Cold Fusion

Salt & Straw’s Ice Cream Cookbook Is Anything but Vanilla

It's time to dig that dusty ice cream maker out of the basement.

By Benjamin Tepler April 23, 2019 Published in the May 2019 issue of Portland Monthly

Forget, for a moment, that eight-year-old Salt & Straw is an unstoppable freight train of artisan ice cream: any ice cream cookbook, with its calls for specialized equipment and all that freezing time, is a tough sell. It’s even tougher when the flavors include queasy-sounding mash-ups like pig’s blood and cocoa or green apple and mayo. But against those odds, the Salt & Straw Ice Cream Cookbook, which came out in April, is likely to sell like hotcakes; not only because it’s a manifesto from one of PDX’s most successful artisan exports, but because it just might get you to dig that dusty ice cream maker out of the basement.

It takes a second to get a handle on the book, which follows S&S’s own internal calendar of rotating seasonal flavors, pinballing from the shop’s “Classics” (Sea Salt with Caramel Ribbons) to its “Brewers Series” (Smoked Hefeweizen) and “Spooktacular” flavors (Essence of Ghost). And while it’s not quite a cold science textbook, if you read it front to back you’ll accumulate enough knowledge through tips and techniques to churn a pint out of pretty much anything in your pantry.   

The writing is sweet, innocuous, and endlessly upbeat, like a diary of Andy Griffith’s Opie gone on an ice cream bender. It’s a perfect snapshot of the book’s chief author and S&S flavor maestro, Tyler Malek, who was fired from a brief career as a car salesman for, he says, “being too nice.” (Tyler’s cousin and company co-owner Kim Malek runs the business side.) The book was finessed by talented coauthor JJ Goode, who helped write the Pok Pok cookbook, and edited by Francis Lam, the voice behind NPR’s Splendid Table.

Most people probably won’t ferment their own lactobacillus-hop syrup or melt down Swedish Fish for “tartare.” But the ice cream base recipe? It’s damn easy, rich, and incredibly consistent thanks to a few food science hacks, like xanthan gum. It might even take less time to churn out a batch than to wait in line for a scoop at Salt & Straw’s Division location—and it’s a pretty close facsimile of the real thing.

“We’ve been scared away from making ice cream for so many different reasons,” explains Tyler. “You go to Goodwill and see all the ice cream makers on the shelves. That’s not right. If you have a solid base—just like a good soup stock—you can play with it in a hundred different ways. Literally, if you can dream it, you can make it.” 

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