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April 23, 2012 at 6:00 AM

Secrets of Molly Moon Ice Cream revealed

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Molly Moon Neitzel came to the world of ice cream with a well-developed business plan, a background in politics and music… and a strong sense for what sort of scoop shop would succeed in Seattle. With specialty flavors like salted licorice (recipe below), balsamic strawberry, Thai Tea, and Scout Mint made from Thin Mints she buys by the thousands from local scouts, she’s expanded from her first little Wallingford shop to her current fast-growing empire of five stores and a mobile truck.

In her new book, “Molly Moon’s Homemade Ice Cream,” Neitzel and her co-author and co-worker Christina Spittler share home versions of the shop’s recipes, from ice cream flavors to awesome additions like butterscotch sauce and vanilla bean caramel and candied bacon.

Neitzel (who worked a college job making ice cream in Montana) also shares some of her favorite places to source ingredients, advice on ice cream success at home, and some of her business philosophy. Here are some of her thoughts and tips, as well as the recipe:

On proving a point with her favorite dessert: Moon wrote that she wanted to embody her political values in her business, paying 100 percent of employees health insurance, paying a living wage, and using local ingredients and compostable materials. She said people told her she couldn’t make a profit with those kinds of expenses. From the start, “the Seattle community did a very good job of proving them wrong.” (Best example of practicing what she preaches? There’s a credit line for “carbon offsetting” in the book; Neitzel is paying an estimated $650 to start with for the book’s first shipment.)

On choosing a home ice cream machine: If you want to make more than one batch per 24-hour period, she recommends machines with built-in freezer components, particularly the pricy Whynter 2-quart ice cream maker and the stratospheric Lello Musso Lussino 1.5-quart ice cream maker. If you don’t need such extreme quantities, she says to go for more affordable options from Cuisinart or KitchenAid, or even an old-fashioned hand crank.

Storing ice cream: After the ice cream is ready to be pulled from the machine, “to keep weird freezer aromas out of your ice cream or sorbet, cover the surface directly with plastic wrap and then secure the lid. Make sure you have cleared some space in your freezer before you begin churning — and no matter how badly you want to try a bite, keep that freezer door shut until the ice cream is set and ready to serve!”

Some favorite local vendors: Neitzel favors honey from Tahuya River Apiaries, lavender from Purple Haze, tomatoes from Billy’s (for tomato basil sorbet), hazelnuts from Holmquist, and Vivace coffee.

Love and remembrance: Though it’s not part of the book, I was touched to see Neitzel’s tribute to her younger sister — not in the form of ice cream, but in one of its components, founding a milk fund to help families in need.

The book release party ($30 for two tickets and a copy of the $21.95 cookbook) is 8 p.m. April 28 in Georgetown, with tickets available here. Check out a free ice cream demonstration and book signing at 6:30 p.m. May 3 at The Book Larder, or see the complete tour schedule here. And if you want to try one of the recipes in advance, here’s the home version of her famous salt licorice, an annual April special at the shop.

Salt Licorice Ice Cream

Makes 1 to 1.5 quarts

2 cups heavy cream

1 cup whole milk

3/4 cup sugar

1 tablespoon kosher salt

15 whole star anise pods (look for pods with as few broken pieces as possible. The licorice flavor comes from the pod itself, not the seeds inside, so resist any temptation to break or crush the pods.)

1 tablespoon ouzo or other anise-flavored liqueur

Put the cream, milk, sugar, salt and star anise into a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan with a lid. Cook over medium heat, whisking occasionally to dissolve the sugar. When the mixture begins to simmer gently, remove from the heat. Cover and let the mixture steep at room temperature for 1 hour. Transfer the mixture to a shallow pan or bowl and place in the refrigerator to chill thoroughly 1 to 2 hours.

When the mixture is cold, strain it through a fine mesh sieve. Discard the sieve contents. Whisk the liqueur into the mixture. Pour it into an ice cream maker and process according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Using a rubber spatula, transfer the ice cream to an airtight glass or plastic freezer container. Cover tightly and freeze until the ice cream is firm, at least 4 hours.

– Photo and recipe from “Molly Moon’s Homemade Ice Cream.” Book photographed by Kathryn Barnard.

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