Sarah Johnston of Fat Cat Creamery

Image: Todd Spoth

We’ve heard of being born with a silver spoon in your mouth, but a cold tongue? 

“That’s what my grandmother used to say—I was born with a cold tongue—because I could make ice cream last a really long time,” says Sarah Johnston, the owner of perhaps the city’s finest artisanal ice cream shop, Fat Cat Creamery. Given such a rare lingual gift, it was probably inevitable that the Texas native would become a master of the frozen arts, although to hear her tell it, Fat Cat’s birth was something of an accident.

“My husband and I were just sitting with some friends one night at Antidote [the Heights coffee shop]. It was about 10 o’clock and we wanted ice cream.” It hit them: “There was no place to get ice cream.” Today, Fat Cat has its own storefront in the Heights and a dozen or so merchants around the city sell some of its hottest flavors—strawberry buttermilk, whiskey butter pecan and Mexican vanilla. Johnston goes through 3,600 eggs a week on her way to making 80 gallons of ice cream in a multitude of flavors that change more often than Houston’s weather.

Given the professional set-up in Fat Cat’s small but tidy kitchen—the giant silver pasteurizing machine occupies a sizeable percentage of the real estate—we wondered: is it really possible to make great-tasting ice cream at home? Yes, Johnston said without a moment’s hesitation. Furthermore, you can make a perfectly luscious sweet cream–flavored concoction with just five ingredients and an ice cream maker (she recommends an ice cream maker attachment for your KitchenAid). It takes a bit of time, but the result is more than worth it—a flavor and texture that surpasses anything you’ll find in your grocer’s freezer, and without the mile-long list of ingredients.


Sweet Cream Ice Cream

Yield: 1 quart

Ingredients: 

  • 1 1/2 c. milk (see note)
  • 1 1/2 c. heavy cream
  • 3/4 c. sugar
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1 vanilla bean

Directions:

  1. Place the ice cream maker attachment, as well as an 8” x 8” baking pan, in the freezer for at least 24 hours prior to making the batter.
  2. Split the vanilla bean. Scrape the bean out. Add bean and pod to milk. Heat in a medium saucepan over medium heat until temperature reaches 95 degrees on an instant-read thermometer.
  3. Add sugar to egg yolks, then whisk separately. Add to mixture. Stirring constantly and scraping the bottom with a spatula, increase the heat to medium-high and cook until mixture reaches 180 degrees.
  4. Immediately remove the ice cream batter from the heat, strain it into a bowl set over an ice bath, and add the cream (the point being to cool down the batter as quickly as possible).
  5. Once the batter has reached room temperature, cover it with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
  6. Pour the batter into the ice cream maker, straining out the vanilla bean, and churn until the mixture reaches the consistency of soft-serve, about 15–20 minutes.
  7. Scoop the batter into the baking pan. Cover with parchment paper or plastic wrap, pressing it down onto the surface of the batter for an airtight seal. Freeze until fully hard, about 8 hours. Enjoy!

Tips and Tricks

Got (the Right) Milk? Since ice cream has so few ingredients, every one of them counts, especially the milk. Johnston recommends getting yours from Mill-King Market & Creamery, available at Whole Foods Markets and other stores in the area. Why? For one thing, the milk is low-temperature pasteurized, which preserves its nutrients and enzymes. For another, it’s non-homogenized, which gives your ice cream a heavenly texture.

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