Home Cooking

Homemade Ice Cream

August 01 2012 - 12:00 PM

Owning an ice cream maker has to be one of the greatest simple pleasures in the kitchen. The satisfaction derived from making your own ice cream rivals whatever you can get from an ice cream shop or the supermarket shelves.

I have a Cuisinart ice cream maker with a bowl filled with a gel that freezes overnight. I’ve heard of the manual hand-crank ice cream makers, and while I’m charmed at the simplicity, it seems a bit too labor intensive for me.

After a few hit or miss attempts, here is what I’ve learned on my own versus what the cookbooks and ice cream maker manual tell you to do. For the uninitiated, ice cream is relatively simple and consists of a few steps:

  • Chilling the bowl of the ice cream maker (if you have a Cuisinart or any sort of machine where you have to chill the bowl).
  • Heating cream and dissolving the sugar in it.
  • Combining egg yolks and the flavorings used to make the ice cream.
  • Combining the egg yolk and flavoring mixture with the cream and sugar and heating it.
  • Cooling the ice cream mixture.
  • Transferring the mixture to the ice cream maker and mix until frozen.
  • Transferring to a container.

Most recipes will walk you through the above steps, but I’ve found that not many people explain the following steps:

1.  When you put the ice cream bowl in the freezer, turn the temperature to the lowest possible setting. A normal or “energy efficient” temperature setting will cause the gel in the bowl to melt during the ice cream making process, and as a result, you will not get the true consistency you are looking for. It took me a while to learn that the temperature of the bowl was the reason I wasn’t getting something looking like ice cream, and I started thinking the ice cream making process was a waste. After turning down the freezer temperature, I noticed I was able to make ice cream with the machine in about 20 minutes. Also, put the bowl in the freezer the day before you make ice cream (not the same day), which will properly ensure a cold bowl.

2. Use the best ingredients, and if possible, ingredients that are in season. Supermarket strawberries don’t taste the same as what you get at a farmers market, and the difference is huge when you’re relying on the strawberries to give the ice cream adequate flavor. Also, for a good result I recommend substituting cream for milk, and using the best cream possible. Organic Valley is widely available and easy to source.

3.  Stay away from powdered sugar.  I made this mistake once, and found that the flavor is off base and it almost tastes like saccharin. I believe the gelato place around the corner from me uses powdered sugar, and it has that same funny taste. If you see powdered sugar in a recipe you plan to use, I recommend substituting granulated sugar and dissolving it in the heated cream on the stove.

4. Many recipes call for an ice bowl to instantly cool the heated mixture. The ice bath does cool the mixture, but it can be a hassle, and if you are stirring the mixture on top of the ice bath you risk letting water seep into it if you’re not careful.  My recommendation is to avoid the ice bath, and to put the mixture in the freezer for an hour and then transfer to a refrigerator.  Depending on the size of the mixture, you will need to let it cool for three to six hours before transferring it to an ice cream maker.

Recommendation #4 is arguable, but I believe the first three recommendations are imperative to making good ice cream. Enjoy!