Blog Post – We all scream for ice-cream!

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1st December 2014

The subject of my column this week might seem a little strange, given that the weather is definitely taking a turn for the worse and I’m sure that you, like me, have been scouring the cupboards looking for the box of scarves and gloves that you put away back in March. But I want to talk to you about a type of food we usually associate with long, hot summer days and, in particular, a producer on our doorstep who is taking this gorgeous tempting treat to a whole new level.

 I don’t have many vices in life. Well, apart from a big thick slice of fresh crusty bread slathered in salted butter. Or a glass of perfectly-chilled white burgundy. Or fizzy fangs from Mr Simms Olde Sweet Shoppe … Ok, there are quite a few then! But I absolutely adore ice cream, and the bad weather was not going to put me off a long overdue visit to Dom and Harry at the Saffron Ice Cream Company.
I have served their handmade dairy ice cream at my pop-up restaurants, so I wanted to learn more about them and for more people to know about this fine artisan producer right on our doorstep. I’ve made a fair bit of ice cream in my time, but I wasn’t really prepared for how much I didn’t know about it. Dom welcomed me into the former pig farm barn which has been converted into a bright, airy food manufacturing facility in Saffron Walden.

Saffron Ice Cream is hand-made, but I soon learned that there is science behind the process. Ice cream, it seems, is all about ratios and balance between fat and sugar. This ratio is really crucial to the flavour and texture of the product.

Ice cream is made quite differently around the world. The world-famous Italian gelato, for example, is usually made from pastes as opposed to fresh ingredients, which gives them a very concentrated flavour. They also use a lower fat ratio of only 6 per cent (as opposed to the USA, which can go for a whopping 18 per cent fat ratio) meaning flavourings don’t have to cut through a higher fat content to reach the taste buds, thus appearing stronger.

Temperature is also crucial to the flavour and texture. Italians serve it warmer at around -8 degrees as opposed to our -18 degrees, which also has a positive impact on the flavour and means it appears to be creamier. But there is a downside: the lower fat content means they need to use more sugar to make the product scoopable and means it resembles a milky sorbet.

Although Dom started off with basic recipes, he, and now Harry, have experimented and come up with a range of innovative flavours. They use natural products, all prepared by hand. These guys are seriously dedicated. Saffron source many of their ingredients locally – it’s great to see local businesses supporting local producers and there’s no doubt that Dom, as a local boy, has this as a key part of Saffron’s ethos.

Dominic Parry started making ice cream in his mum’s kitchen when he was 22. Five years on, and in new, bigger premises, Dom is now joined by Harry, a friend from school, in the business.On the day I visited, Dom and Harry were making their new Christmas range, including Winter Cinnamon, Chocolate Orange, Cotswold Cream, Coffee and Walnut and, my personal favourite, Christmas Pud flavour. The factory uses state-of-the-art machinery and yet the ingredients and making of the ice cream is still done by hand. The effort and care put into the production was clear.

There’s no danger of any nasty surprises in Saffron Ice Cream, and now I’ve made you all drool you’ll probably want to know where to get some of this lovely stuff. The easiest way is to contact Dom directly at the factory on 01799 513552 or by emailing hello@saffronicecream.co.uk.