically Mexican flavours. Think apricot, tamarind, fresh berries with hibiscus, chilli, chocolate and coconut. “This time of year guavas will be coming in, as well as pineapples,” he says. “We match ice cream with Pedro Ximenez and we’ll bounce off tequilas and things like that.”
Once selected, the fruit or main flavour ingredient is cooked down with sugar until it has reduced into a smooth puree. To give his ice cream a thick, velvety consistency, Demetrios creates a crème anglaise – a classic French base made by whipping egg yolks with sugar until they’re almost white, then adding hot milk over a low heat to create a thick, sweet custard that’s a delicious desert on its own.
After combining the crème anglaise and flavours, the nascent ice cream is left to settle for the evening. “With our ice creams, we leave them to develop overnight so the flavour matures and then we’ll churn them,” says Demetrios.
Along with milky ice creams, he often creates refreshing sorbets, using guava, melon and citrus to balance the spices of Mexican cuisine.
In the morning, the mixture is poured into the Carpigiani, where it’s churned for about half an hour, until it emerges chilled and smooth.
Demetrios’s ice cream is served au naturel (with maybe a little caramel sauce) or in a churros taco.