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The scoop on small batch ice cream

This summer, home chefs and new brands have flavours akin to a hug in a tub

The orange and rum flavour by MG’s Homemade Ice Cream.
The orange and rum flavour by MG’s Homemade Ice Cream.

It’s all in the melt—the taste, the feel and the need to dig in. Ice creams that melt well are made well. The flavours don’t dissolve into a watery sludge, dispelling doubts about ingredient quality. It is simply good old ice cream; not a refined-oil-infused frozen dessert.

Right now, the ice creams that are being talked about are churned in the kitchens of home chefs and packed in small batches by brands that took off during the pandemic.

Ritu and Mridu Gupta, a mother-daughter duo from Gurugram, Haryana, started MG’s Homemade Ice Cream last year. During the lockdown, they began to experiment with food, and then started tinkering with ice-cream recipes too. After several trials, they got a basic recipe right. Tentatively, they shared it with neighbours. It was an instant hit.

Flavours like coffee Bailey’s liqueur, rich Belgian chocolate and the winter special, orange and rum, were all lapped up. For Diwali, they launched ice-cream hampers. This month, they introduced fresh berry flavours. The word spread fast. “We began in Gurgaon. Then people here started to send it to their friends and family in Delhi. We have created hampers for special occasions. On most weekends, we run out of stock,” says Ritu.

Also read: Indian chefs use French techniques to serve 'desi' flavours

Their popularity can be attributed to several factors—home-made, preservative-free, unique flavours. But Ritu also unknowingly tapped into a prevailing sentiment during the lockdown—boredom. Their ice creams offered a break from the lockdown-induced ennui. This, coupled with the promise of “safe” food, is a recipe for success as the world grapples with a global health crisis. “I think there is a belief that anything home-made is hygienic,” says Ritu, adding that their ice creams are free of refined sugar too. She substitutes it with jaggery or coconut sugar. “Since it is preservative-free, we have to make them fresh. You need to call at least 24 hours in advance for your order,” she says. They have around nine flavours—the coffee Bailey’s liqueur is their best-seller. Prices start from 600 for 500ml and orders can be placed at @mgicecreams on Instagram.

In Bengaluru, Omm Nom Nomm offers premium, French-style handcrafted ice creams. A classic French version has a custard base of milk and eggs that holds the elements together. These ingredients function like stabilisers and emulsifiers. Omm Nom Nomm intended to go completely natural. With the custard-y base of eggs, milk, cream and sugar, they add compote, cookies or brownies made in-house. With ice creams like south Indian kaapi with Belgian couverture chocolate, wild berry cheesecake and banana caramel butter crunch, their menu spells indulgence.

Omm Nomm Nomm's French-style ice cream.
Omm Nomm Nomm's French-style ice cream.

The small batch ice-cream brand was launched in January 2020 by the husband-wife duo of Patros Kuruvilla and Cyndia Thomas. Instead of starting it from a home kitchen, they opened a manufacturing unit and considered starting a parlour. But then the lockdown was announced and they adopted a delivery-only model when restrictions were eased. Despite the initial fear of people avoiding ice creams to prevent colds, however, demand soared when home deliveries were allowed. At the time, a lot of the restaurants were closed or were offering limited menus. Omm Nom Nomm, listed on Swiggy, had a wide playing field. “Our expenses were limited because we did not have a parlour or a lot of staff. We were lucky. Now, we are barely able to keep up with the demand,” says Kuruvilla. Timing, as they say, is everything. Small batch ice-cream production, Kuruvilla explains, uses churners of varying capacities: “Commercially manufactured ice cream uses a continuous process manufacturing unit that usually does a few hundred litres at a time. Small batch machines do anywhere between half a litre to 20 litres at a time on average.” They offer 19 flavours, at prices starting from 265 for 200ml.

Also read: How a dosa sparked off memories of home during the pandemic

In Mumbai, Farah Ladhabhoy follows a similar formula—small batch and unique flavours. Her ice-cream brand, The Burrow, has just three options: cinder toffee, salted caramel and chocolate. She has a full-time job in an advertising design firm, and whipping up desserts is a hobby. Once restrictions eased last year, she started sharing her cakes, cookies and ice creams with friends. Buoyed by their encouragement, she launched her ice-cream label in November from her home kitchen.

She says: “I am just making stuff that I like to eat. If they don’t sell, I eat some and share some. It’s great.” Her ice creams retail at 500 for 500ml.

Ladhabhoy’s love affair with ice cream began when she would watch her grandmother churn out large batches of creamy vanilla tubs for the family. “It all started when I wanted to recreate that ice cream. Hers was a half-vanilla, half-chocolate concoction with tiny pieces of Marie biscuit. We would cut it like a pie and gobble it up. Last year, I finally had the time to experiment and figured out how she did it. I can’t get my vanilla as yum as hers, but it’s what started it all,” she says.

The Burrow's chocolate ice cream.
The Burrow's chocolate ice cream.

Ladhabhoy has nailed it with the chocolate ice cream infused with bits of dark chocolate brownie. Her salted caramel with “sneaky bits of chocolate and buttery shortbread” might feel like an updated version of her grandmother’s. Recreating memories with recipes is also the mother of invention.

Icekreamskee, another Mumbai brand, knows the magical power of nostalgia. It was launched in 2013 by mother-daughter duo Asha and Sucheta Thakur from their home kitchen. Theirs is a Gujarati family and some of their ice-cream flavours are inspired by their cuisine. They have a plain jaggery with roasted almonds that tastes like the traditional Gujarati golpapdi mithai. And the ukado, launched last year, is the ice-cream version of an herb-infused drink by the same name popular in Gujarati homes.

Sucheta says they are not active on social media, like most home chefs and small businesses, because bigger ice-cream brands started to “draw inspiration” from their flavours. “Now, you will see a lot of mainstream brands cashing in on mithai flavours but we have been doing these for years,” she says.

Icecreamskee's rose pista ice cream
Icecreamskee's rose pista ice cream

The word about their ice creams, priced at 350 for about 250ml, spread through WhatsApp. One of their most popular summer flavours is rose pistachio. “I have always wondered why till a lady in her late 40s told me it reminded her of her childhood. When she would come back home, thirsty and tired after a long afternoon playing outdoors, her mother would make a cooling drink of milk with rose and pista (pistachio), which is essentially our rose-pista ice cream,” she says.

Their winning formula—scoop out any flavour from memory, share it with them and they will encapsulate it in an ice cream.

One Gold Spot ice cream for me, please.

Also read: The cult of the egg fried rice

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