This Homemade Mister Softee Ice Cream Recipe is the Real Deal
For kids, summer signifies the happiest of occurrences: school-free days and soft-serve ice cream. For those of us whose offices share a city block with an elementary school—and who lack self-control—60-degree weather means those two very same things. If you live in a metropolitan area, you know that the start of spring is essentially heralded by the echoing jingle of Mister Softee trucks. However, as I discovered last week, much to my chagrin, keeping our kids (or ourselves) in chocolate-dipped cones now costs the equivalent of developing a raging Starbucks habit. At over three dollars a pop, you’re paying organic ice cream prices for what is decidedly not an all-natural frozen dessert.
I don’t want to know the exact recipe for Mister Softee ice cream. It’ll just upset me. That creamy, ultra-whipped texture is just too good, and in this case, I’m going to go the “ignorance is bliss” route. That said, soft serve on wheels is definitely not something I feel comfortable subjecting my insides to day after day. Plus, as I mentioned before, it’s a considerable expense.
Thankfully, Max Falkowitz over at Serious Eats has developed the solution in the form of a homemade formula for Mister Softee that actually matches up to the delicious, if synthetic, original.
“The base is made with half and half, cornstarch, and—the secret ingredient—gelatin. You don't need eggs for this recipe, and the clean, crisp vanilla flavor that results is a refreshing alternative to more traditional vanilla ice creams. Gelatin, in addition to binding the custard with cornstarch and replicating that slightly waxy Mister Softee texture, allows the ice cream to warm to the verge of melting while retaining its shape. It's that fast-melting, slick bite that defines the Mister Softee experience, and as long as you give your ice cream some time to thaw, you'll get it every time. That's right, this is soft serve you can freeze, thaw, and refreeze as many times as you want with little to no discernible loss in dreamy soft-serve lightness. Nobel Prize committee, you have my number.”
Fortunately, Falkowitz’s recipe calls for fragrant, flavorful Tahitian vanilla beans in lieu of…whatever it is Mister Softee uses. Adults can split the difference between this frozen summer treat and the real deal by adding a dash of Highland Scotch whisky to the mix, but trust me, the kids will miss neither Softee nor Scotch. Gather the ingredients below, then head over to Serious Eats for the full recipe for this thrifty and tasty alternative. Your days of chasing down that cheerful little refrain are over.
Mr. Softee-Style Vanilla Bean Soft Serve
3 1/2 cups half and half, divided
3 tablespoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
1 Tahitian vanilla bean, split and scraped (see note)
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon Highland Scotch whisky
Disclaimer: The procedure does call for an ice cream maker. While this may seem extravagant, think of all the opportunity you’ll have to whip up your own unique flavors during the steamy months ahead. If you don’t already own one of these handy kitchen tools, click through the slideshow above for the top devices on the market.
By Cordelia Tai