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Blue Bell: The Little Creamery in Brenham

Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla photo
by Lori Grossman

A Texas summer means 100 degree temperatures, air conditioning, pool time, and Blue Bell ice cream. Lots of it.

We Texans think Blue Bell is the best ice cream in the world. Despite our obvious bias, we aren't alone in our loyalty. Blue Bell is available in only 17 states (check their web site for your area), so expatriate Texans and other devotees order their choice of four half-gallons of ice cream – to be delivered by FedEx, no less. And when we say Blue Bell is out-of-this-world, we're not kidding. In 1995, astronauts aboard the space shuttle Atlantis took some Blue Bell along for the ride.

The Scoop on Blue Bell
Brenham, Texas (approximately 75 miles WNW of Houston) is where it all began. The Brenham Creamery Company opened in 1907, making butter from excess cream. Ice cream production began in 1911. Back then, the little creamery made only a gallon or two of ice cream per day, delivering it by horse-drawn wagon. By 1993, state-of-the-art equipment had increased output to 15,000 gallons an hour.

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Despite being available in only about 20 percent of the country, Blue Bell ranks No. 3 in sales. Only Dreyer's and Breyers sell more ice cream. As of 2006, annual sales of Blue Bell topped $400 million. That's a lot of ice cream!

Out of approximately 50 year-round ice cream flavors made by Blue Bell, the biggest sellers are:
  1. Homemade Vanilla
  2. Cookies 'n Cream
  3. Dutch Chocolate
  4. The Great Divide (half Homemade Vanilla, half Dutch Chocolate)
Happy 100th Birthday, Blue Bell! Now (with apologies to Monday Night Football), are you ready for some ice cream?

Brownie Ice Cream Pie
  • 2/3 cup (4 ounces) semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 pint Blue Bell Homemade vanilla ice cream
  • 1 pint Blue Bell strawberry ice cream
  • 1 pint Blue Bell mint chocolate chip ice cream
  • 1 cup bite-size fresh fruit pieces (sliced peaches, berries, melon cubes, etc.)
  • Easy Caramel Sauce (recipe follows)
Preheat oven to 350&#deg;F. Heat chocolate pieces and water in small saucepan over very low heat about 2 minutes, or until melted, stirring constantly. Set aside.

Beat egg yolks and sugar on high speed in small bowl about 3 minutes, or until thick and lemon colored. Reduce speed to low; gradually beat in reserved chocolate mixture and vanilla.

Ice Cream
Using clean beaters, beat egg whites and salt in large bowl until soft peaks form. Gently fold in chocolate mixture just until blended. Spread over bottom and sides of buttered 9-inch pie plate to form a crust. Bake about 20 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pie plate on wire rack about 1 hour. Crust will sink as it cools.

Fill crust with scoops of vanilla, strawberry, and mint chocolate chip ice cream. Cover and freeze until ready to serve. Serve with fresh fruit pieces and Caramel Sauce (if desired). Makes 8 to 10 servings.

Easy Caramel Sauce
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon butter
Combine cream and brown sugar in 2-cup glass measure; cover with vented plastic wrap. Microwave on HIGH about 5 minutes or until smooth and caramel colored, stirring once. Add butter; stir until melted. Serve warm or refrigerate to serve cold. Makes approximately 1/2 cup. Ice Cream Cake with Chocolate-Peanut Crunch

Chocolate-Peanut Crunch
  • 1 cup milk chocolate chips
  • 2 cups crushed peanut butter sandwich cookies
To make chocolate-peanut crunch, line large shallow pan with waxed paper or foil. Heat chocolate chips in small saucepan over very low heat until melted, stirring constantly. Add cookie pieces; stir until coated.

Spread cookie mixture in prepared pan. Freeze about 10 minutes or until firm. Place on cutting board. Chop into pea-size pieces. Cover and freeze until firm.

Ice Cream Cake
  • 2 pints Blue Bell Homemade vanilla ice cream, slightly softened
  • 2 pints Blue Bell chocolate ice cream, slightly softened
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 1 tablespoon confectioners' sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Fresh fruit for garnish (if desired)
Evenly spread the vanilla ice cream into an 8-inch springform pan with removable bottom. Sprinkle with 1-1/2 cups Chocolate-Peanut Crunch. Evenly spread the chocolate ice cream over top. Cover with plastic wrap. Freeze about 5 hours or until firm.

Beat the whipping cream, confectioners' sugar, and vanilla extract on high speed in medium bowl until soft peaks form. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Remove ice cream cake from freezer. Run a knife around edge of pan. Remove outside edge of pan and place cake on serving platter. Quickly frost sides and top of cake with reserved whipped cream. Lightly press remaining 1-1/2 cups Chocolate-Peanut Crunch into sides of cake. Freeze until firm. Garnish with fresh fruit, if desired. Makes 10 to 12 servings.

Ice Cream Truffles
Put your imagination to work. You can use virtually any flavor – try Blue Bell's Buttered Pecan or Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough.
  • 1 pint Blue Bell (or other brand, if you must) ice cream
  • 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped nuts (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons sweetened flaked coconut (optional)
Line a rimmed baking sheet with waxed paper. Place the sheet in the freezer for 15 minutes to chill.

Use a 1-1/2 tablespoon ice cream scoop to make ice cream balls. Place them on the chilled baking sheet. If the ice cream starts to soften as you work, return it to the freezer, along with the scoops on the baking sheet. Allow 15 minutes for the ice cream to firm up before continuing. Lightly cover the filled baking sheet with plastic wrap and chill until very firm (at least 1 hour).

Heat 2 inches of water in a medium-size saucepan until barely simmering. Combine the chocolate and oil in a stainless-steel bowl big enough to rest on top of the saucepan and set it over the pan, making sure it doesn't touch the water. Heat, whisking occasionally, until the chocolate is completely melted. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.

Remove ice cream balls from the freezer. Working quickly – with a fork in each hand – quickly roll a ball in the chocolate to cover. Pick up the ball by sliding it onto one of the forks. Let any excess chocolate drip back into the bowl. Transfer the truffle to the baking sheet. Sprinkle some of the balls with nuts and some with coconut, if desired.

Repeat with remaining ice cream balls. If the ice cream begins to melt while you're working, return them to the freezer for 15 minutes. Freeze the ice cream truffles until firm, at least one hour (and up to one day) before serving. Makes about 20 truffles.

For more information about touring Blue Bell's production facilities, ordering your favorite ice cream, or checking out the latest flavors, go to http://www.bluebell.com.

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