If you love experimenting with food, especially frozen desserts, try making homemade ice cream and customize it to your liking. With some quality ingredients (and a good electric ice cream maker), a little practice, and lots of patience, making delicious ice cream is a lot of fun.
Whether you use an ice cream machine or churn ice cream without it, it takes a few trials and errors to get a perfect consistency. This beginner’s guide to making ice cream will help you perfect the ice cream-making process, whether you’re making vanilla or chocolate ice cream or trying something out of the box.
An ice cream base is mainly made of cream, milk, sugar, and egg yolks (depending on the type of ice cream you’re making). Then, there are the flavorings, like vanilla, cinnamon, strong coffee, and more.
The fresher the ingredients, the better the ice cream. For instance, if you’re making vanilla ice cream, it would be best to use real vanilla or even vanilla bean rather than vanilla extract for an enhanced taste. Likewise, organic whole milk, cream, and free-range eggs make good-quality ice cream.
Using full-fat milk or sweetened condensed milk brings in a sweeter taste. If you’re making your ice cream without a machine, use whipped cream with full-fat milk to reduce the ice crystals forming in the ice cream.
While ice cream machines are ideal for making smoother ice cream, you don’t really need any fancy equipment to make good ice cream; you can even make do with:
- a food processor
- hand mixer
- a stick blender with an ice bath (put ice cubes and some water in a large bowl and the ice cream base into a smaller bowl).
Whether you’re making Philadelphia-style ice cream or French-style custard-based, here are the steps you can follow for a soft consistency:
Heat the milk and cream in a pan on the stovetop on medium heat. Meanwhile, beat the eggs (or egg yolks) with sugar if you’re making custard-based ice cream.
Slowly pour the warm milk mixture into the egg-sugar mix, constantly stirring it to avoid any curdling. Transfer this entire mix into a pan on low heat on the stove, stirring gently till it thickens.
While you could use an ice bath to chill the ice cream base, it would be best to leave it at room temperature for about an hour and chill it in the refrigerator overnight. Doing this helps make smoother ice cream and smaller ice crystals during the churning process later.
Do follow the manufacturer’s instructions if you’ll be churning your ice cream using an ice cream maker. In most machines, churning about a quart of ice cream typically takes about 20 – 25 minutes.
If you don’t have an ice cream maker, you could use a stick blender and whisk the base to your desired consistency.
Transfer the churned ice cream into the freezer for at least four hours, preferably longer. Remember to use an air-tight container with the seal tightly on.
Here are some great tips to help make the perfect ice cream at home.
If you’re just starting with making your own ice cream, the use of high-fat content helps create a creamy texture. Once you’ve gotten better at making ice creams, you could experiment with lower-fat dairy products.
Any flavorings like extracts or alcohol must be added to the ice cream base after it has cooled (especially with cooked custard). You could also wait until you add the ice cream base into the ice cream machine and then stir the flavorings.
If you’re making a custard base with milk, eggs, and sugar, chill this mix in the refrigerator to get it really cold (leave it overnight if you can) before putting it in the ice cream maker. This increases the aeration process in the maker, providing the ultimate creamy texture.
If your ice cream machine has a freezer bowl, ensure you freeze it for at least 24 hours before you churn your ice cream; else, the chances are your ice cream may not freeze.
Whatever ingredients you want to add to your ice cream mix, like fresh or dried fruit, nuts, or candy pieces, shouldn’t be added as big chunks. Instead, the mix-ins must be about the size of chocolate chips to avoid breaking up the mixture when scooping.
They should also be chilled thoroughly and added to the ice cream when it’s almost completely frozen in the ice cream maker.
For soft ice cream, use sugar, corn syrup or honey, gelatin, and commercial stabilizers. Use a shallow container instead of a deep tub, and use plastic wrap over the surface of the ice cream mixture to avoid forming ice crystals.
Also, avoid storing ice cream in the freezer door; keep it at the back of the freezer for consistent cooling. It also helps prevent freezer burn.
Here are some great ice cream toppings that you could add to your homemade ice cream:
- Whipping cream
- Cookie dough
- Chocolate syrup
- Hot fudge
- Peanut butter cups
The cherry on top!
If you’re a beginner longing to whip up some frozen treats with your favorite ice cream maker, I suggest you get started with some Philadelphia-style ice cream first. This is the easiest to get right. And then you could try your hand at more ice cream of different types and flavors.