FRESHLY CHURNED ARTISAN ice-cream is a wicked pleasure regardless of the season. With imaginative flavours and bright combinations arriving on the market at a rapid rate, we sample the take-home ice-cream that'll turn an ordinary dessert into the extraordinary.
Gundowring: orange and cardamom ice-cream
500ml RRP $12.95
Blink and you might miss the gravel track that leads to the Crooke family's Holstein dairy farm and purpose-built ice-creamery in the heart of the Kiewa Valley in Victoria, but from idyllic settings comes Gundowring's sublime orange and cardamom ice-cream.
''It's a family favourite,'' says co-owner and eldest son James.
Australians have a love affair with ice-cream.
The ice-cream base is a velvety anglaise made using fresh milk and cream from the herd, egg yolks and sugar. To this base a muslin bag filled with bruised cardamom and zest from the farm's oranges is added and left to steep overnight as the ice-cream ages and builds structure.
The result is a heady ice-cream with the subtle liveliness of orange and cardamom infused in the flavour.
''It's best in winter when the oranges are most flavoursome,'' James says. And beautiful with poached fruits.
Connoisseur: Snowy Mountain blueberry crumble by Pierre Roelofs
470ml RRP $6.99
Nearly three years ago, Connoisseur Gourmet Ice-cream approached Melbourne chef Pierre Roelofs with a proposition. Better known for his inventive degustation dessert nights at Cafe Rosamond, Roelofs was tasked with creating an ice-cream that championed Snowy Mountain blueberries.
''I wanted to do something really different and the idea of taking a blueberry crumble and turning it into an ice-cream was a challenge,'' he says.
It took Connoisseur's food scientists and Roelofs almost two years of trial and error but it resulted in ice-cream with the distinct flavours and strong colours of a blueberry crumble … with the crunch and sweetness of crumble biscuit and the subtle tartness of juicy blueberries. And it looks as good as it tastes.
Serendipity: salted palm sugar ice-cream
500ml RRP $9.50
Late last year, Sarah Mandelson, ice-cream maker and co-owner of Serendipity in Sydney, was eager to talk about the latest addition to the company's ice-cream range: salted palm sugar. ''I always get excited about new flavours,'' she said, ''but this one is really something.''
Later that month, the judges agreed when Serendipity salted palm sugar ice-cream took gold at the Royal Melbourne Fine Food Awards. No surprise there.
Mandelson describes the flavour as an Asian twist on salted caramel, with more complexity. The palm sugar is sourced from Queensland and delivers a sticky sweetness that crashes and melds with a subtle saltiness swirled throughout.
It is phenomenal simply on its own and makes a dinner party talking point come dessert.
Kohu Road: Banana ice-cream
500ml RRP $9.99
When husband-and-wife duo Greg and Yayoi Hall launched their ice-cream company Kohu Road in Auckland six years ago, it was with a one-litre ice-cream maker they bought at their local supermarket.
They have since upgraded somewhat, but without losing any of their distinctly handmade approach, and their company is now considered to be one of the top artisan ice-cream makers in New Zealand.
''People walk into our factory and see people folding ingredients with spatulas and stirring the ice-cream with whisks,'' Greg says with a proud grin.
''I think there is something incredible about people making foods, not machines.''
The proof is in the ice-cream, so to speak, and Kohu Road's banana ice-cream is an eruption of full-throttle flavour.
It is made using produce from a Fair Trade co-operative in Ecuador, with the bananas sliced and hand-folded through a rich base of organic milk, cream, Fair Trade sugar and eggs. This product is creamy, lush and unapologetically geared towards banana lovers.
Harry's Ice-cream Co: pavlova with crushed meringue and passionfruit swirl
500ml RRP $6.99
David and Lawrence Harris have been manufacturing ice-cream for some of Australia's favourite personalities, Maggie Beer included, for almost two decades.
Early this year, the duo decided to launch Harry's Ice-cream Co with a range of three quintessentially Australian flavours from their production house in Brunswick: lamington, pavlova, banana and caramel.
The pavlova is a standout. It has crushed and sweet meringue crunch and punchy tart passionfruit tangled throughout a base that's indulgent and lingers in the mouth long after the tub has left the table. ''Australians have a love affair with ice-cream,'' Lawrence says.
With ice-cream like this, we sure do.