I scream, you scream, we all scream for locally made desserts. Check out this tempting trio.
What: This exotic cold treat is made from cooked-down milk that’s never whipped, resulting in less fluff and more stuff. Dating from India’s Persian-influenced Moghul era of the 15th century, kulfi is a subcontinental passion. Today it’s popular throughout South Asia, the Middle East, and in hubs of the Indian diaspora such as Trinidad, California, Chicago, Dallas, Queens and (naturally) New Jersey. Nowadays, traditional kulfi flavors spotlighting nuts or fragrant spices are complemented by intensely fruity options.
Where: Mansoor Ahmed, founder of Heritage Kulfi, is looking ahead to his eventual cup-and-cone kulfi shop. For now, his exotically flavored, all-natural kulfi, made in Princeton, is available by the pint at around two dozen New Jersey retailers, plus through FreshDirect.
Ahmed’s six adventurous flavors—Alphonso Mango, Cardamom Chai, Coconut, Earl Gray, Pistachio and Rosewater—“are riffs on classic South Asian kulfi, made with top-quality natural fruit, nuts and spices,” he says. “They’re added to the milk at the start of the cooking process, deeply infusing it. The milk cooks down and condenses slowly, creating lusciously thick kulfi.
“I believe this is the densest, most mouth-filling ice cream on the market. The words decadent, sinful and heavenly come up a lot in customer comments.”
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What: This dairy-free, profoundly refreshing frozen dessert, also called Italian ice, was brought to Philadelphia after World War II by immigrants from Sicily (where it’s called granita). New Jersey’s hub for water ice remains in towns across the river from Philly. The recipe is simple: semi-frozen water, sugar and flavorings. (But oh, those flavorings!)
Where: A few water ice shops still make the signature treat in-house. Says Elia Sweeney, owner of Runnemede’s Anthony’s Homemade Water Ice: “Our goal is to serve it at the optimal temperature and texture. But let me tell you, getting your water ice smooth, neither chunky nor melty, is an art.”
Her “pure” flavors are “bright fruits like mango, tangerine and strawberry-lemon, plus a few chocolates and coffee. That one’s the ultimate iced java. And,” she adds, “we have margarita ices, which customers pour tequila onto.”
On the other end of the customer spectrum are “preschoolers who stand at the window to order. I can see only the tops of their heads, but they’re not shy to tell me exactly what they want.” Also on offer at Anthony’s: soft-serve ice cream in a rainbow of flavors.
1001 E. Evesham Road, Runnemede; 856-784-8900
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What: With the advent of motor-powered freezing in the 1920s, Jersey Shore boardwalks exploded with frozen custard stands (home freezers were still two decades away.) This venerable Shore treat was a cold version of the rich cream-and-egg filling in pastries and doughnuts. The original custard came in one flavor: cream. Today, the use of egg in desserts is regulated, so contemporary custard is made without eggs, like ice cream.
Where: Brothers Jason and Justin Plum run the Custard Hut near Ocean City with their parents and significant others. “Our grandparents started the business in ’77,” says Jason. “We adapted the Shore’s original rich and creamy recipe to get an eggless custard. We use ultra-quality cream and hit the sweet spot between fluffy and chewy. We make the flavors that people want today, including chocolate peanut butter and Jersey blueberry and strawberry. Our vanilla cream flavor recreated the taste of classic custard.”
“We’re a multi-generational business,” Jason says, “and so are many of our customers. They come to the Custard Hut with their kids and tell us they came here with their own parents or grandparents. The Shore is such a strong community. My job is incredibly demanding time-wise, but I do it because I love my families, my employees and the Shore people we serve.”
109 NJ-50, Ocean View; 609-390-0361
710 New Road, Somers Point; 609-653-0420
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