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JACKI LYDEN, host:

One of summer's greatest pleasures is purely sensual. It's cold, luscious and it tastes of the county fair and to the beach, the picnic and the park. It's the great American classic of small Midwestern towns. It's frozen custard. You may think you've seen frozen custard, but what you more likely saw was good, old-fashioned, swirly, soft-serve ice cream coming out of a soft-serve machine. Frozen custard, for those lucky enough to have tried it, is something completely different. Completely.

And Liz Davis of the Del Ray Dreamery in Alexandria, Virginia, knows just how to make it.

(Soundbite of pounding sounds)

Ms. LIZ DAVIS (Del Ray Dreamery): So dense that you really need to eat it within like an hour or two of when it's made.

LYDEN: That is really true, because we used to take home tubs of frozen custard. And after three or four days, it just wasn't as wonderful.

So can you tell us the difference between custard, gelato and regular soft-serve...

Ms. DAVIS: ...serve or ice cream...

LYDEN: ...ice cream.

Ms. DAVIS: ...or any of those?

LYDEN: Yeah.

Ms. DAVIS: It has much less air beaten into it. That's where the smoothness comes from. Frozen custard--it's funny you should phrase it that way--is much more like gelato than any other product. Frozen custard is regulated by law of what you can put in it. It has to have at least 10 percent butter fat and at least 1.4 percent egg yolk.

LYDEN: Well, let's try this frozen concoction, shall we?

(Soundbite of frozen custard being served)

LYDEN: Can you get two scoops?

Ms. DAVIS: Yes, you can get as many scoops as you want.

LYDEN: OK.

Ms. DAVIS: Now we have here samples of the chocolate, peach and vanilla.

LYDEN: Now I have to admit I am from Wisconsin. And guess what? So is Liz Davis. In fact, as it happens, we went to some of the same custard stands as kids. She became a professional pastry chef and, like me, she believed all her life that frozen custard was dreamed up in Wisconsin. But great corn shucks! Like the hot dog, it comes from the boardwalks of Coney Island in New York City. It hasn't proliferated everywhere, though. Maybe that's because the machine to process it costs $50,000. In any event, this hard-hitting reporter has rarely seen frozen custard outside Wisconsin.

Oh, this is just absolutely heavenly. Takes me home.

Ms. DAVIS: I'm glad. That's wh--the intent. There's a lot of nostalgia, and some of it is what we're making here to eat. Because I have really ancient people who come in and say `I want the frozen custard.' And then they'll say to me, `This tastes exactly like I remember it when I was a child.' Or I have people come from Wisconsin and they say, `Oh, I'm from near Spooner and this is just, you know--well, you know what I mean. This is just right.'

LYDEN: ...(Unintelligible).

Ms. DAVIS: Exactly.

LYDEN: ...(Unintelligible).

Ms. DAVIS: I'm so happy. I'm so at home here.

LYDEN: I'm from Oconomowoc and her custard, I have to tell you, is just as good we still get at the Kiltie Drive-in. Maybe what's best about frozen custard is that it just can't be mass-produced. Someone has to stand there and wait for the custard to slither from the machine. Here's hoping that you can find frozen custard somewhere near you, and for help with that, go to our Web site at npr.org.

(Soundbite of frozen custard being made)

LYDEN: And that's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. From NPR News, I'm Jacki Lyden.

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