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Ice cream in the haus: Milkhaus moves ice cream operation to Fargo, continues creating unique flavor combinations

Seth Locken and Chris Wilkes, seen here July 15 in Fargo are business partners in their ice cream enterprise called Milkhaus. They use regional ingredients to craft unique flavors of ice cream like white chocolate lemon, dark chocolate lavender, toasted black sesame seed, and a proverbial favorite, bacon-brown sugar. Nick Wagner / The Forum2 / 4
Milkhaus offers push pop ice cream in a variety of flavors, like this rhubarb treat. Nick Wagner / The Forum3 / 4
Seth Locken transfers a base mix into a tub while making a batch of Milkhaus ice cream July 15 at Square One Kitchen in Fargo. Locken said the process can take up to five days before the ice cream is ready to be consumed. Nick Wagner / The Forum4 / 4

FARGO - Seth Locken and Chris Wilkes have perfected the “two spoon method.”

The business partners who own Milkhaus brand ice cream here test new flavors by tasting one spoonful of ice cream base with one spoonful of the ingredient they plan to add.

The taste test has led the entrepreneurs to churn flavors like brown sugar-bacon, salted caramel, rhubarb – and garlic. Garlic ice cream never made it to pints and push-pops, though.

Too savory, Locken says.

But the ice cream makers continue to be inventive with their flavors, even if some don’t work out.

“I’m an adventurous eater, and my mother raised me that way. I also hate when things start becoming one-dimensional,” Locken says.

Wilkes, 27, and Locken, 24, moved their operation from New Town, N.D., to Fargo in April after receiving positive feedback at the Unglued Craft Fest in February, where they debuted their business.

Milkhaus pints and push-pops have been stocked here at Red Raven Espresso Parlor, both Dunn Bros Coffee locations, Blackbird Woodfire and Atomic Coffee for a few weeks – just in time for National Ice Cream Month.

In 1984, President Ronald Reagan declared July the official month to honor the classic frozen treat. Milkhaus puts their own twist on traditional flavors, creating what they think will be new classics, like dark chocolate-lavender, hickory-smoked vanilla, pistachio and white chocolate-lemon.

The ice creams aren’t overly sweet, and Milkhaus sticks with natural flavorings, like real pistachios and real vanilla beans. The base for the hickory smoked-vanilla is smoked in a smoker – no liquid smoke allowed.

“Some of our flavors walk a fine line between being commercial to every palette and, like garlic ice cream, too savory. Wasabi ice cream didn’t turn out either,” Locken says.

Pushing the boundaries of sweet and savory is a national food trend that Locken says is just now coming to North Dakota.

“We have a nice little incubator of time where North Dakota is kind of behind, and it allows for pioneers to come in and spread the word,” he says.

Locken started making ice cream last year after receiving a Cuisinart ice cream maker for his birthday. His first ice cream was green pea and mint, inspired by the herbs and produce in his parents’ garden.

“My mother thought it was the weirdest thing,” he says. And then he made a sage ice cream pie.

“She also thought that was the strangest thing, but she ate the whole pie,” he says.

Locken and Wilkes, who met while working as line cooks at Hooters in Fargo, originally wanted to make sandwiches with local ingredients. But then they realized ice cream has just as many possibilities as sandwiches, and they could source local ingredients, like rhubarb from Kragnes Family Farms in Kragnes, Minn., and cream from Cass-Clay Creamery.

They use a Philadelphia-style ice cream base for their creations. The eggless base was important to Locken since his 3-year-old nephew is allergic to eggs.

“I want him to be able to enjoy ice cream,” Locken says.

The base containing cream cheese, cream, milk, cornstarch, sugar and corn syrup typically stays the same no matter what flavor they’re creating. Locken says they’ve met some resistance for using corn syrup, but it “offers some properties that make the ice cream more full-bodied and helps with the moisture as well.”

“Everything in moderation,” he says.

A batch of ice cream takes about a day to complete, with two resting (chilling) periods, pasteurization and then churning.

