Secrets From Inside the Baskin-Robbins Test Kitchen
I got to have the coolest job ever for one day and one day only: ice cream tester at Baskin-Robbins headquarters in Canton, MA. Believe it or not, the chefs in the B-R test kitchen get to make and test ice cream and frozen treats every single day, and they get paid for it. I teamed up with three other people and Kerry Burke, Baskin-Robbins's senior manager of research and development, to create a custom ice cream based on a brownie. No specific brownie, just the term "brownie." Sounds simple, right? Well, not necessarily.
Kerry started by asking us to think about what a brownie means to us. That's how the culinary geniuses begin the process of creating a new flavor — find inspiration, decide what that flavor means to them, and deconstruct the inspiration. All four of our team members had a different idea of a brownie and what our favorite parts were, but someone mentioned the retro cream cheese chocolate brownie from childhood that just clicked for all of us.
The ice cream obviously starts with a base. Our choices were the rich chocolate or plain cream, and Kerry, being the culinary whiz that he is, suggested we cut the chocolate with the cream so it wouldn't be overpowering. He had us taste each component as we selected it, including the brownie bits, cheesecake chunks, and salted pretzel swirl that we decided on for mix-ins. We even tried the base mix before freezing it, and it honestly tasted like a candy bar if you'd liquefied it. (That's a good thing, I swear.)
The test kitchen has a couple small-batch freezers for doing exactly that — freezing small batches of ice cream. The machine uses liquid ammonia to rapidly freeze the ice cream, and it comes out super soft and whippy. While we waited for the ice cream to freeze, we brainstormed ice cream names. And let me tell you, that is one of the trickiest parts of the job. It's easy to throw a bunch of delicious things together and make ice cream; it's not so easy to come up with a name with mass appeal. We wanted to bring in as many components of the ice cream as possible: chocolate, cheesecake, brownie, salt, nostalgia. Unfortunately, that's far too many adjectives for one little label. We threw around the idea of just a fun name like The Kitchen Sink or Chocolate After Dark, but then you have no idea what is in the ice cream. That can be OK in some cases, but we wanted something a bit more obvious. We settled on Salted Chocolate Cheesecake. Kerry pointed out that we lose the brownie aspect in the name, but we decided we didn't care!
Before we knew it, the ice cream was frozen, and it was time to fold in all the goodness. We took turns layering the ice cream and the salted pretzel swirl in the tubs before sealing them up to be frozen. We totally made a mess, but like Kerry told us, "Making a little bit of a mess is part of the job."
Scroll through to see the step-by-step process of creating a new flavor in the Baskin-Robbins test kitchen, and next time you're in a shop, make sure you try the brand's newest flavor of the month, Redberry Blast, which is a Sour Patch Kids-infused treat that's actually really delicious.