For Atlantans, Peach Ice Cream Is More Than Just a Flavor
How one ice cream parlor is giving the Southern classic a unique twist.
As a Georgia native, peaches hold a special place in my heart. Whether you eat them by themselves, in a pie, mixed in yogurt, or as the base of a warm cobbler, no other fruit can really compare to the juicy goodness of a ripe Georgia peach. (In fact, 130 million pounds are produced in the state every year.) During the summertime, farm fresh peaches are best served cold in ice cream -- just like my great-grandmother used to make for my mom and her cousins when they were younger.
And one place in Atlanta bringing back that old-school, made-from-scratch method is Queen of Cream. Though the ice cream shop has gone through some changes due to COVID-19 (including currently taking curbside pickup orders only), its seasonal peach pie ice cream flavor is still on the summertime menu.
Cora Cotrim, who previously worked as a pastry chef at Paper Plane and Victory Sandwich Bar, started Queen of Cream as an ice cream cart with her friend Davis Sandling in 2014, and opened the Inman Park brick-and-mortar store in 2015. Today, there is one location in Plaza on Ponce and one that’s currently closed at Lenox Mall.
“I was working as a pastry chef at Paper Plane and we both really liked ice cream but, at that time, there really weren't any good options for local homemade ice cream in Atlanta,” Cotrim said. “So we set out on a mission to be the first parlor that made their own ice cream and used local ingredients and worked with farmers to create our product.”
As a small batch company, the shop is constantly making new products and staff often doesn’t keep anything for over a week, heavily relying on using fresh ingredients at their best. Cotrim and Sandling’s desire to use quality ingredients starts with where they source them. The first step in the journey to creating their peach pie ice cream is getting dairy from Atlanta Dairies, the sister farm to certified organic, grass-fed milk farm Working Cows Dairy in Slocomb, Alabama.
Plus, Cotrim and Sandling frequented local farmers’ markets where they met farmers and discussed ways in which they could use their dairy and fruits in their ice cream flavors.
“We participated in farmers’ markets for the first three years we were in business and that was a great way to meet the farmers who were there and see what they could offer throughout the year,” Cotrim said.
Peaches are at their peak in Georgia from mid-May to mid-August and Queen of Cream sources theirs from Pearson Farms through Georgia Proud Provisions, a company that helps smaller farms sell their produce. For the pie crust element, the shop incorporates a traditional all-butter pie crust that the staff hand rolls, and the jam-like filling, of course, is from the Pearson peaches.
During the summertime, farm fresh peaches are best served cold in ice cream -- just like my great-grandmother used to make for my mom and her cousins when they were younger.
But the method for Queen of Cream’s peach pie ice cream is unique. Instead of just plopping a piece of pie next to a scoop or two of ice cream and calling it a day, the parlor applies a deconstructive approach to the sweet treat that makes for a more tastebud tingling experience.
“Instead of baking pies and cutting them up, we bake the filing separately, and we make the pie crust like a crumble,” Cotrim said. “We bake and crumble it up, and then toss it with a little raw sugar. For the filling, we wash, peel, cut, and dice the peaches and then make the filling in a big pot. That way, we can get some of that water content down and intensify the peach flavor as well.”
Cotrim also added that no additional flavor is added to the ice cream so customers enjoy a “clean” finish with a taste similar to the fresh dairy they use.
“Using dairy of higher quality also brings the quality of our product up,” Cotrim said. “We try to keep the sweetness down so you are able to taste all the aspects of our products and we try to create a balanced but decadent ice cream using the local grass-fed milk.”
Aside from adding a unique twist to the peach pie flavor, the deconstructed concept also helps the parlor’s mission of being a zero-waste kitchen. The parlor makes hand pies for consumption and the scraps from the baking process also go into the ice cream instead of being thrown away.
“The ice cream flavors all come together at the end and to ease the amount of work that goes into the process due to us serving a lot of flavors,” Cotrim said. “We thought it was best to utilize the scraps for our no-waste mission.”
Cotrim and Sandling also use their business to fight for social justice. Their coconut cake was originally created for the Southern Restaurants For Racial Justice (SRRJ), a collective fundraiser of Atlanta chefs, bakers, and restaurant owners that donated the profits of specific foods and baked goods to Color of Change. The cake went on to develop into the seasonal coconut cake ice cream flavor using a similar creation process to the peach pie ice cream. Twenty percent of sales from the coconut cake ice cream flavor go toward the Atlanta branch of the NAACP.
“We participated in the efforts by SRRJ in order to be a part of the large community of Southern restaurants, coffee shops, and bakeries bringing awareness to the issue of racial inequalities,” Cotrim said. “We aim to participate in a fundraiser monthly and I have also gotten together with some friends to start another bake sale called Say Good Pie to Racism." (The funds raised for July will be donated to the Georgia Innocence Project.)
Beyond the good the shop does for its community, its flavors also capture something intangible -- that feeling of Southern nostalgia. Queen of Cream’s spin on classic Georgia flavors reminds me of those stories my mother used to tell me. She and her cousins would churn ice cream in an old fashioned bucket (think Little House on the Prairie) in my great-grandmother’s front yard -- using peaches from the local food cart in her neighborhood outside Augusta.
“Peaches are a Georgia staple and Southerners wait all year for them,” Cotrim said. “Their arrival does not only mean ‘yay, peaches,’ but also the start of summer where we have an abundance of fruit and vegetables that are such staples in Southern cuisine.”
Even though my great-grandmother passed before I could make ice cream with her, sometimes I’ll come across a peach dessert that brings back memories of her and gives me a literal taste of home. The peach pie ice cream at Queen of Cream is one of those desserts that evokes warm childhood memories of the time I did get to spend with her and also proves that, oftentimes, food keeps the legacy of our loved ones alive.
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