As picky as everyone in my family is, one thing we can all agree on is our love of milkshakes. Having worked in the restaurant industry for close to a decade before moving on to other things, I had a chance to perfect my milkshake making techniques. In most of the restaurants I worked at, many of the servers would request that I make the shakes because they would come out just right every time.
Go gentle on the milk – When you are making a shake, you will want it to be, at least, semi-thick. If you add in too much milk you can add more ice cream to thicken things up, but this may mean you end up with too much shake. Add only a little milk to start. You can always add more milk if you find that it's too thick when you are blending. As you add milk in small increments, you have a better chance at making sure that your shake will get to the correct thickness for you.
Use premium ice cream – As easy as it would be to buy that unbranded white box, black labeled vanilla ice cream for 99 cents, don't do it unless you have no other options. The better the ice cream, the better your shake will be. Even vanilla ice cream is flavored differently based on the brand. Ultimately, you want to choose something that is made with natural ingredients. If you can afford something like Graeter's, it is highly recommended that you go that route. However, if you need to purchase something more reasonable in price or you don't want to wait for your ice cream to be shipped to you, some good options include Edy's, Breyer's, Ben and Jerry's, or Haagen-Dazs.
Vanilla isn't always mandatory – If you're making a shake you do not always have to use vanilla ice cream. While vanilla is normally perceived to be the base for all good milkshakes you should try to keep your options open. If you're making a chocolate or strawberry milkshake use ice cream that corresponds with your shake flavor for an added pick me up. If you're making mocha or coffee milkshakes you could also use those ice cream flavors for something more. There are hundreds of flavors of ice cream and each one has the opportunity to make someone a delicious shake. Give one a try and break out from the norm. If you prefer vanilla you can always go back.
Use fresh ingredients if possible – Nothing tastes better in a strawberry shake than the hint of fresh strawberries. While syrup has its place in a shake, on its own, it will never make a truly good shake. If you are making a coffee or mocha shake add a dash or two of fresh espresso. In strawberry shakes you can go with strawberries. Chocolate shakes can use everything from dark chocolate syrup to chocolate chunks for a consistency change and a blast of occasional flavor. Even if you're having a plain vanilla shake you can make it better by splitting vanilla beans and/or adding a dash of vanilla to the shake to create a strong vanilla flavor.
Be innovative with your desserts – If you find you have some extra pie, cheesecake, cookies, or other dessert items, be innovative and creative by turning them into a shake. We had some mini pumpkin and pecan pie bites over the holidays. Some of these have been used to make either pumpkin pie or pecan pie shakes. These thick shakes tasted phenomenal and allowed for a new flavor option for an old favorite. While we haven't tried cheesecake yet, I have no doubt this would make a great shake, too.
Use bigger straws – If you follow the last tip you will want to pick up some straws that are bigger. This will ensure that no pie pieces or bits that didn't completely blend up will get stuck in your straw.
Don't forget the whipped cream and cherry – Just because you're making this at home doesn't mean you can't go all out. Make sure to add some whipped cream on top and a cherry, strawberry or a corresponding nibble to go with your shake flavor. This not only makes your shake look good, but it makes it taste better, too.
Note: During the holidays you can make eggnog shakes using vanilla ice cream and eggnog. If you wanted to switch up the flavor of another shake you could even use the eggnog in place of the milk with another flavor ice cream. I have tried this with pumpkin ice cream and it turned out fabulous.
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