Was it Howard Johnson restuarants, with their “28 flavors,” that started our demand for ice cream in all its wildest incarnations?

Ice cream used to be simple. Chocolate. Vanilla. Strawberry. Neapolitan..... woooooo, edgy!

Back in 1925, Howard Johnson — yes, he was a real person — tweaked his mother's ice cream recipe and noticed sales at his drugstore soda fountain soaring.

In fact, Howard's ice cream became so successful that he opened a chain of summer ice cream stands along the Massachusetts coast. Eventually, he expanded his offerings to 28 flavors. At which point he's said to have noted, “I thought I had every flavor in the world.”

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What would Howard think now?

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Ice cream and candy make beautiful music together.

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And then there are all the variations. Be still, my heart!

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Here's my husband, Rick, surveying his options. Oddly enough, after much careful thought, he invariably orders plain strawberry.

Amazingly, from our 21st century perspective, only five of those original 28 Howard Johnson flavors involved chocolate. Frozen Pudding, Fruit Salad, Peppermint Stick, Burgundy Cherry, Pineapple... but no Decadent Chocolate Fudge Chunk?

Nope. Back then, only Chocolate, Chocolate Chip, Fudge Ripple, Caramel Fudge, and Mocha Chip were available to chocoholics.

Which, come to think of it, perhaps weren't as significant a part of the population as they are today.

Times change. Howard Johnson restaurants, with their signature orange roofs, Simple Simon logo, and array of ice cream flavors, have dwindled to just three: two in upstate New York, one in Bangor, Maine. No more road-trip treats of hotdogs in butter-grilled buns, chicken croquettes, mac and cheese... and a Mint Chocolate Chip cone, to go.

Sigh. Guess I'll just have to make my own.

Which is easier done than you might expect. You can make ice cream with an ice cream maker. Or you can make ice cream using a bowl, spoon, and the freezer compartment of your fridge.

Either way, you can personalize it. You can make... Frozen Pudding!

Or Mocha Madness, with espresso powder, Dutch cocoa, chocolate ganache, and crushed Oreos.

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Let's begin by combining 1 cup whole milk, 3/4 cup sugar, 2 tablespoons (yes, 2 TABLEspoons) espresso powder, and 2 tablespoons cocoa powder. I use our Double-Dutch Dark Cocoa. Dutch-process yields richer, smoother chocolate flavor than unsweetened baking cocoa. FYI, if you're using supermarket cocoa, Dutch-process is often labeled “European-style,” to distinguish it from plain baking cocoa.

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Whisk together thoroughly. You won't be able to make it super-smooth; don't worry.

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Stir in 2 cups (1 pint) heavy or whipping cream, and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. You'll now have a tan-colored liquid with some cocoa detritus floating on top.

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Pour into your ice cream maker. Hope you remembered to freeze the bucket first, if necessary. If you didn't — put the bucket in the freezer, put the cream in the fridge, and try again later.

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Turn on the ice cream maker. It'll whir and spin. Well, our Cuisinart does, anyway. If you have another model, it might act differently. And if you have an "Armstrong" (the old-fashioned crank style ice cream maker, for which you need “strong arms” to turn the handle), then any spinning is entirely up to you!

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About 15 minutes later, you'll see the cream starting to freeze.

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Ten minutes after that, you've got soft-serve.

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See the consistency? Now's the time to add your extras.

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I'm an Oreo fan. Especially the double-chocolate ones. The strawberry-filled ones are awesome, too. In fact, I love them all. Nabisco — WHY did it take you so long to figure out these line extensions?!

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Make sure any extras are crumbled pretty finely; you don't want chunks much more than 1/2" in size.

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Pour into the ice cream maker...

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...and let it spin some more. Notice the ice cream oozing out the top; that's OK.

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Seems done. Let's test it.

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Yup, looks just about right. Maybe a little soft, but we can remedy that.

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Make sure to taste a spoonful before proceeding any further. Not that there's anything you can do about it at this point (besides roll your eyes in ecstasy), but it's always good to taste what you make before foisting it on your family.

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For firmer ice cream, pack it into a bowl.

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Whoops, side path. I had some leftover chocolate ganache, so I reheated just till it was pourable, and swirled some in.

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Cover with plastic, and place in the freezer compartment of your fridge.

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A couple of hours later, voilà! Mocha Madness.

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More cookies on the side are always a plus.

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Three of our King Arthur merchandise team members, Liz, Emily, and Deb, asked to lick the bowl. You go, girls!

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So, you don't have an ice cream maker? No worries. You can make nearly as good ice cream without one. All it'll lack is the super-creamy, smooth texture that an ice cream maker creates.

Pour the cream mixture into a metal bowl, and place it in the freexer compartment of your fridge.

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After an hour, stir the frozen edges into the soft middle.

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Continue to stir once an hour for several hours. For creamier ice cream, beat with a hand mixer, or blend with a stick blender.

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In our freezer here (O°F), it took 4 hours for it to reach this consistency. Stir in any extras when it's at this point. Serve, or let freeze for an hour or so longer, for firmer ice cream.

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Pretty nice for simple “stir together” ice cream, eh?

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You can see the slightly granular texture. This is what churning ice cream in an ice cream maker eliminates.

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Remember that leftover chocolate ganache? Mmmmmmm...

Read, rate, and review (please!) our recipe for Mocha Madness.

And while you're at it, read our blog post on strawberry sorbet. Easy as easy can be; the absolute icy essence of strawberries.

Buy vs. Bake

Buy: Edy's Maxx Java Mashup — chocolate ice cream with chocolate sandwich cookies, espresso, chocolate flakes, and fudge, $5.78/quart

Make at home: Mocha Madness, chocolate-espresso ice cream with chocolate sandwich cookies, $4.53/quart

PJ Hamel
The Author

About PJ Hamel

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was a Maine journalist before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. PJ bakes and writes from her home on Cape Cod, where she enjoys beach-walking, her husband, two dogs, and really good food!