There’s no such thing as bad ice cream,” says Yna Zuniga. “It’s edible and you can eat it one way or another.”
The 27-year-old Zuniga took up an intensive ice cream course at the Pennsylvania State University, where some of the world’s most popular ice cream makers (such as Ben and Jerry’s, Häagen-Dazs, Baskin-Robbins, Dreyer’s, and even Manila’s well-loved Carmen’s Best) learn the science and technology of ice cream manufacturing.
Zuniga’s love for ice cream began in 2015, after she earned a degree in International Hotel Management with Specialization in Culinary Arts at the Enderun Colleges. For her, there were only a few good ice cream makers available in Manila.
“The curriculum was very technical and thorough,” she says. “We would start at 7 a.m. and finish at about 8 p.m. or so. We talked about formula, ratio and nuances of ice cream production.”
Aside from the technical aspects, she also learned to determine the critical effects and proper proportions between fats and water, butter and sugar, ice and air, cream and milk—all major components in ice cream making.
“Knowing the ratio of each component is crucial, but let’s say you only have butter, low-fat milk and milk powder in your cupboard, you can still make ice cream out of it even without the cream,” she says.
With knowledge and skill, and the passion to share the experience, Zuniga returned to Manila to put up her own ice cream business called Kuki+Kremery Sincere Ice Cream. Kuki was Zuniga’s nickname in college.
She bought an industrial ice cream machine, Technolux from Italy, that could churn about three liters of ice cream per batch.
However, it seemed selling ice cream was not her turf. She realized what she really wanted was to teach how to make ice cream.
“I closed the shop and concentrated instead on teaching,” she recalls.
Zuniga’s interest in the kitchen started in high school at age 14. She would bake huge batches of chocolate chip cookies for her classmates “who were sad for different reasons, like love life, stress in the family and school,” she recounts. “I just wanted to make them happy.”
She had no background in baking and her first attempt, she admits, was a disaster. Instead of flour, Zuniga used cornstarch because “I didn’t know the difference between flour and cornstarch.”
“It was an epic fail but we still got to eat it. It became like a brownie brittle kind of cookie,” she quips.
Later on, after many hits and misses, and solid research, she perfected the art of baking chewy, crisp-on-the-edges-but-soft-in-the-center kind of chocolate chip cookies.
“I kept on improving my cookies and people started buying them,” she says. “Every day after school I’d go home, bake cookies and bring them to school (Elizabeth Seton School) the next day in glass jars.”
Zuniga credits her passion for baking to her Lola Lily (who could bake a mean cinnamon bread and apple pie) and mom Sonia, who had a catering business in the ’80s. Her mom’s cooking also played a big role in Zuniga’s interest in food.
“I was always surrounded by food,” she says. “And my mom was so encouraging of my interest. We both enjoyed reading cookbooks and watching cooking shows on Food Network. It prompted me to take up culinary studies in college.”
She took her internships at Boulangeriépicier in Paris in 2012, where she did bread preparation and baking for Ducasse establishments; and at Chatham Bars Inn in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, in 2013, where she experienced a full kitchen rotation but focused on pastry preparation and service.
‘Bibingka’ ice cream
Whenever there are celebrations in the family residence, Zuniga takes care of the dessert. One special dessert that she recently prepared, which her mom’s high school friends were blown away with, was her smooth and creamy bibingka ice cream drizzled with salted egg yolk syrup and sandwiched between fluffy ube bread—a cross between pan de sal and dinner roll.
Some of her unique ice cream flavors that never fail to elicit approving roars include New York Blue (blueberry cheesecake), Chicago Popcorn (popcorn-flavored ice cream with salted caramel and cheese), Pistachio Crunch (with generous caramelized pistachio nuts), Unicorn’s Blood (blueberry and strawberry ice cream with more blueberry and strawberry jam mixed together), Grown-Up Cereal (cereal with biscocho and coffee), Bar Chow (dark caramel whisky with pretzels, potato chips, nuts), and Ensaymada Ice Cream with bacon bits.
Zuniga conducts classes at her own school, Petite Dessert Studio, for people interested to learn ice cream making and baking.
“The main purpose of my class is for people to create something ideal for a start-up business. That’s why I try to explain the science behind each ingredient that we use. I skip them the trial and error that I experienced,” says Zuniga.
She takes only a maximum of three people per class and tackles different topics. Ice Cream Alchemy dwells on the science and discipline of ice cream production.
“I teach students the essential ingredients of ice cream and the effect of certain ingredients like caramel or brownies that will change the outcome of the product,” she says.
Other topics include the Science of Cookies (basic and variations) and Hot and Cold Cheesecake (pros and cons of baked and chilled cheesecakes).
Yna’s Triple Chocolate Brownies
½ c all-purpose flour
¾ c cocoa powder
1/8 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp salt
1 ¼ c sugar
3/4 c unsalted butter
2 pcs eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ c chocolate chips
¼ c bittersweet chocolate
Preheat oven to 325°F and line an 8×8-inch pan with foil and set aside. Sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt into a bowl and set aside.
Melt the butter and mix in the sugar and vanilla extract and set aside to cool till warm. Once the butter mixture is warm, mix in the eggs one at a time until incorporated.
Fold in the dry ingredients half a cup at a time and add both chocolates with the last cup of flour. Pour batter into the lined baking pan and spread evenly. Bake the batter for 15-30 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 30-45 minutes before cutting and serving.
Zuniga’s scheduled classes: The Science of Cookies, Nov. 9 and 17, 9 a.m.-12 nn; The Science of Cookies: Christmas Series, Nov. 9 and 17, 1-4 p.m.; Ice Cream Alchemy, Nov. 16, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.; Homemade Doggie Treats, Nov. 23, 1-3 p.m.; and Hot and Cold Cheesecakes, Nov. 24, 10 a.m.-3 p.m.
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