Take Twelve: Cool custard stops in Wisconsin

Culver’s, kingpin in the frozen custard world, introduces six new flavors this year. That hasn’t happened since 2012, and all of the Prairie du Sac company’s 650 restaurants in 24 states are simultaneously introducing one newcomer per month as a Flavor of the Day.

Cappuccino Cookie Crumble, which mixes chocolate and sugar cookie chunks into vanilla frozen custard with espresso, made its debut May 10. Expect another new Favor of the Day on the 10th of each month, through October.

Next up: Blackberry Cobbler, berries and cinnamon granola in vanilla custard, arriving June 10; Chocolate Pretzel Crunch, in vanilla custard, July 10; Peanut Butter Cookie Dough, roasted peanuts and chocolate chip cookie dough in peanut butter custard, Aug. 10; Dark Chocolate Decadence, chocolate in a custard with blended cocoas, Sept. 10; and Peanut Butter Salted Caramel, roasted peanuts and salted caramel ribbons in peanut butter custard, Oct. 10.

If you miss a flavor’s launch date, look for it in the subsequent rotation of flavors at culvers.com/flavor-of-the-day.

Custard, technically, is a thin dessert sauce or thick filling for eclairs and other types of bakery, depending on the recipe. That helps distinguish it from frozen custard, the cool little treat that we tend to take for granted in Wisconsin. The term is not interchangeable with “ice cream.”

“Silkier and denser than ice cream” is how the Food Network describes frozen custard, which is slightly heavier than ice cream because it has less air. It holds up a tad better in heat than ice cream.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture sets the legal parameters for frozen custard: It must contain egg yolk and 10 percent butterfat. The indulgence was introduced 100 years ago on Coney Island in New York and caught on in the Midwest after the 1933 World’s Fair in Chicago.

For Wisconsin, frozen custard is a natural match because America’s Dairyland has easy access to key ingredients. Milwaukee boldly calls itself the Frozen Custard Capital of the World, contending no other place has a higher concentration of custard shops, per capita.

Some frozen custard stands to operate seasonally, and now is the time for them to open. Others are year-round businesses. If your favorite isn’t in this sampling, let me know and I’d spread the good word later.

Bubba’s, Pewaukee – Five-pound custard cakes feed two dozen. Count Royal Wedding Cake – custard with buttercream frosting, raspberry swirls and white cake– among once-a-year flavors. bubbasfrozencustard.com

Custards Last Stan, Baileys Harbor – Frozen custard in three flavors is made fresh daily. The other specialty is bakery: pecan sticky buns to cherry pie. Open Memorial Day through Labor Day. harborfishmarket-grille.com/custardslaststan.html

LeDuc’s, Wales – Home to around 75 flavors and selling three kinds per day in scoops, sundaes and frozen custard pies. For a larger selection, check out the pints and quarts. Using the same custard recipe since LeDuc’s opened in 1980. leducscustard.com

Ferch’s, Greendale – Frozen custard flavors are endless at this soda fountain because you decide which flavors and mix-ins are added to freshly made custard. Dozens of choices, amaretto to watermelon: The flavor is worked into custard while atop a frosty slab of marble. Add almonds to strawberries, bubblegum to pretzels. ferchs.com

Gilles, Milwaukee – The city’s oldest frozen custard stand began business 80 years ago. Frozen custard cookie sandwiches are dipped in melted chocolate. Sundae choices include nostalgic throwbacks. Custard flavors change every day or two. gillesfrozencustard.com

Gilles, Fond du Lac – A relative of the Milwaukee Gilles’ founder started this drive-in in 1949. Making three types of frozen custard: vanilla, chocolate and a swirl of the two. Carhops take and deliver orders. gillesfrozencustardfdl.com

Kopp’s, Milwaukee – Frozen custard and jumbo burgers are the specialties. Expect two flavors to change from day to day. Open since 1950, with locations in Brookfield, Glendale and Greenfield. kopps.com

Leon’s, Milwaukee – Neon signage points the way to the retro drive-up that opened in 1942. Butter pecan is always a frozen custard option. A jumbo serving equals five scoops. Count Andrew Zimmern among those who have taken notice. leonsfrozencustard.us

Michael’s, Madison – The owner uses his grandmother’s recipe and sold his first car to open the city’s now-beloved frozen custard stand. Three locations in Madison. Top sellers include the turtle sundae, topped with fat, salty pecans. ilovemichaels.com

Not Licked Yet, Fish Creek – What began as a simple frozen custard stand in 1982 now serves food and conducts Custard Karaoke on Friday nights. The family-friendly business has a playground, and carvings in trees by local artists. Open April through October. notlickedyet.com

Wholly Cow, Delafield – The family business started with ice cream cone sales on the front porch of the house. Soon the parents with five kids learned to make frozen custard too, and the rest is history. Fifty-plus mix-ins stocked as additions to fresh vanilla and chocolate custard. hollycowcustard.com

Zesty’s, Green Bay – The perennial Best of the Bay winner is proud of the vintage equipment used to make three kinds of frozen custard daily. Nut toppings are freshly roasted. Locations in Allouez, Howard-Suamico and De Pere. zestyscustard.com