I heart frozen custard

The flavor of the day when we were at Kopps: Peanut butter banana nut. The kids went loco over it.

When we took a much overdue trip to Milwaukee and Chicago a couple weeks ago, one of the things I was obsessed with was frozen custard. Oh, you haven’t had frozen custard? Let’s just say it is one thing you must eat if you like a) sweet things or b) food. Seriously, it is almost worth a trip across the ocean all by itself.

Basically, it is like a creamier, smoother version of ice cream. Oh yes, and also fattier and denser than gelato. First, a primer on what is important with ice cream texture. There are a couple of things that have a major impact on texture: butterfat and overrun. Butterfat content typically creates a “fattier” smooth texture of ice cream that ‘coats the tongue’. Yes, sounds gross, but is important to texture and taste. Overrun is the amount of air that mixed into the ice cream as it is churned.

Here is what is special about frozen custard:

  1. It has an egg custard base (hence, the name frozen custard).
  2. It has a high butterfat content (it must have at least 10 percent butterfat, like ice cream, although my favorite custard, Kopp’s, has 16 percent butterfat).
  3. It has low overrun of only 20 percent, while regular ice cream has between 50 to 100 percent overrun (that’s a lot of air!). This is due to the special, freaky-looking churner that spits out frozen custard in a giant vanilla or chocolate snake of frozen goodness. It churns more slowly, thereby preventing too much air being churned in.
  4. Frozen custard is served at a higher temperature, normally 18 degrees Fahrenheit rather than the 10 degrees Fahrenheit that standard ice cream is served at. This prevents it from numbing your tongue, and because it is so dense, it doesn’t seem to melt that quickly. Perfect!

Do not confuse real frozen custard with soft serve ice cream. Soft serve is just an imposter, usually with a high amount of overrun and totally artificial flavors. Avoid it!

The Milwaukee area is loaded with real frozen custard joints. My personal fave is Kopps, simply because I grew up on it. They always carry vanilla and chocolate, then two flavors of the day. (My favorite flavor of the day? Caramel cashew– it has loads of real cashews.) My mom practically swears by the chocolate malts at Gilles Frozen Custard (she is the biggest chocolate malt aficionado I know) — she said it has the most malt flavor of any of the custard stands. Leon’s is the classic stand where Bill Clinton visited. (Where has he not eaten?) If you are outside the Milwaukee area, Culvers will do if you need to get a fix, (they are a chain that started in Wisconsin) but I don’t find their custard nearly as good as other Milwaukee-only joints. (But I dig those burgers!)

Speaking of which, the burgers at Kopps are not so shabby either. And you gotta love that the fried onions, ketchup, mustard and relish are free condiments, while all the veggies like lettuce and tomato cost extra. Why try to dress up a butter burger with healthy stuff? Honesty is delicious.

Which one, which one?

My all-time fave: vanilla at Kopps

Wikipedia: Frozen custard
Kopps Frozen Custard
Gilles Frozen Custard
Wikipedia: Leon’s Frozen Custard