Flavors they’re contemplating right now include lime-hibiscus-clove, yellow watermelon, roasted hazelnut and for fall, smoked pumpkin pie and cinnamon toast crunch.

They hope to expand peoples’ flavor palettes and encourage more adventurousness in eating.

“I got into this because I wanted to give back to the state of North Dakota,” Locken says. “I think people will enjoy buying a part of me and Chris. If I knew Ben and Jerry, I would buy Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream.”

Milkhaus uses a Philadelphia-style base for their ice cream, similar to this recipe from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams in Columbus, Ohio.

Jen’s Ice Cream Base

Makes one quart

Ingredients 2 cups milk

4 teaspoons cornstarch

1 ¼ cups heavy cream

2/3 cup sugar

2 tablespoons light corn syrup

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

3 tablespoons cream cheese, softened

Directions 1. In a bowl, stir together ¼ cup milk and the cornstarch; set slurry aside.

2. In a 4-quart saucepan whisk together remaining milk and the cream, sugar, corn syrup and salt; bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook for 4 minutes.

3. Stir in the cornstarch slurry and return the mixture to a boil and cook, stirring, until thickened, about 2 minutes.

4. Place cream cheese in a bowl and pour in ¼ cup hot milk mixture; whisk until smooth. Whisk in remaining milk mixture.

5. Pour mixture into a plastic bag and submerge in a bowl of ice water until chilled.

6. Pour mixture into an ice cream maker and process according to manufacturer’s instructions.

Transfer ice cream to a storage container and freeze until set.

Source: Saveur

Tips for successful ice cream making

FARGO – In the past year, the owners of Milkhaus brand ice cream have learned what works and what doesn’t when it comes to making creamy, flavorful ice cream.

Chris Wilkes and Seth Locken, of Fargo, share their do’s and don’ts for a successful churn.

  • Be adventurous.

Use seasonal ingredients and seek inspiration everywhere, Wilkes says.

Locken was recently inspired by a soda he drank.

  • Don’t add cold mixtures to a hot base.

“Everything should be the same temperature when you’re mixing them together,” Locken says.

For instance, when he makes rhubarb ice cream, he heats the rhubarb mixture before adding it to the warm ice cream base.

  • Never add water to ice cream.

Ice cream crystallizes when water’s added, Locken says.

  • Chill out. 

Milkhaus ice cream rests twice – once after the base is cooked and once after pasteurization.

Home cooks likely won’t be pasteurizing their ice cream, but a thorough chill for at least four hours after making the base is necessary, Locken says.

“That allows fats and sugars and salts and other wandering water particles to bind with each other. It’s pretty thick once we get it out,” he says.

  • Thaw out.

Let ice cream thaw a bit after it’s taken out of the freezer.

“People will say ‘Your ice cream is so hard,’ well it’s 10-below zero,” Locken says. “Let it breathe at room temperature for about 20 to 30 minutes.”

  • Buy an ice cream maker. 

Balls that make ice cream while you shake them and other devices aren’t worth the money, Wilkes says.

“Don’t be overly impressed with stupid kitchen gadgets,” he says. “Just get an ice cream maker.”

One of their favorite at-home ice cream machines is made by Cuisinart and costs less than $50.

  • Try a Philadelphia-style base.

“Eggs are fickle,” Locken says of custard-base ice cream.

He says a Philadelphia-style base, which uses cream cheese, tends to create creamier ice cream.

  • Once it’s open, eat it.

Ice cream should be consumed within two weeks of being opened, Wilkes says.

Unopened, its shelf-life is a year.

Anna G. Larson

Anna G. Larson is a features reporter with The Forum who writes a weekly column featuring stylish people in Fargo-Moorhead. Larson graduated from North Dakota State University with a degree in journalism and joined The Forum in July 2012. She's a Fargo native who enjoys travel, food, baking, fashion, animals, coffee and all things Midwestern. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter: @msannagrace 

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