Learning how to make ice cream is super easy, especially when you have an ice cream maker. It’s the best way to make ice cream preservative-free or allergen-friendly. But incorporating a few tricks and tips to your recipe base is key to a perfect, creamy dessert. Here are a few things you need to know (and do) to start making delicious ice cream at home!
1. Choose Quality, Fresh Ingredients
There is little cooking necessary for homemade ice cream, which is fantastic. But that also means the flavour, texture and overall result of your dessert rely on its ingredients. You don’t have to buy the most expensive ingredients available, though. Just make sure everything is fresh and good quality.
If you do have extra to spend, go for free-range eggs and organic dairy alternatives. Pick the best-tasting chocolate chips, fruit or nut you can buy. Also, opt for better choices when it comes to flavourings. For instance, fresh vanilla pod tastes and smells way better than vanilla extract. Those specks of tasty beans make your vanilla ice cream look extra divine, too.
2. Use Full-Fat Dairy
Okay, the best ice cream is not only about flavour. Mouthfeel or texture is just as important. And to get that perfect consistency, you need butterfat when making ice cream at home – the higher, the better. Fat content from your milk and heavy cream is your secret for rich and creamy ice cream. If you reduce that significantly, you’ll only end up with gritty frozen desserts.
So, make sure to follow your ice cream making recipes to the tee. You can substitute ingredients with low-fat version, but the final product will not be as yummy. If you’re on a diet, enjoy ice cream occasionally and in small portions instead!
3. Prep Flavour Add-Ins Properly
Add-ins let you create all sorts of ice cream flavours. But without proper tools and preparation, these can also break an otherwise perfect ice cream recipe. So, go the extra mile and follow these handy tips:
- Remove unwanted fruit sections. Aside from using fresh fruits, make sure to add just the tasty parts. For example, remove the green parts of strawberries, and take out the stems and bruises from your figs. Also, peel and pit your nectarines and peaches before adding them to your ice cream base.
- Chop fruit in small pieces. Big chunks of fruit will only freeze in your ice cream mixture and affect its flavour. So, it’s best to chop them in chocolate chip-sized pieces. Macerating small fruits like cherries and strawberries also protect them from freezing.
- Toast and sieve your chopped nuts. Toasting nuts in the pan or oven helps release their natural oils and enhance the flavour of your ice cream. After chopping them, use a sieve or sifter to remove small crumbs that can make your frozen desserts gritty. You can do the same step when using chocolate, candies or cookies as add-ins.
4. Add Mix-Ins at the Right Time
Is your homemade ice cream not as delicious as it should be? When making ice cream at home, perfect timing can make a huge difference, especially on its taste and appearance. Here are some things you need to do:
- Add alcohol or extracts last. Alcohol tends to evaporate and lose flavour when it comes in contact with heat. So, when using it for your ice cream making recipes, stir it in your cooled custard or mixture.
- Freeze your mixture before adding your mix-ins. Chocolate or nut pieces can be a bit too heavy to stay afloat in slightly liquid custard. So, let your mixture churn then throw in the mix-ins at the last minute. You can also freeze your churned ice cream first for 1 to 2 hours, then stir your add-ins by hand.
- Don’t swirl your ice cream sauces. Alternately layer your butterscotch, caramel or chocolate sauces instead as you transfer your mixture to your ice cream containers. This way, your ice cream looks neater, and swirls will naturally form with each scoop.
5. Go Easy on the Booze
Alcohol is an anti-freezing agent to your ice cream. With the right amount, it helps in achieving a softer scoop while adding complex flavours. If you add too much, however, your ice cream will not set at all. If it does set, it will melt rather quickly when you scoop it out.
So, like drinking, alcohol in ice cream should be in moderation. Make sure that the amount of butterfat is in perfect balance with the amount of alcohol you’re adding. If you wish to experiment, you can start with substituting the same amount of cocktail bitters in recipes that call for vanilla or mint extracts.
6. Do Proper Tempering Techniques
When making custard-based ice cream at home, tempering your egg yolk mixture with hot cream is crucial to achieving a smooth mixture. No one wants to bite into bits of scrambled eggs while eating frozen desserts. So, take time when doing this delicate process. Try not to add more than four tablespoons of the hot cream mixture to your eggs, and continuously whisk it while pouring. Strain your custard, too, once you have everything mixed.
You can also use a thermometer to prevent overcooking your custard. Your mixture should start setting at 70C and is ready at temperatures not beyond 80C. Having a thermometer on hand ensures food safety without the guesswork!
7. Follow the Manual
For first-time ice cream machine users, this should be your first step. You can learn more about how to use your ice cream maker in this previous article. If you’re using a machine with an ice cream bowl, make sure you freeze it as required. That way, your ice cream base churns and freezes properly. You’d want to start the motor, too, before pouring in your mixture to prevent it from freezing into one block. Also, don’t fill up your ice cream machine to the brim to give your mixture room to aerate properly.
8. Churn a Well-Chilled Ice Cream Base
Whether you’re using an eggless base or rich custard mix when making ice cream at home, make it a point to chill it before churning. Its temperature should be below 10C. An aged mixture, or one that has been in the fridge overnight, should be chilled long enough. Some recommend doing this technique, too, to let fat globules coalesce. Fat formation makes churning faster and, in turn, results in smaller ice crystals and creamy texture.
9. Freeze Your Mixture the Right Way
Once you’ve transferred your mixture into an ice cream tub or container, don’t forget to cover the top with cling film or baking paper, pressed onto the surface. This step should keep the top layer smooth and free from gritty ice crystals. Afterwards, cover it with an airtight lid then put it in the freezer until firm.
Finally, without any preservatives added to homemade ice cream, your frozen treat should stay fresh for a week. After that, its flavour and smooth texture will start to deteriorate. So, finish it up before that happens. Use this tip as an excuse to make more!