To understand what Doc Brown does at his Tempe frozen treat laboratory, you have to start with a lesson in basic ice cream making. Ice cream is usually made by mixing milk, cream, and sugar into a base that's pasteurized to destroy any harmful bacteria. From there, flavor is added, the ice cream is churned, and then refrozen before being served to a customer.
The pasteurization of the ice cream base is a hugely important step. It's what prevents customers from getting a side of salmonella with their frozen treat. But pasteurization requires expensive machinery, a lot of knowledge, and government oversight. That's why many smaller ice cream makers use a commercial ice cream base that usually comes pasteurized by local dairies. In Arizona, one such provider is Shamrock Foods.
But when Brown decided to get into the business, he knew he wanted to have as much control of the final product as possible.
"If I buy a mix from someone, then I have to take what they give me," Brown says. "It was either go big or go home. There was no way I could half step it."
So he became the state's first and only certified small batch ice creamery -- in other words, the first ice cream manufacturer, able to pasteurize his own ice cream base.
"For me, the thing was to be as natural as possible," Brown says.
Being able to produce his own ice cream base gives Brown nearly total control over every ingredient that goes into his products. For example, instead of using sugar or artificial sweeteners, Brown chooses to use sugar cane crystals to sweeten his products. For add-ins he goes to places like Lee Lee Oriental Supermarket for lemongrass and works with farmers market vendors to create flavors like mango and pichu berry.