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Light up your Fourth of July with homemade ice cream

If you're one of the lucky ducks who gets a four-day weekend for this Fourth of July, take advantage of all that time out of the office to try something ambitious - making ice cream at home. The creamy, fresh-tasting dessert will make everyone happy during holiday weekend gatherings.

While using an at-home ice cream maker will likely yield the creamiest results, it's possible to make your own ice creams and sorbets at home without one. One technique calls for using shallow pans or ice trays to "still-freeze" the dessert mixture. After quickly freezing the ice cream to a firm, but still pliable, texture, beat it lightly with a hand mixer or gently mix with a spoon.

Pam Anderson offers a quick strawberry ice cream recipe in her cookbook "Perfect Recipes For Having People Over." Her recipe calls for lots of frozen berries and heavy cream, and requires just a blender to make. It takes only five minutes to prepare the ice cream and an hour for it to harden. The texture won't be as smooth as that of commercial ice cream, but the fresh berry flavor will more than compensate, Anderson promises. The ice cream can be frozen in an airtight container for up to a month.

It's important to be safe when making homemade ice cream. Some recipes call for raw eggs, which could put people at risk for food poisoning from salmonella. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends using prepared egg products or pasteurized eggs to make homemade ice cream.

But unpasteurized eggs, the kind regularly found in grocery stores, can also be used to make ice cream. Just be sure to cook the eggs to a safe temperature. Mixing them with milk to make a custard base, then cooking to an internal temperature of 160 F, is a popular method.

In her cookbook "The Good Egg," Marie Simmons offers her technique for carefully cooking the eggs in

custard-style ice creams. Egg yolks can easily overcook and turn into scrambled curds, so she instructs cooks to bake custards in a water bath or cook them in a double boiler to shield them from direct heat. Use a food thermometer to make sure the mixture reaches the correct temperature.

Or you could choose a recipe that doesn't call for eggs. The Oregon Raspberry & Blackberry Commission suggests using fresh and frozen berries to create sweet sorbets. Sorbets aren't made with eggs or cream, so they're virtually fat free. Sorbets can be made in an ice-cream maker or by freezing in a shallow pan, but they're often improved by adding a small amount of berry-flavored vodka or liqueur, which improves texture, the commission says.

Instant Strawberry

Ice Cream

1 container (24 ounces) frozen sweetened strawberries, chopped into large chunks

1⁄2 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar

11⁄2 cups heavy cream

Whole or sliced fresh strawberries for garnish

Place frozen berries in a blender. Whisk sugar into cream. With blender running, slowly add cream-sugar mixture, stopping to stir 3 or 4 times, until ice cream is smooth with small bits of strawberries. Transfer to a shallow metal pan and freeze to a scoopable texture, about 1 hour. Garnish with fresh strawberries, if using, and serve.

Source: "Perfect Recipes For Having People Over" (Houghton Mifflin, $35), by Pam Anderson.

Fresh California

Apricot Ice Cream

1 12-ounce can skimmed evaporated milk

1 envelope plain gelatin

3⁄4 cup sugar

11⁄2 cups diced ripe apricots

1 12-ounce can apricot nectar

2 cups plain low-fat yogurt

1 teaspoon vanilla or 1⁄2 teaspoon grated orange peel

7 pounds small ice cubes

1 cup rock salt or table salt, according to ice-cream maker

Combine milk and gelatin in a large saucepan. Heat, stirring often, until gelatin dissolves. Add sugar and heat until it dissolves. Using a wire whip, stir in apricots, apricot nectar, yogurt and vanilla. Pour mixture into canister of ice-cream maker and assemble the machine. Make alternate layers of ice and salt around the canister. Churn 20 to 30 minutes or until softly frozen. Pack into containers and freeze. For best flavor, let ice cream soften slightly before

serving.

Source: California Fresh Apricot Council

Vanilla Bean

French Custard Ice Cream

2 cups heavy cream

1 cup milk

1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, or 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

2 large eggs

2 large egg yolks

1⁄3 cup sugar

Combine the cream, milk and vanilla bean (if using the vanilla extract, don't add it until later) in a medium saucepan and heat until small bubbles appear around the edges; do not boil. Cover and let stand off the heat for 30 minutes. Lift the vanilla bean from the cream mixture and, using the tip of a spoon or a small knife, scrape the small seeds from the pod into the cream mixture, discard the pod.

Combine the eggs, yolks and sugar in a medium bowl and beat until light in color and thick. Whisk a little of the hot cream mixture into the eggs to temper them, then stir the egg mixture into the cream mixture. Transfer to the top of a double boiler or a heatproof bowl and set over 1 inch of gently simmering water. Cook, stirring constantly, until the custard coats the back of the spoon, 15 to 20 minutes.

Pour the custard into a large bowl. Add the vanilla extract, if using. Set the bowl in a large bowl half-filled with ice. Refrigerate, covered, for at least 4 hours and up to 24 hours. Transfer to an ice-cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer's directions.

Source: "The Good Egg" (Houghton Mifflin, $15), by Marie Simmons.

Kiwi-Lime Sorbet with Whole Blackberries

11⁄2 cups peeled, pureed kiwi, with seeds (about 6-7 kiwi)

4 tablespoons lime juice

1 cup sugar

1⁄2 cup water

1 tablespoon blackberry liqueur

1 generous cup frozen blackberries.

For best consistency, all ingredients should be chilled. Combine all ingredients except frozen berries and stir for several minutes until all sugar is dissolved. Transfer kiwi/lime mixture to ice-cream maker and process according to manufacturer's instructions. Layer sorbet with frozen berries into container and serve immediately or freeze.

Ice tray method: If you do not have an ice-cream maker, pour the kiwi-lime mixture into a shallow pan so that the mixture is no more than 2 inches deep. Cover with foil and freeze for about 11⁄2 to 2 hours. Mixture will be almost firm, but still soft and pliable. If you've waited too long, allow to thaw on the counter. Remove from freezer, cut into chunks and transfer to mixing bowl. Beat with hand mixer just until slushy and smooth. Gently fold in the frozen berries. Serve immediately or return to original pan, cover with foil and freeze.

Source: Oregon Raspberry & Blackberry Commission