You Scream, I Scream: 8 Tips For Foolproof Homemade Ice Cream

A Song of Fire and Ice… cream.

Summer is coming…. Oh, wait — actually, it’s already here.

This week in Central Iowa, we have been experienced scorching heat, humidity, torrential rain, flash flooding, and general apocalyptic weather. And that was just the first three days of the week!  It’s enough to make us want to scream!!

How do we maintain our cool and calm (and extraordinary youthful good looks)? By experimenting in the kitchen at home with homemade ice cream.

You may have stopped in last weekend and sampled our ‘Fruity’ Olive Oil Ice Cream here at the shop on Sample Saturday, or browsed the ice cream recipes in our online collection.  Did it pique your interest in making your own batch of fresh, creamy ice cream?

If you’re ready to chill and make your own, here are

8 tips for excellent homemade ice cream:

ice-cream-batterPlan ahead: you’ve got to chill (the cylinder). Using an ice cream maker that has a frozen cylinder to churn the batter? Be sure to chill that container in your freezer for at least 24 hours before you make your ice cream.  If it’s not cold enough, that ice cream will not freeze completely — and you’ll end up with something more like very cold, weird butter than exquisite frozen dessert.

Plan ahead (batter-chill corollary): your ice cream batter needs to be cold, too. Even if you had to melt baking chocolate to stir into the chocolate ice cream batter, even if you made a custard ice cream base… a fully-chilled ice cream batter (as cold as the inside of your fridge: 40°F or so) yields an ice cream that freezes more quickly.

First things first. Many ice cream recipes (like this one) tell you to whisk together the eggs (or just yolks) alone, before adding the sugar, before adding the cream, milk, or other liquid. The emulsion that’s created by whisking the eggs is critical for a thick, smooth, and creamy ice cream. Don’t take shortcuts and dump everything into the mixing bowl, if the recipe doesn’t say to do it.

Fat is where it’s at. Fat, whether it’s milkfat in the form of heavy cream, or fat from coconut cream (or even, incredibly, from avocado!), is what gives ice cream its creamy consistency. Ice cream is not the ideal part of your diet for calorie-cutting. Don’t substitute lower-fat ingredients for the high-fat ones, or you may end up with an icy, not creamy, result.

foodista_strawberry_icecreamFruit-tastic. Fresh fruit ice creams (like this luscious strawberry ice cream) will be more delicious, and easier to eat, if you prepare the fruit separately from the rest of the batter. Peel, pit, and dice the peaches; slice the strawberries; smash the blueberries; run the black raspberries through the blender. Mix the fruit with sugar (and maybe a little lemon juice) and allow the fruit to macerate before you mix it into the batter. This will help bring out the full, juicy flavor of the fruit – and (lucky bonus!) – you won’t break your teeth later on unwieldy frozen chunks of fruit.

Mix-in-and-match. If you want to (and why on earth wouldn’t you?), you can add all kinds of delicious things to your homemade ice cream. Add mix-ins at the very end of the freezing process. Wait until the ice cream is just beginning to stiffen — a few minutes before it’s done, it will be soft-serve consistency — before adding your favorite mix-in.  (Pro tip: if you are mixing in candy bar bits, freeze them before chopping into mix-in size pieces.)

Size matters. (But not the way you thought it would). When adding chunks to your ice cream, smaller is better. Mini semi-sweet chocolate chips melt right in your mouth and yield better bursts of flavor in a coffee ice cream (yum!) than big hard frozen milk chocolate chips. Little chunks of chocolate fudge brownie or cookie dough, or Heath bar, finely-chopped coconut, nuts or fruit (see above) add delicious flavor to your dessert without overshadowing your carefully-created ice cream base.

wearenotfoodies_scoopable_containerShallow, sealable, scoop-able. Your ice cream is ready when it is just a little thicker than soft-serve consistency. (For 1-1/2 to 2 qts in a Cuisinart ice cream maker, this takes about 25 – 35 min). Use a big spatula to transfer the ice cream from the freezing cylinder to a sealable freezer container. Freeze ice cream for an hour or two for perfect frozen ice cream texture and scoop-ability. A broad-but-shallow container makes for smoother freezing and easier scooping – Martha Stewart uses metal loaf pans with plastic wrap on top (not practical for longer-term prep or storage).

Interested in learning more? Check out this post on making dairy-free ice cream, with information about two series of upcoming ice cream / sorbet / gelato classes.

Sean Bean ice cream photo credit

Also, more ice cream + Game of Thrones silliness here.