Ben Solberg and Erik Powers of FrozBroz Craft Ice Cream
Apple Crisp with Sharp Cheddar. Honey Dijon and Pretzel. Bacon and Egg. It almost sounds like a menu at a roadside diner, but don’t be fooled. Those concoctions, along with about 80 others, are ice cream flavors dreamed up by Ben Solberg (below, left) and Erik Powers (below, right), the two Minneapolis friends behind FrozBroz Craft Ice Cream. In-the-know followers visit their blog each week to see which new flavor they’ve created and post a comment to enter the contest to receive two pints of the featured flavor. It’s an unorthodox path to a retail business, but one that works for Solberg and Powers as they develop a fan base and perfect their original recipes while searching for the right kitchen space and retail partners.
Solberg, who has a day job in advertising, and Powers, a Culinary Institute of America-trained chef who currently works as a painter for a restoration company, began exploring a culinary partnership a few years ago but hadn’t hit on the right concept. Both had ice cream makers, however, and the friends started a friendly game to see whose ice cream reigned supreme.
“We had all these hare-brained ideas — we were going to do a cookbook, we looked at commercial spaces. We were starting to get serious and then reality hit — we were not ready for this,” Solberg says. “But then my wife got pregnant and I made so much ice cream. I was totally excited about it. Then we got competitive and started playing around with flavors.”
“Ben and I do our own flavors and bounce ideas off each other. There’s a lot of ill-conceived ideas, but even those often come together in the end,” Powers adds.
Their flavor ideas eventually found their way to the blog, where varieties like lavender honey take center stage. A Solberg creation, the ice cream shares a scent with chai tea — a bouquet of warmth and spice — and slides down easily, with the honey notes following the initial herbal burst. With such a fragrant ingredient as lavender, Solberg wanted to temper its strength but still maintain its distinctive aroma.
“I didn’t want it to be perfumey, so I roasted the lavender. The whole house smelled like it. Once I smelled the lavender in the oven, I knew exactly what to do with it,” he says. “Honey doesn’t freeze, and if you put a lot in ice cream, it changes the consistency, so I put it in in layers. It worked right away.”
As their repertoire grows, Solberg and Powers have learned new tricks for garnering different flavor profiles from the same ingredients. Powers created lavender pistachio honey ice cream a couple of months ago, and while the two flavors’ names sound so similar, the taste sensations are worlds apart.
“I used fresh lavender and steeped it in cream, and it was a completely different flavor — it’s more floral,” Powers notes.
Though Solberg and Powers try to use as many local and organic ingredients as possible, picking up ingredients such as fair-trade and vegan sugar, Organic Valley cream, and Wisconsin-bred eggs at the Seward Co-op, their inspiration comes from a variety of sources, including the South, which resulted in a brown butter cornbread flavor.
“I was reading a lot of Frank Stitt’s cookbook [Southern Table] and I was really into soul food. He has a cornbread in there, and I love cornbread. Erik had made a banana bread flavor earlier, and I wanted to do something a little different,” Solberg says.
By double-baking the cornbread into crouton-like chunks, it retains it firmness and shape as you dig into the caramely, toffee-like dessert. The brown butter notes come through strongly but don’t take the flavor over the top, instead offering a savory counterpart to the sweet ice cream.
Of course, not all flavors work as well as planned. Solberg’s attempt at a curry ice cream did not win over any fans.
“My mistake was using curry paste instead of curry powder,” Solberg says. “Curry paste has garlic and fish sauce — not what you want in ice cream.”
“It wasn’t inedible, but it was off-putting,” Powers adds.
More successful was Powers’ candied peach cobbler. Though adding whole fruit presents a set of challenges — “it’s been an eternal struggle,” says Solberg — Powers has found a clever, and tasty, way to retain the fruit’s texture by slow-cooking the peaches in rum, brown sugar, and cinnamon on a sheet lined with parchment paper.
“The peaches lose their moisture [in the oven] and candy up and then they don’t get icy when they freeze,” Powers says. “The alcohol also helps prevent iciness.”
No ice crystals were found in a recent batch — just sweet, sugary chunks of peaches purchased at Weaver’s Country Store in Fall Creek, WI, and woven into a smooth cinnamon ice cream base. The flavor exemplifies the duo’s dedication to using seasonal ingredients, which not only keeps the fans on their toes, but the ice cream makers as well.
“We don’t even know what we’re making next week for our post, but we know it will be awesome,” Powers grins.
“The blog has been inspiring in its own right because people are a lot more open to flavors than we thought they’d be,” Solberg adds. “I made a triple chocolate ice cream one week and people said, ‘Meh.” But the next week we posted our bacon and egg flavor and people went crazy!”
Fan favorites are available for special order through the FrozBroz blog, but the limited capacities of their Cuisinart home ice cream makers keep quantities limited to two to three pints per order. Prices vary depending on the ingredients, but three pints average about $30. Solberg and Powers hope to find a commercial kitchen space so they can start selling their ice cream through local retailers, but it has been a challenge to find a facility that will accommodate their need for a large freezer and ice cream machine. In the meantime, ice cream lovers can vie each week to win a couple of pints and satisfy their craving for flavors like roasted sweet corn. And if you snooze one week and forget to comment, you definitely lose.
“We’re just keeping people on the edge of their seats,” Powers says.