SugarSpun: Ice Cream and Content Management – What Not to Do

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What feelings do the words “summer” and “ice cream” invoke for you? For me, it’s hot summer days traipsing to the ice cream store down the street in the middle of the day, money clutched in my sweaty, little hands. That first feel of the cool ice cream cone on my palm was perhaps my first experience with a foodgasm, even if the taste itself was blah. Those rainbow sprinkles (or jimmies, as they’re known in southwestern Pennsylvania) were just extras to the actual main attraction – the delicious shock of cold on my tongue and down my parched throat as I savored every last lick of summer in a cone. Even the brain freeze it induced wasn’t enough to detract from the amazing feeling of a blazing hot sun on my head and the giggling rush to lick up the cold ice cream before it melted down the sides.

As sprinkles and cones gave way to Haagen Dazs and Ben and Jerry’s, the convenience of ice cream behind those freezer doors in the store were a life saver. Cold goodness at my finger tips with just the flick of a freezer door any time I wanted.

And then I tried Jen’s homemade ice cream.

I was ruined for life.

Suddenly Haagen Dazs meant nothing and Breyers tasted empty. Even Ben and Jerry’s didn’t have the same je ne sais quoi that had once made many a late night gas station runs worth it. I was tainted by the creamy goodness that was laced with whatever homemade fillings Jen got into her head to create. There was, quite simply, no going back to regular life after that. 

Maybe part of the mystique of it was that, with her two hands (and an ice cream maker), she could sprinkle in a few ingredients and wallah! sugary dairy heaven was created. She’d dip a spoon in while the machine was still working, taste-testing as she went, then hand a spoon over for me to sample.

It seemed a relatively simple process. Create the base, let it cool and then throw it into the ice cream maker with a few choice ingredients. I could do that, right?

It’s the end of summer – the last hurrah before temperatures cool, and we break out the sweaters and boots to watch the leaves change colors while we see our breath in the air. But, I was determined to salute the last (ridiculously) humid days of summer with my own homemade ice cream.

To add to my ambitious notion, the last two weeks of work have been particularly crazy with shifting schedules and more projects coming due. In other words, finding time and energy to make ice cream was a challenge. Even more challenging was the fact I decided to take flavor requests from each team member in the office. As I’ve mentioned previously, when it comes to cooking I am excellent at experiencing what not to do. In fact, I have a whole personal website and blog planned around that theme on my someday list. When my work as a content manager and ice cream maker collided, I began to compile a list of what not to do:

1) Skimp on the details

I have this habit of looking over the ingredient list and substituting random things to match what I have in my pantry. I have a 70 percent success rate of maintaining the integrity of the recipe with substitutions, by the way. My mantra “fake it ’til you make it” doesn’t always work when it comes to cooking. Other times, I fail to take into account the prep time needed when scheduling things out, which can mean throwing off the rest of the plans. For instance, those 12 eggs I had to separate when I doubled the ice cream recipe took much longer than planned without the proper utensils. I often forget it’s the prep time that takes longer than the actual cooking.

Creating content calendars requires the same attention to little details. Who is available to write when is just as important as the content. Sometimes, it isn’t feasible to write long, involved blogs back-to-back. Sometimes, strategically placing lighter pieces in between is just plain smart, especially when you’re a smaller company with less resources to rely on.

2) Plan at the last minute

Let’s face it. There are times when planning comes down to the wire. That’s life. It doesn’t have to be like that all the time, however. Proper planning can minimize the last minute rushing around. That’s why evergreen material is so important to have on stand-by just in case someone isn’t able to make a blog deadline – it always serves as a back up.

For me, because I hadn’t counted on how long it would take to prep everything and include the fillings, I ran short on time.

3) Rigid planning

The ice cream (absolutely, amazingly delicious and deserving of it’s own blog and drink recipe) in liquid form was made and cooled in the refrigerator. It was ready to be made into ice cream. What wasn’t ready, however, was the filling, these five different fillings I had so brilliantly thought of. While I had figured in the timing of one type of ice cream filling, I had failed to multiply the time to create such masterpieces by 5. I foolishly pictured something akin to Cold Stone, where the ice cream base is already created. They simply scoop out a specific amount, add one or two fixings, and mix it right there on the counter. Please take note that the key words here are “already created.” As in, what my liquid ice cream and fillings weren’t. And I had no time to finish it. With work commitments and other projects, it simply wasn’t going to happen. I had to come up with a new strategy.

Content calendars are often just as fluid. One of our clients is experiencing a significant amount of fluidity, creating a chance for our team to learn better communication and flexibility. The general rule is to stick as close to the calendar as possible, but there are times when going with the flow will produce far better results than the rigidity of a concrete plan.

4) Accept subpar results

It’s tempting to go with blurred details. Let the little things fall by the wayside and let your customers have less than the best. There is a need for flexibility, absolutely. But not at the expense of your standards. I started out with such a fantastic base for the ice cream and found I wasn’t willing to scrap my plans completely, but I definitely needed more time to develop them.

Instead of rushing things to get subpar results, give yourself time and space to improve what needs to be done. I promise you, you’ll get a better response with higher quality than if you rush to get out mediocrity, much like my ice cream project.

In the end, there is nothing to be gained in rushing homemade ice cream or content management – the wait for both is well worth it!

Stay tuned for more ice cream recipes. In the meantime, here is the recipe for the base – a delicious ice cream all on its own.

Amazing Brown Butter Ice Cream
(Adapted from Jen’s previous blog, A Flexible Life)

  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 6 T butter
  • 1 c brown sugar
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 2 c heavy cream
  • 2 c whole milk
  • 1 t vanilla

In a heat safe bowl, whisk together egg yolks until well blended. Set aside.

In a thick bottomed pan over medium heat, melt butter, stirring, until it begins to brown. As soon as the color shifts to brown, add brown sugar and 1/4 t salt. Stir until sugar begins to dissolve. At first, the brown sugar and butter will mix up, but after awhile, the butter will start to “weep” back out of the brown sugar. Don’t worry, this is totally normal.

Once the butter has started to “weep,” add some of the mixture to the milk, tempering it. Then pour all of the milk into the pan. It will spatter, so watch out. Chances are high that your sugar will turn into big crackly chunks when the cold milk hits it. Don’t worry about it. Just keep stirring until the sugar fully dissolves again.

DO NOT BOIL.

Pour about 1/4 of the milk mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly. Once the egg yolks have tempered, pour the eggs into the milk mixture. Continue cooking and stirring over medium heat for 5-7 minutes. The mixture is done when it passes the “back of the spoon” test.

For those of you who don’t know, that just means to take the spoon out of the liquid and quickly run a finger through the coating on the spoon. If the coating stays separated after you run your finger through it, it’s done. If it runs together, it’s not done.

Pour custard into a large bowl containing the cream and add the vanilla. Whisk until well mixed. Pour the mixture into a one gallon Ziplock freezer bag and submerge in an ice water bath until cold. (Generally 30-45 minutes.)

Pour into ice cream maker and freeze according to directions.

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