Reading a cookbook from authors passionate about their topic, who write a cookbook about a topic because it’s what they do day in day out is always great. These books ‘shine’ more than those in which the topic is just one of their many interests and mostly chosen because of consumer data. Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream is one of those books written by people passionate about their topic, ice cream in this case.
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Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream (affiliate link) is the 1st book by the founders of the similarly named ice cream company Van Leeuwen. Starting out with two food trucks in New York back in 2008, they now have a bunch of trucks & ice cream stores in both New York and Los Angeles. The reason for their Van Leeuwen grew from a desire to make high quality ice cream from ‘real’ ingredients. Emulsifiers, stabilizers and other ‘tricks’ weren’t within their toolkit. Furthermore, they were on a mission to find the best ingredients for their ice cream they could find, a special chocolate, delicious pistachio nuts, etc.
This vision shines through clearly in the book which is about their ice cream journey. They focus on ice cream and ice cream only (with maybe a few recipes for toppings and the like).
The authors = the founders
The company Van Leeuwen was founded by the three authors of the book Laura (O’Neill, originally from New Zealand) and Ben & Pete (van Leeuwen, from New York). What started out as a summer job for one of the founders in a generic ice cream truck, evolved into an idea for making their own, high quality ice cream. Being young and in for an adventure, they developed their own ice cream recipes, found a place to make them and started selling them in their truck in 2008.
They clearly have a passion for ice cream and making good ice cream, challenging the status quo of how ice cream should can can be produced. Their timing was right, riding the wave of a desire in the US to move to higher quality and simple foods.
The book starts with a great description of how their company cam to life, from idea conception, to actually reality. It immediately makes the book more personable and builds your confidence and trust for the authors. They know a thing a two about ice cream for sure.
Reading the book
After the introduction on Van Leeuwen, the book (affiliate link) dives into some basics of ice cream. This is where their vision on which ingredients to use and not to use comes to life even more. Their preference for making ‘real’ custards, using egg yolks is clear as is their resistance to using common stabilizers and emulsifiers. Whereas I’m personally not necessarily pro- or against using these ingredients, I believe there is a space on the market for either one, I appreciate their stance and commitment to it.
High quality and special ingredients is another core part of their vision which shines through in this section. They discuss their most common ingredients and how & where they source them with tips for the home ice cream maker.
After these introductory sections they dive into their recipes, of which there are a lot. Their passion for ingredients continues to shine through though. As regular intervals will you find extensive sections on a specific ingredient used in an ice cream. There’s a whole description of their hazelnuts as well as their chocolate for instance.
The recipes are split into 5 different sections, of course starting with ice cream, (by far the largest section of the book, >100 pages). After that they have separate sections on vegan ice cream, sorbets and the like, toppings and even a chapter on ideas for egg whites. Seeing the high prevalence of egg yolks in their egg yolk custard based ice creams, this is a smart addition for sure.
Each recipe starts with a quick note, generally telling something about the development of this recipe, why they chose certain ingredients or how this ice cream performs in their stores. These quick intro’s are great.
The recipes themselves are well and extensively written. Most take up 2 pages and contain a photo (a huge plus in my opinion!). The directions are clear and they give additional information to the steps to help you understand what you’re really looking for when thickening your custard or to what temperature you have to cook your sugar syrup.
There are a lot of recipes in this book and they cover a wide range of types as well. To name just of few of the categories: chocolate, tea (they really enjoy their tea ice cream), nuts, spices or alternative fats (e.g. olive oil or coconut oil).
Cooking the book
So far we’ve tested 3 recipes: a gianduja ice cream (hazelnut + chocolate), sweet rice (rice pudding) ice cream and so coconut macaroons (to use up all those egg whites). All recipes were clear and easy to follow and used ingredients we have readily available (they recommend a specific chocolate brand, but you can just use any).
Both ice creams were made using a custard as their base. They have clear instructions on how to make that custard, and even though we took a shortcut (not using a double boiler despite the recommendation), the custards came out beautifully. Both ice creams were creamy and delicious even before they went into the ice cream machine.
The sweet rice ice cream is one that needs a bit of experience with ice cream making. Since you have to par boil they rice and then need to cook it further in the milk form the ice cream, you run the risk of not getting the moisture balance right. This was definitely the case in our ice cream. The rice has absorbed too much of the liquids, causing the ice cream mixture to be very stiff. We had to dilute the mixture with some milk to get the texture right.
The last recipe, the coconut macaroons was the only confusing one. They want you to mix dried coconut with egg whites (and sugar) and then heat that up over a double boiler. However, you’ve got so little moisture in the mixture, that it is really hard to do. I’m almost think they had wanted you to just whip up and pre-heat the egg whites to fold in the coconut later. Nevertheless, by not really following the instructions to a tee they came out fine.
All recipes gave delicious ice creams/cookies. The flavour combinations worked really well which makes us excited to try out more of these recipes!
If you’re a fan of Van Leeuwen ice cream or align with their vision of ice cream, this book (affiliate link) is great to have. The book highlights their concepts and their journey well and it’s fun to read about it (even if you’ve never eaten Van Leeuwen ice cream like myself). Both also if you’ve never heard of the company this book is good to have if you’re into making your ice cream. There are a lot of recipes and flavour ideas and plenty of tips on how to get there.
Another of our favorite ice cream books is Hello, my name is ice cream (they both have a bright blue cover!). That book covers a lot of the science of ice cream and focuses more on the technical aspects of ice cream making. Van Leeuwen does not necessarily discuss those aspects in great detail. I would say both books have ample different flavours, Hello, my name is ice cream is a little more varied in the styles of ice cream, but both have high quality, well tested ice cream recipes within.
This book is definitely not for you if you can’t have eggs or don’t like custard based ice creams. Whereas there are vegan ice cream recipes and some alternatives for sure, the book is built around their custard based ice creams. These are delicious and define Van Leeuwen Ice cream to a great extent.