In the kitchen at Badrutt’s Palace Hotel, Executive Pastry Chef Stefan Gerber has been experimenting with and perfecting the hotel’s handmade frozen temptations for its restaurants and pop-up Palace Gelateria, which on the hottest days of the year can serve around 600 scoops of icy treats.
“There is no limit to what can be created. If a guest wants a black cherry flavour, cream tea or matcha tea ice cream, we can do it”
A new addition to the flavour range is blueberry cheesecake, a creamy concoction with a slight lactic tang, accentuated by the sweetness of in-season blueberries. But, for guests, there is no limit to what can be created. “If a guest wants a black cherry flavour, cream tea or matcha tea ice cream, we can do it,” declares Stefan. For added colour and flavour, guests or passers-by can top their scoop with a selection of edible flowers. “These are mountain flowers from the local region and they add beautiful colour as well as flavour from the local area,” he adds.
Sorbet cocktails and shaved ice
The hotel’s sorbets have also raised the bar. The pastry chef has embraced fresh fruit flavours with a choice that includes mango, passionfruit and sharp green apple. Those who are dairy-free or vegan have also been considered. “Free-from foods are big news so we make a chocolate sorbet with dark Madagascan chocolate and only a little water and sugar,” says Stefan. “It is dairy-free and made with no eggs, so anyone can eat it.” Hotel guests also have exclusive access to Stefan’s tempting yuzu sorbet, which bursts with exotic citrus flavour.
“In the Renaissance Bar, the fresh sorbets feature in an experimental selection of sorbet cocktails”
But tubs and cones are not the only way to enjoy an icy treat. In the Renaissance Bar, the fresh sorbets feature in an experimental selection of sorbet cocktails, such as the Sorbet Negroni, adding a fruity zing to a guest’s favourite tipple. These are ideal for summer and harness the natural sweetness of the fruit for an exceptional drink.
Stefan and his team have also developed some sophisticated shaved ice creations, perfect for the hotel’s garden and summer parties. Guests can pick from various cooling options, including champagne and white peach, which is similar to a frozen Bellini. “We also make unique and refreshing desserts, such as a glass filled with sorbet and compote and topped with refreshing shaved ice,” explains Stefan.
Weird and wonderful
It is not just Badrutt’s Palace Hotel’s pastry chef who is bringing fun and flavour to his ice cream creations. At Chin Chin Ice Cream in London, its creators are indulging their love of experimentation to play around with traditional tastes. “We are unconventional traditionalists at heart, so we will often modernise flavours that have been forgotten over time,” says Ahrash Akbari-Kalhur, co-founder of Chin Chin Ice Cream. For example, brown bread ice cream, once a favourite of Victorians, has been transformed into avocado ice cream topped with bits of cinnamon toast.
“The most important thing for us is that nostalgia is involved – that’s the secret ingredient in every good ice cream flavour”
Inspiration can strike at any time, but an academic approach helps to refine the flavours. “We will look at the flavour profile so that we pair things that either work harmoniously or completely contrast, like hay and strawberry,” explains Ahrash. However, the key ingredient is something a little less tangible that stems from our childhood. “The most important thing for us is that nostalgia is involved – that’s the secret ingredient in every good ice cream flavour,” he adds.
The flavours are not the only source of experimentation. Since its beginnings in 2010, Chin Chin Ice Cream has created more than 350 ice cream flavours using liquid nitrogen, an act of theatre that not only surprises customers but elevates the ice cream. Ahrash reveals why: “When we first started, it was a novelty to try ice cream frozen in billowing clouds of nitrogen, but it was fun to see customers’ reactions when they realised that freezing with liquid nitrogen makes the ice cream super-smooth.”
Visionary chefs are also using ice cream to enhance their dishes. At the two Michelin-star Midsummer House in Cambridge, England, Chef Patron Daniel Clifford has been playing with savoury ice creams to give some of his dishes an added dimension.
“Savoury ice cream can give a really playful feel to a dish,” explains Daniel. “Incorporating a savoury frozen element provides both textural and flavour contrasts on the plate and can bring out different flavour characteristics in the ingredients you are using. When a dish requires a touch of theatre or a contrast in temperature we look at the balance of the dish and whether an element such as savoury ice cream would elevate the final plate to the next level.”
“It’s all about creating food memories, and savoury ice creams, when used properly, can be positively memorable”
Daniel has previously served dishes with parsley, horseradish or sweetcorn ice creams. “There’s always a ripple of excitement around the table when people try something completely unexpected and yet recognise a familiar flavour,” enthuses Daniel. “It’s all about creating food memories, and savoury ice creams, when used properly, can be positively memorable.”
Social media stars
Ice & Vice, an experimental ice cream shop in the Lower East Side of New York has never shied away from unusual combinations, and their attention-grabbing concoctions have made them Instagram sensations.
Their handcrafted ice cream, sorbet and frozen yoghurt come in a colourful range of unusual flavours. “We began as two friends who enjoyed making ice cream as a hobby,” said co-founder Kendrick Lo. “We were disappointed with the options at the time, so we began experimenting with different flavour profiles, and pushing the boundaries.”
“Their cones are filled with creations such as ‘Flaming’, ghost pepper ice cream with a strawberry mole sauce”
This summer, their cones are filled with creations such as ‘Flaming’, ghost pepper ice cream with a strawberry mole sauce, and ‘Pokey’, a prickly pear ice cream with a candied cactus meringue. “Our flavours are inspired by our experiences, fine dining and our joy of eating food,” he explains.
It is no coincidence that these creations are also stunning in appearance. “With the growth of social media it’s important to create a visually pleasing menu, as many customers’ first interactions with us is via social media,” he adds. “We need to be able to communicate deliciousness visually.”