Here’s another ice cream recipe, and one that is quite different from the earlier recipe for Perfect Vanilla Ice Cream. This one has no cream or eggs but uses gelatine (read more about how it is produced from animal parts here) and custard powder (which I’ve commented on here).
It also calls for the use of an ice cream churner. I wonder how many Singaporean families in the 1950s had one of those? Unlike the modern electric ice cream makers, traditional ice cream churners would most likely have been like this one. As Wikipedia explains,
These machines usually comprise an outer bowl and a smaller inner bowl with a hand-cranked mechanism which turns a paddle, sometimes called a dasher, to stir the mixture. The outer bowl is filled with a freezing mixture of salt and ice: the addition of salt to the ice causes freezing-point depression; as the salt melts the ice, its heat of fusion allows it to absorb heat from the ice cream mixture, freezing the ice cream.
The churners available in Singapore were quite possibly very similar to the ones available in India. The Tribune from Chandigarh tells us that
In India, ice cream was initially made at home from pure buffalo milk. By the turn of the 18th Century, an ice cream machine was developed for home use. You can still buy the stuff. It’s a wooden bucket with a central aluminum jar and a churner. For preparing ice cream in the machine, you have to put milk, essence and sugar in the jar. This container is then placed in the bucket full of ice and a little salt. After churning for about 45 minutes, the ice cream is ready. Though not as smooth as the one available in the market, it is delicious.
Like the Indian news article, grandma’s recipe calls for the addition of ‘flavouring essence’. Indeed, a Google search of ‘flavouring essence’ throws up mostly manufacturers in India. The flavours could be lemon, strawberry, mango, almond etc. A visit to a specialist baking supplies store should provide you with these items.
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We’ve already had a recipe for the cream puff choux pastry (where I wrote about my grandmother’s long-standing fondness for them) and another one for chocolate eclairs. Here’s a more detailed cream puff recipe, which also includes instructions for the custard filling.
The custard filling relies on the use of custard powder (or ‘custard flour’ as written below). Cornflour-based custard powder was invented in 1837 by Alfred Bird because his wife was allergic to eggs and couldn’t tolerate real custard. Till today, Bird’s brand is perhaps the most popular brand of custard powder in Britain. Besides cornflour, the ingredients in custard powder include salt, flavorings, and annatto or tartrazine coloring.
Do note that both annatto and tartrazine have been known to cause common food reactions. Tartrazine has been in the press recently as one of the substances identified in a recent British study on food additives that can cause hyperactivity in children, while annatto is the only natural food colouring “found to cause as many adverse intolerance reactions as artificial colours and to affect more consumers that artificial colour” (read here). But it’s only very recent scientific research that has revealed these problems.
In the recipe, grandmother specifically noted that Brown & Polson brand of custard powder should be used. This is still available today in India from Unilever Food Solutions Asia (who do Knorr, Lipton, Planta etc. in Singapore, but no Brown & Polson!).
Brown & Polson Custard Powder appears to have a very long history, going by this recipe for savoury custard in the The Cook’s Guide and Housekeeper’s & Butler’s Assistant (1861) by Charles Elme Francatelli. Do click on the links to see a digitised version of the original book.
An internet search shows many secondhand and antiquarian book dealers selling a cookbook produced by Brown & Polson entitled, Light Fare Recipes for Corn Flour and Custard Powder Cookery, circa 1930. As I noted earlier, food manufacturers often produced cookbooks as a way of advertising new products and educating consumers how to use them – do have a look at this fascinating digitised archive of Advertising Cookbooks, 1878-1929.
The instructions call for the custard filling to be flavoured with ‘essence’ – I believe this refers to vanilla essence.
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