In 2007, David Lebovitz published The Perfect Scoop. Now, 11 years later, he’s publishing it again, revised and updated and as ready for summer as we are.
In the original introduction, David explained the book as a “guidebook to the fabulous world of ice creams, sorbets, sherbets, granitas, frozen yogurts, and gelatos.” At the time, this was a whole new world for the home kitchen, uncharted territory with chocolate mountains and marshmallow clouds.
Since then, a lot has changed. Shortly after The Perfect Scoop’s release, manufacturers started designing more and more machines. And artisanal ice cream makers started opening more and more shops, from San Francisco’s Humphry Slocombe in 2008 to New York City’s Van Leeuwen that same year. And what once was a publication standout started to acquire more and more friends.
In this sense, The Perfect Scoop was ahead of its time, which makes it just right for right now. I chatted with David about the new revision, how ice cream’s grown up in the last decade, and his favorite ice cream sundae. (Answers have been slightly edited and condensed for clarity and length.)
EMMA LAPERRUQUE: I was so excited when I heard that you were revising The Perfect Scoop. It's one of my all-time favorites.
DAVID LEBOVITZ: Whenever people ask, “What's your favorite book that you wrote?” I always say: This one! Definitely this one. It combines my two favorite things: making ice cream and making candy. Ice cream doesn’t require the precision of, say, baking a cake—so recipe testing is a lot more fun. I don't have to worry about, “Oh, do I have to make this again because it needs 1/4 teaspoon more baking powder?” It's more like, “Oh, I'm going to add more of this.” “Let me stir in some of this.” “Oh, this is delicious!” You get a lot more freedom and creativity with ice cream.
EL: Could you walk me through the book’s revision process?
DL: When I had the idea for the book, it was 12 years ago. People didn't really make ice cream at home then. Over the years, a lot has changed. People were starting to do more mix-ins. People were getting more creative. I thought about the book and when they asked me if I wanted to re-do it, I thought: This is great! Because even if you make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich the same way every day for 50 years, every 10 years, you're going to go, “Oh, I like this bread better now.” “I like this peanut butter better now.” “I like this jelly better now.” The difficulty was, I had to choose what recipes I wanted to add and what recipes I wanted to take out because books have a specific length. It's not like the internet. I had to look at all the recipes and decide.
EL: So you took certain recipes out of the original version?
DL: For every recipe we added, we had to take one out—approximately. Books are a certain size and they're meant to fit in a box to be shipped in. But the great thing is: We kept the price point the same. It was a less expensive book, for its quality, and I wanted to keep that. I didn't want to raise the price. A few had to go, but they weren't popular recipes, so that's okay.
EL: Still, most of the new book is recipes from the original version. Did you retest those?
DL: Yeah, I retested pretty much everything. Because I'm sort of insane about that. But what was funny was, say, the Prune-Armagnac Ice Cream, I tested five times different ways, and then I ended up back where I was with the recipe that was in the original book.
EL: Can you tell me more about the book's new recipes?
DL: A lot of the ones I added had mix-ins, like the Candied Bacon and Bourbon Ice Cream. Or the Caramel Corn Ice Cream. Or the Labneh Ice Cream with Pistachio-Sesame Brittle. The base of the book was always: How do I teach people how to make ice cream? The basics and then variations. I wanted to keep that in mind. I didn't want to do a whole book of strange ice cream flavors. People still want a really good vanilla ice cream recipe.
EL: Three of the 10 new recipes are cocktail-inspired: Negroni Slush. Spritz Sorbet. Cucumber-Gin Sorbet. What inspired you to develop these?
DL: I started drinking more cocktails actually. In Paris, there was a cocktail movement over the last 5 or 6 years. And I have friends in New York who are cocktail writers. And the photographer for the book, Ed Anderson, shoots a lot of cocktail content. So, I've gotten more interested in cocktails myself. I thought, this is a great medium for alcohol because alcohol doesn't freeze. So I came up with these combinations to make frozen cocktails. You get the perfect temperature—through a lot of trial and error.
EL: Since The Perfect Scoop was originally published in 2007, food writing on the whole has become a lot more scientific. Say, just last year, Hello My Name Is Ice Cream took an amazing, super-scientific approach to its recipes. Did you feel an obligation to reflect that trend in this revision? Or is it just a different approach?
DL: I think it's a different approach. There's room for the people who want to write about science, get out their scales, have everything down to the millimeter. Some of those people are friends of mine. And it's great. But I'm not that precise. I don't want people to be intimidated to go in the kitchen. There are people who want to melt chocolate in a sous vide so it doesn't get too—blah blah blah. That's fine. I don't do that. I'm a very visceral cook. My cooking is ingredient-based. That was always the basis of what I do. And flavor.
EL: Okay, this is the tough one. You can only have one ice cream sundae for the rest of your life. What would it be?
DL: It would definitely be peppermint stick ice cream with hot fudge sauce and either marshmallow sauce or whipped cream on top. And some sort of candied almonds or candied peanuts!
Psst: Can’t stop thinking about that Labneh Ice Cream that David mentioned? Stay tuned tomorrow—wink wink.