In Association with Porter Dodson
Having launched in 2015, Bridport’s artisanal ice cream maker Baboo Gelato has already secured its place in the local and regional spotlight, winning a Taste of Dorset award and coronation as 2016 Taste of the West Ice Cream and Sorbet Champion. Behind that rapid rise is some unrelenting passion. On the day co-founder Sam Hanbury talks to Menu, he has just come back from testing seven different varieties of pears around the South West, but still launches without pausing for breath into an uninterrupted homily on the virtues of great ice cream.
But first, some back story. Baboo Gelato was conceived when Sam and Annie Hanbury returned from life overseas in Asia to take over a property in Bridport. Come summer, “the raspberries went crazy” remembers Sam. The couple took stock of their location – with its “incredible fruit, a valley famous for its fertility, and dairy farms all around” and decided to make ice cream. Annie travelled to Bologna, the epicentre of gourmet produce, and took a course in making gelato.
Back in Dorset, the couple then spent a year practicing their craft and perfecting production, before starting to sell ice cream in March 2016, both to local restaurants such as River Cottage, whom they supply exclusively, and direct to customers from kiosks in West Bay and Lyme Regis. In May 2017, Baboo Gelato doubled capacity to meet demand, and plan to do so again in January 2018.
According to Sam, there are three secrets to gelato. One is a strictly scientific approach, sticking religiously to the recipe and testing relentlessly. Secondly is the ingredients. ‘We’re obsessed,” says Sam. “Annie and I spend a lot of time travelling around the South West in search of rhubarb, blackcurrant, pears, blueberries and so on. In winter, there are pistachios from Sicily and hazelnuts from Piedmont. Perhaps the key ingredient in gelato, which uses less cream than ice cream, is using milk from a local herd in Toller Porcorum and keeping the air out. “You want that density,” says Sam. “If you took a pot of ours compared to what you get in the supermarket, ours will be 50 percent heavier. Air is free. It’s the great con of ice cream: the cheaper it is, the less it weighs.”
The third secret is machinery. “You must have the right kit. Our machine takes eight minutes to freeze the gelato. At home that would take an hour and a half.” Because it freezes very fast, the end product has fewer ice crystals and incorporates the air perfectly. “People don’t believe our sorbet contains no dairy because it’s so creamy,” says Sam.
Looking to the future, Sam and Annie embrace the idea of experimenting with flavours and innovating with new combinations. Ice cream is a sure fire hit for restaurants, Sam says, because it allows them to connect easily with the local community. “Last week, we were hitting the hedgerows for blackberries, sloes and damsons,” he says. “We’re getting our milk from a small organic farm and paying them the supermarket rate for their milk. We’re on a journey together. We like to say the customer is king, but you’ve also got to think about the whole ecosystem.”
Camesworth Old Rectory
Bridport DT6 3TZ