Tuesday, December 2, 2014

READER REVIEW: Elliot's Review of McConnell's Cardamom & Swedish Gingersnaps and Burnt Caramel Apple

Bridging the gap between full on pumpkin mania in October and the onslaught of decidedly wintery flavors (like Peppermint Stick, Winter Cranberry Chip and Egg Nog in the case of McConnell's) , McConnell's churned out a couple of seasonal flavors I was lucky enough to try : Burnt Caramel Apple & Cardamom Swedish Gingersnaps.

First up is Cardamom Swedish Gingersnaps:

Like vanilla, cardamom is an expensive, versatile spice used in both sweet and savory cooking. When it comes to ice cream, while vanilla is the most popular flavor, cardamom is extremely uncommon. I have only had it in ice cream in Phin & Phebe's Vietnamese Iced Coffee. In that pint, the cardamom takes a backseat to the strong, bitter coffee and chicory flavor. McConnell's has prominently featured this heady spice in their custard base. I know how great cardamom can taste in chai tea, but how will it work in ice cream?

Any reservations I had about cardamom ice cream are a thing of the past. McConnell's makes it seem like it's the new Vanilla. Where has the ice cream iteration of this warm, subtle flavor been all my life? Soft, chewy, flavorful Swedish gingersnaps are evenly scattered throughout the pint. The ginger element is limited to the cookies, which avoid any unpleasantly spicy, acrid, pungent ginger element found in some ginger themed ice creams. This is an ice cream I could eat all the time. As I've come to expect with McConnell's, the texture of the ice cream itself is right on the mark. And this is so important.

The overwhelming majority of small batch, "artisan" producers out there capture the spotlight by featuring innovative, occasionally even well balanced flavors that are simply spun in a batch freezer to turn the ingredients into ice cream. The problem with that approach is that it results in an inconsistent, higher overrun (higher air content) product. How important is the consistency and texture of the ice cream itself, no matter how great the custard or mix? Hugely important. McConnell's modified French Pot process is one of the things that sets them apart as a purveyor. They are able to control the amount of overrun in their ice cream, which is about as low as it gets at less than 10%. Ask the next "artisan" producer you come across if they make their ice cream in a batch freezer and see how many affirm this for you, and often with pride. Just because the batch freezers are expensive and have a dial that creates the illusion that they are able to control overrun, the consistency of the resulting products speak for themselves. A quick Google search of batch freezers will reveal that they are designed to produce higher overrun products, and overrun is practically impossible to control in these units.

Where Elliot Found It: http://www.mcconnells.com/
Elliot's Grade: A

Next we have Burnt Caramel Apple:

Judging by the flavor components here, tart apple and burnt caramel, this seasonal flavor has the potential to wreak more havoc on your choppers than an apple Jolly Rancher. One of the potential pitfalls of fruit themed flavors is the inclusion of even a few dreaded frozen fruit chunks. From smoothies to ice cream, the nails on a chalkboard feeling of biting into a frozen fruit fragment is enough to put ice cream lovers off of fruit flavors for good.

Burnt caramel apple is the only apple ice cream flavor I've ever had that successfully captured the tartness without an artificial aftertaste or icy bits of apple. Nothing to fear, there are no frozen fragments of apple. The apple flavor is only represented in the flavor of the base. As you can see in the photos, the dark caramel component is a beautiful, sticky mess, and one I would love to put on most everything. A textural addition such as pie crust, sweet crumbs, roasted peanuts or a peanut butter swirl like they use in their legendary Double Peanut Butter Chip would make this ice cream unstoppable. While the pie / cobbler theme might seem overdone or too pedestrian for McConnell's, there is a dearth of top notch apple pie or cobbler ice cream out there. In any case, I would love to see them dominate that flavor arena.

Where Elliot Found It: http://www.mcconnells.com/
Elliot's Grade: B


  1. Your knowledge of how ice cream is made has really upped the ante on the quality of the reviews posted to this forum. Great work!

  2. Thanks, Steve. That's really nice of you to say. Here's to scooping the good stuff!


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