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Thoroughly Modern Milkshakes

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Written by Foodie Husband   
Saturday, 04 July 2009
List of viewable recipes from "Thoroughly Modern Milkshakes" by Adam Ried

ImageI've watched Adam Ried wax poetic on the pros and cons of various features of blenders, cookie sheets, and all sorts of other kitchen gadgets. Given his dedication to all things kitchen, I had high expectations of his book about milkshakes, a seemingly simple subject that after Adam's treatment, is not so simple after all. Fortunately, his book met my expectations in both detail and personality. Adam provides a similar attention to detail in his book as he does in his product reviews on America's Test Kitchen. All this with light-hearted, easy to read prose.

While "Thoroughly Modern Milkshakes" is, as the name suggests, a modern take on the milkshake, I was looking for a bit of taste nostalgia too... When I was very young I lived in New York City. One of my few strong memories of that time was when my parents would take me to my great-aunt's candy shop in Brooklyn. I'd sit at the counter and she'd make me an Egg Cream. Over the years I've lived in or visited most of the major (and quite a few of the minor) metropolitan areas in the United States, and had never had another milkshake quite like that. Of course, one of the first things I did when picking up Adam's book was to look to see if he listed an Egg Cream, made with milk, U-Bet (and only U-Bet) chocolate syrup, and seltzer water. Right there, in a special section at the end of the Introduction, was the Egg Cream!

ImageAlso nestled in the introduction are details on ingredients and various techniques. As with everything Adam Ried, milkshakes are serious business.  For example, Adam says that one of the keys to great milkshakes is using a combination of ice cream and sorbet for a rich flavoring. Not to disappoint fans of America's Test Kitchen, Adam spends the next chapter talking about equipment, especially the all important blender. After that, the book is broken down into Basic Shakes, Vanilla Shakes, Chocolate Shakes, and then additional variations with fruit, spice, tea and coffee, beer, and other ingredients. Going with one of the current culinary trends, there's even a milkshake with bacon.
All totaled, almost 100 different milkshakes are included. I'm not talking about a handful of milkshakes with the same variations over and over, there truly are that many different variations of milkshake. For my first milkshake I had to try a classic, but couldn't decide on chocolate or vanilla. Luckily, I found the VanBan Black & White Shake, which has layered chocolate and vanilla, with some banana thrown in for an extra kick. Delicious!

VanBan Black & White Shake

From Thoroughly Modern Milkshakes by Adam Ried.  W.W. Norton & Co. 2009.

I admit to taking liberties with the notion of black & white, which is commonly recognized as a shake made with chocolate syrup, the black, and vanilla ice cream, the white. Well, I couldn't shake (pun intended) the vision of New York black & white cookies; one half is frosted with chocolate fondant, and the other half with vanilla fondant. Both are present and accounted for, yet separate and distinct. So that is the route we'll take with our VanBan Black & White-separate and distinct chocolate and vanilla shakes, layered in the glass.

As if layering two flavors wasn't enough, I also give the vanilla portion of the program a little twist by adding some banana (hence the VanBan moniker), which goes so well with the chocolate. It's very helpful to have two blenders for this shake. If you don't, make one of the shakes first and store it in the refrigerator while you rush to make the second flavor.


Place 1/4 cup of the milk, 1 teaspoon of the vanilla extract, and the banana in a blender and blend to mix thoroughly, about 30 seconds. Add the vanilla ice cream and pulse several times to begin breaking it up. With the blender motor off, use a flexible spatula to mash the mixture down onto the blender blades. Continue pulsing, stopping, and mashing until the mixture is well blended, thick, and moves easily in the blender jar, roughly 30 to 90 seconds. Pour the shake into a small pitcher, and refrigerate while making the other flavor (if you have two blenders, keep the shake in the blender jar).
If necessary, rinse the blender jar, shake out any excess water, and return it to the base. Place the remaining ¼ cup milk, the remaining 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract, and the chocolate ice cream and sorbet in the blender and pulse several times to begin breaking up the ice cream and sorbet. With the blender motor off, use a flexible spatula to mash the mixture down onto the blender blades. Continue pulsing, stopping, and mashing until the mixture is well blended, thick, and moves easily in the blender jar, roughly 30 to 90 seconds.

Into one or two tall, chilled glasses, pour a layer of VanBan shake, followed by a layer of chocolate, another layer of VanBan, another layer of chocolate, and finishing with a last layer of VanBan on top. Serve at once.

  • 1/2 cup cold whole or lowfat milk (about 4 ounces/125 milliliters)
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 ripe medium banana (2 to 3 ounces/57 to 85 grams), peeled and mashed
  • 4 medium scoops French vanilla ice cream (about 1 pint/12 ounces/340 grams), softened until just melty at the edges
  • 2 medium scoops chocolate ice cream (about 1/2 pint/6 ounces/170 grams), softened until just melty at the edges
  • 2 medium scoops chocolate sorbet (about 1/2 pint/6 ounces/170 grams), softened until just melty at the edges

About Thoroughly Modern Milkshakes

ImageAmerica's frosty favorite goes twenty-first century. Milkshake. Frappe. Cabinet. Velvet. Whatever you call it, the quintessentially American combination of milk, ice cream, and syrup has delighted generations, invoking memories of soda fountains and high-school sweethearts. In this collection of recipes, Adam Ried infuses the classic shake with unexpected flavor twists that bring the milkshake into the twenty-first century. 

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Disclosure: Review copies of books discussed in this post may have been provided to Project Foodie by publicists and/or publishers.


Last Updated ( Saturday, 04 July 2009 )
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