When Reginald Marsh photographed Coney Island as the subject for his artwork in the late 1930s and the ’40s, one could still buy frozen custard for a nickel. The dessert made its debut in 1919 when the Kohr brothers, Archie and Elton, opened a stand on the Coney Island Boardwalk. The nickel treat was a sensation, selling 18,460 cones on the first weekend! Kohr’s Frozen Custard is still in business on the Boardwalks at Seaside Heights and Casino Pier on the Jersey Shore. According to the history page of the company’s website, “After many experiments with the formula, Archie and Elton discovered that by adding eggs to the mix, they got a much more stiff, velvety and creamy product which would melt more slowly.”
Today, Coney Island’s ice cream offerings include Denny’s soft serve and Coney’s Cones gelato, but the frozen custard stands of yesteryear are long gone. You have to go to Shake Shack in Manhattan. Or all the way to Utah, where Coneys Custard and Gourmet Dogs won the “Best of State Award” last year. Their signature custard is named after the Cyclone roller coaster.
Like the Whip ride and the game of Fascination, frozen custard is another delight that first saw the light of day in Coney Island, but can’t be found here anymore. Last year, ATZ proclaimed “Bring Back the Whip!” This year we add: “Bring Back Fascination and Frozen Custard!”
UPDATE, January 30, 2012…
Comments on Facebook and twitter in response to this post have inspired this update: What’s the difference between soft serve and frozen custard?
Wikipedia says: “True frozen custard is a very dense dessert. Soft serve ice creams may have an overrun as large as 100%, meaning half of the final product is composed of air. Frozen custard, when made in a proper continuous freezer will have an overrun of 15-30% depending on the machine manufacturer. Air is not pumped into the mix, nor is it added as an “ingredient” but gets into the frozen state by the agitation of liquid similar to whisking a meringue. The high percentage of butterfat and egg yolk gives frozen custard a thick, creamy texture and a smoother consistency than ice cream. Frozen custard can be served at –8°C (18°F), warmer than the –12°C (10°F) at which ice cream is served, in order to make a soft serve product.”
According to FDA requirements, frozen custard must have at least 10 percent milkfat and 1.4 percent egg yolk solids, but some brands have more. If it has fewer egg yolk solids, it is considered ice cream. Frozen custard has less fat and sugar than ice cream.
UPDATE January 4, 2014:
Rita’s Italian Ice, a national franchise whose tag line is “Ice, Custard and Happiness” will open a store on Surf Avenue at West 15th street in Coney Island.
Related posts on ATZ…
January 13, 2012: Rare & Vintage: Reginald Marsh Photos of Coney Island
November 29, 2011: Fascination: From Coney Island to Nantasket Beach
February 1, 2011: Bring Back the Whip! A Birthday Gift for William F Mangels
October 6, 2010: Traveler: Where You Can Play Fascination Year Round