At the outset, the couple knew nothing about making ice cream or running a shop, but Maryanne, a tax accountant, got great advice from WREN and from her sister, who runs a laundromat–café in nearby Littleton. And being a pro with numbers, Maryanne figured out that the artisanal approach—sourcing milk and cream locally—would be hard to achieve while still keeping the ice cream affordable for their customers. She settled on starting with a mix, then flavoring it themselves. After trying several mixes, Maryanne selected Hood’s, which has a high butterfat content, for Rennell’s soft–serve as well as the hard, scoopable variety that they also sell. (The hard ice cream mix has 14 percent butterfat.) The mix comes as a ready–to–use liquid, which Maryanne then adapts and enhances with local berries and maple syrup, Ghirardelli cocoa, coffee, and the like. What she doesn’t add is sugar.
Of all the secrets she’s learned, Maryanne willingly divulged only one: Pure Madagascar vanilla extract goes into every ice cream flavor, hard and soft. “You won’t discern it,” she explained, “but you’d notice if it wasn’t there.” In the summer, she goes through as much as a half gallon of vanilla extract each week. “The extract in the [hard] ice cream needs to cure at least a day,” explained Maryanne. “It’s like a stew that gets better a day later.” That means that every batch has to sit in the freezer for 24 hours. “I’d rather say I’m out of [something] than serve it too soon,” she confided.
In January 2010, Maryanne attended the weeklong intensive Ice Cream Short Course at Penn State University. “I’m glad I waited until after I’d been making ice cream for a while, because I had so many questions,” she said. “It was ice cream chemistry.” At lunch, her fellow students vied to sit at her table so they could grill her on her expertise.
I’m not the only one who is obsessed with Rennell’s coffee soft–serve. During the first summer of operation, strawberry and vanilla swirled from one of the two soft–serve machines (the other one always has chocolate and vanilla). When the weather turned cooler, Maryanne wanted something different, so she tried coffee. The coffee was such an instant hit that strawberry will never make it back into the machine. And with chocolate in the neighboring spout, there’s the option of a coffee–chocolate combo. “Coffee is my biggest seller, and it has to be available every day.” It is: Rennell’s is the state’s only ice cream shop north of Plymouth that’s open year–round. And when you go, be sure to tell ’em Kemp sent you.
Rennell’s Ice Cream, 2050 Main Street, Bethlehem, N.H.; 603-869-5888