Trial and Error with an Ice Cream Maker

Fun story about how I acquired my ice cream maker: bored in class one day, I decided to peruse the classified section of the Columbia Missourian, where I work for school. Well just my luck, someone happened to be selling a 4-quart electric ice cream maker for $15. It definitely seemed too good to be true, but I called the woman up, and two days later I had 15 less dollars, but endless homemade ice cream possibilities.

Scoops Ice Cream
From Scoops in LA: Blueberry Mango, Ginger, and Pistachio Ricotta

The brainstorming began. I thought of Sparky’s, the Columbia ice cream shop with flavors like Carrot Cake and Red Wine with Ghirardelli Chocolate Chips. I thought of Scoops, the Los Angeles shop where I had Strawberry Lemongrass and Banana Oreo. My mind went wild with ideas: Thai iced tea, peanut butter jelly, ginger coconut, Mexican chocolate, mojito sorbet…

I christened my ice cream maker with a 60-percent cocoa Ghirardelli chocolate ice cream. Rich and delicious, but not without some issues. First problem, it took FOR.EVER. to freeze. And then the next day it was rock hard!

Since then we’ve been reading about homemade ice cream and tried several methods. All of the flavors have been good, but the texture has been a lot of trial and a lot of error. A custard base makes the ice cream creamier, but takes awhile to do, then requires another stage of chilling. Lucky for us, our friend Kat loves standing by the stove stirring for extended periods of time.

So far the best ice creams have involved extra cream. We typically use half and half in our base because full cream would mean I’d have to get my butt to the rec center a lot more often than I do, and regular milk just wouldn’t be worth the hours of effort. But berry lemon cheesecake ice cream (with sour cream and cream cheese) and dulce de leche (made from sweetened condensed milk) have been the creamiest and didn’t involve making a custard first.

Another tip we’ve been experimenting with is the addition of alcohol to keep the ice cream from freezing so hard. It took us a while to learn that alcohol should be added late in the process, otherwise you go mad waiting for the base to even begin to freeze. Lesson learned. Now we add a shot after the base has thickened in the ice cream maker, just before we transfer it to a shallower container in the freezer.

If you have a fancier ice cream maker, you don’t have to worry about ice and salt, but to those with the bucket style like we do, these two things are critical. The first few times we didn’t use crushed ice or rock salt. Using crushed ice and de-ice-your-driveway-sized salt crystals has made all the difference because the metal canister can get much colder.

As spring approaches, I’m looking forward to many more experiments with the ice cream maker. We’re still trying to find our favorite base recipe. We haven’t tried sorbets or sherbets yet, but I like the idea of not making custard.

Anyone have any ice cream tips and tricks? I have plenty of flavor ideas.

9 Replies to “Trial and Error with an Ice Cream Maker”

  1. That is a beauty! I recently got an ice cream maker, too, and am loving the results. I’ve made a few different kinds of ice cream, and have found that custard-based ones turn out really well, and freeze better. I’ve also made frozen yogurt (with the addition of a little cream). Fantastic! That pistachio ricotta looks delicious.

  2. My aunt used to have a somewhat retro-looking ice cream maker just like this and, for some reason, it’s more fun to use than my Cuisinart.

    I vote for Thai tea ice cream next time! I’m totally addicted to the stuff.

  3. NOTE: For those of you who are new readers on this site, or maybe have only read this ice cream article, you may have come to the conclusion that I am merely the stirrer of all things custard or pudding. While I am a FANTASTIC stirrer of custard with more patience than many even when hungry (hmm mm Brittany Darwell) I am also adept at other culinary practices such as crafting one heck of a pie!

  4. I recently bought an ice cream maker, too. My problem is that although it is delicious the first day I make it, once it becomes rock hard in the freezer, the silky creamy texture never comes back. Even if I let it thaw on the counter for 10-20 minutes before serving… The scoops aren’t even very nice, kinda crumbly. Does this happen to you, too??

  5. Scoops is one of my favorite places on the planet! This ice cream maker looks like a beast, but once you wrangle it, I’m sure your ice creams will be top notch!

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