By Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host Published Sep 01, 2011 at 9:07 AM

Living in the land of custard, it's somewhat difficult to imagine another creamy frozen treat that could possibly compete.

But, a local ice cream company is aiming to change all that with a super creamy ultra-premium product that rivals even the best in Milwaukee custard.

Steve and Lauren Schultz, two educators from Bay View, launched their Purple Door Ice Cream company in spring. And the business has reaped sweet success ever since. In a small catering kitchen just 10 minutes south of Downtown, Steve and Lauren produce a staggering 500 gallons of Philly-style ice cream a month, sourcing many of their ingredients locally.

"We believe that staying local and supporting our community is essential for small businesses. For every dollar you spend at a locally owned business, 68 cents stays in the Milwaukee community versus only 43 cents when you purchase at your typical national chain," Lauren remarks.

"That's a huge difference. We see it as part of our responsibility as a local business to invest back into the community that supports us. One way we are able to do that is by purchasing local ingredients."

Right now, local ingredients include milk from Holstein cows raised in Wisconsin, cinnamon from Penzey's, coffee from Anodyne Coffee Roasters, some chocolate from Omanhene and some fruit from Growing Power. They are also working with Braise to begin obtaining milk from a single source, Sassy Cow Creamery.

Local ingredients definitely contribute to the ice cream's delicious fresh flavor. But, the creaminess factor is another matter. While standard ice cream contains about 10 percent butterfat on average, Purple Door contains 14 percent, which gives it an almost otherworldly silken texture and an extraordinary mouth-feel.

The dessert is made in an Italian Carpigiani batch freezer, engineered to use low temperature ice cream technology to freeze the cream mixture while incorporating the perfect amount of air. Once the ice cream is churned to perfection, it's transferred to containers and placed into the ice cream hardening and holding cabinet, which is set to -25 degrees, ensuring that the ice cream freezes to a perfectly solid state.

But, Purple Door isn't just about ice cream. Steve and Lauren are also concerned with the environmental impact of their business. So they ensure that every container of their ice cream is hand-packed, tested and personally delivered ... in the back of their Prius.

They also sponsor a recycling program through which participating restaurants receive partial credit for returning the 6-quart or 2.5-gallon plastic ice cream containers in which their ice cream is delivered. Once returned, the containers are cleaned, sanitized and reused.

"Part of our business model is respecting the earth," Steve confirms. "Although we have not yet found compostable pint containers, we do use compostable taster spoons and cups. They are made from corn and other renewable raw materials."

Likewise, Steve and Lauren believe in giving back to the community, which is why they started the Milk for Milwaukee program. Ten cents from the sale of each pint of ice cream goes to buy milk that Purple Door donates to local men's and women's shelters including Guest House of Milwaukee, Cathedral Center and Pathfinders. In the first month alone, they donated 22 gallons to Guest House.

Of course, the true proof with any ice cream is in the tasting, and all of Purple Door's flavors seem to live up to the hype. The espresso is smooth and creamy with plenty of rich coffee flavor. Their best-selling salted caramel exhibits a fantastic balance between salty and sweet, with a velvety consistency that rivals both custard and authentic Italian gelato. The cinnamon ice cream, made with Penzey's Extra Fancy Vietnamese cinnamon, is sweet and somewhat reminiscent of red hots (without too much spice), and is rumored to be great with just about any type of pie. And as for their vanilla ... well, it's absolutely peachy.

Find Purple Door ice cream at the following Milwaukee area restaurants and grocers:

• Beans & Barley
• Groppi's Market
• Honeypie Café
• Metcalfe's Market
• Mi•key's
• Outpost Natural Foods
• Pastiche Bistro & Wine Bar
• Rose's Fresh Market – Lake Geneva
• Ryan Braun's Graffito
• Sendik's on Oakland
• Skyline Catering Express
• Zak's Café

Specialty flavors are also available each week at the Tosa Farmer's Market, Saturdays 8 a.m.-1 p.m. through Oct. 15. Purple Door is currently serving fresh cherry ice cream!

Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host

Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club. 

When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.