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I've admitted to being a food snob on numerous occasions, and milkshakes are one of the many things I'm a bit picky about. Chocolate shakes aren't terribly hard to make, but ever since I was a kid (and had nearly-unlimited access to fresh strawberries during the summer, courtesy of grandma's garden), I've never had a strawberry milkshake I really liked. Until I started making my own, which I can't get enough of. And while my culinary skills are almost nonexistant, I know enough about what tastes good and doesn't to do things like this fairly well.
This recipe/procedure was developed with a relatively simple idea in mind: Create a milkshake that captures the flavor of real, fresh strawberries, with no artificial ingredients. Beyond that, I took an engineering approach to the problem of getting the mixture right, hence the two-step process. It's pretty much impossible to blend a milkshake with solid ingredients properly if all ingredients are blended at once, because by the time the fruit is blended properly, the ice cream is liquified. Commercially-made shakes often leave chunks of fruit in the mix, to show that real fruit is in there somewhere, but it creates an uneven flavor and makes it hard to drink.
Admittedly, this is a little bit pricy, and depending on the cost of strawberries in your area, it can run up to $8-10 per 32oz batch, but I promise it's worthwhile. Feel free to experiment with cheaper ingredients if needed, but be careful; cheap ice cream makes a cheap-tasting shake with improper flavor balance, and better stuff like Breyers doesn't blend or mix well. My avoidance of artificial ingredients in this recipe isn't just a health matter, artificial flavorings simply don't taste very good, especially when fruit is involved.
This recipe/procedure also works well with any other fruit, just replace strawberries with whatever else you want to use, and keep the ratio of fruit+milk to ice cream the same. For strawberry-banana, or other mixed fruit flavors, see the note at the end.
- Milk. Whole works best, you can use 2% if you must, but anything lighter won't taste very good. You won't need much.
- Haagen-Dazs Vanilla Bean ice cream. This is the best ice cream to use, because there are no artificial ingredients, strong vanilla flavor, and relative light without the waxy texture of Breyers. It also blends very well, which is sadly a rarity for store-bought ice cream.
- Fresh strawberries. No syrup, not frozen, only fresh berries.
Using a standard pint of Haagen-Dazs, this yields about 32oz per batch. You'll want equal parts ice cream and blended berries, and the ice cream comes in 15oz containers. I don't recommend trying to make more than 32oz at a time; even with a great blender, it's difficult to make more than 32oz at a time and blend it evenly.
- Prepare the strawberries. This is the most time-consuming part, but don't skimp on it. Start by pulling the leaves off the strawberry, then cut the stem and core out by cutting in a cone-shaped stroke. If done properly, the cone of removed material will be about 2/3 the length of the berry. Since the center of the berry is the most sour, this step produces the perfect balance of sweet and sour that makes this recipe so tasty. Make sure to cut off any external areas that are white or light red. It's also not a bad idea to cut out any pits or bad spots, but bruises are usually ok. Repeat individually for each strawberry; big ones will make this go faster, but small ones are usually sweeter, so a mix of both is recommended.
- Add strawberries to blender, along with a small amount of milk. I've never measured exactly how much, and the markings on my blender don't go that low, but I estimate it's less than 2-4oz. Just enough to smooth things out, without diluting the flavor. Blend the strawberries and milk on a higher-speed setting to liquify the mixture, don't add ice cream yet! You're making a smoothie at this point, basically, just with very little milk. If you like thicker shakes, using less milk or none at all will thicken it up.
- Add ice cream. As I said above, you want equal parts ice cream and smoothie, so if you're using a pint of ice cream (15-16oz), make sure you have about the same amount of smoothie. It's ok if they're not exactly the same, but don't deviate more than 3-4oz.
- Blend on low to mix up the ice cream and finalize the milkshake. High-speed settings will make it too thin, or create an uneven texture. The amount of blending at this stage is purely up to your tastes.
Strawberry-banana shakes are awesome, but balancing the two flavors is very tricky, and because no two fruits are the same size, there's no good way to measure bananas, so every time you make a strawberry-banana shake, it's an experiment. If you want to give it a shot, use a large banana for a standard 32oz batch, then add strawberries to bring the smoothie step to around 15-16oz, and proceed as normal. If in doubt, err on the side of less strawberries, because they overpower the flavor of bananas very easily.