Ice Cream 101

It has taken me attempt after attempt after attempt to develop the perfect basic ice cream recipe that I have today. Over these many attempts I have learned a lot of things and I am still learning but I’m going to share with you all that I have learned over the many trials and tribulations right here.

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Quick disclaimer! This is a verrryyy long post. But it is full of information that will definitely up your ice cream making game.

Guys, making ice cream at home is chill. And no matter what anybody tells you, you do not need an ice cream maker to do it. If anyone tells you that you do, leave them. You don’t need such negative energy in your life. Of course an ice cream maker would make the job a little easier but you can totally tip toe around it and still end up with a tasty bowl of homemade ice cream with quality far more superior than any shop bought ice cream you can buy.

There are, though, a number of things you need to know before getting started.

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Number 1: Equipment

There is honestly not a lot of fancy or special equipment needed to make good ice cream but there are two pieces of equipment that will make your ice cream making experience that much easier.

Ice Cream maker

If you are serious about making ice cream, I do suggest you invest in a good quality ice cream maker. Of course, I said that you can make ice cream without one but it will make your life so much more easier if you have one. Don’t buy the cheap stuff. This is an investment so invest wisely. You can buy one online but some home and lifestyle shops do have good ones in stock as well.

A heavy based pot

Your pot does not have to be super huge as most ice cream recipes usually make about 1 liter of ice cream but it is advisable to have a pot with a thick, heavy base. Thick, heavy, based pots spread heat evenly and consistently all over the pot so you will not ever have to worry about scalding, burning or overcooking a part of your custard when cooking.

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Number 2: Ingredients

Ice creams do not require a lot of ingredients but there are important ingredients that can be a huge ice cream game changer.

Eggs

Eggs are mixed with sugar and milk and then cooked over a medium to low heat to form a custard. Most ice creams are essentially just frozen custard. Eggs are needed in ice cream to make it rich. A myriad of ice cream recipes out there require a tonne of egg yolks and I honestly find that 100% unnecessary. If you’ve ever made ice cream that requires something like 5 to 7 egg yolks you may have faced the problem of the ice cream tasting a lot like eggs no matter how much flavouring you use. During my early attempts at making ice cream I faced that problem a lot. I hated that eggy aftertaste and I never understood why one had to use that many eggs in the first place to make ice cream. Surely there are other ways to get good, rich ice cream. So every time I made ice cream I would reduce the amount of eggs until I found the golden number of egg yolks needed to keep an ice cream rich but have no egg aftertaste. That number is 2 extra large egg yolks or 3 medium egg yolks. Problem solved. Rich ice cream with no egg aftertaste.

Sugar

Nothing complicated here. Sugar makes ice cream sweet. Too much results in overly sweet ice cream and too little just tastes sad. I found that the perfect amount of sugar is 100g. That does not sound like a lot but it’s enough to be balanced. Plus it takes into consideration any extra add ins you might add. You can use any kind of sugar to your ice cream depending of course on the type of ice cream you make. In my Chocolate Chip Cookie Ice Cream, for example, I use dark muscovado sugar to give the ice cream an overall toffee flavour that enhances and compliments the chocolate chip cookie pieces and gives it an overall chocolate chip cookie vibe.

Milk

Milk is milk. There’s nothing special here. Use whole full fat milk. There is no allowance for low fat or skim milk. This is ice cream. If you wanted something low fat you would make a salad. I have yet to experiment with other lactose intolerant friendly or vegan alternatives to milk but I would love to see how that would work.

Cream

Because I have reduced the amount of eggs in my ice cream recipes I have needed to find another way to add a little more richness and creaminess to the ice cream. Just 1 cup (250ml) of cream does the trick. Add too little and the ice cream may not be rich enough but add too much and the ice cream may be too fatty and might leave a thin fatty residue layer on the roof of your mouth when you eat it which I can assure you is very unpleasant.

Liquid Glucose

Liquid glucose is a very important ingredient in ice creams that I have recently discovered. It does quite wonderful things to an ice cream. It makes the texture much smoother and completely eliminates the formation of ice crystals and it makes the ice cream freeze a little less hard. It is a must to have. It is a game changer that drastically improves the texture of your ice cream. You can buy liquid glucose at any good bake shop in your area or any major supermarket. I know that in Windhoek, you can easily find it at Superspar in the baking section and there’s a lovely baking shop in the northern industrial area where you’ll find it too. One heaped tablespoon of liquid glucose is all you need to make that difference.

Stabiliser

Stabilisers get a lot of hate from a bunch of people about how they’re not natural or that they’re really bad for you (corn syrup) and although some of the stuff people say about them is very true, stabilisers are in our lives for a reason, and an important one at that. Stabilisers stabilise things. As in stabilisers are used in foods like ice cream to prevent any of the mixture from separating if it continuously melts then freezes. Plus, stabilisers really improve the texture of ice creams. It’s important to remember that not all stabilisers are bad or weird and chemically. Something as simple as flour is a stabiliser. It’s neither unhealthy nor weirdly chemically. In my ice creams I use flour as a stabiliser. Not only does the flour prevent ice creams from going south after a period of time but it also improves the texture and results in a good smooth, creamy ice cream by preventing the formation of ice crystals. And it does this by thickening the custard when it cooks. If you use too little flour, it makes no significant difference to your ice cream and if you use too much it results in a pasty, thick, weird textured ice cream which I can tell you from experience sucks! Of course if you’re gluten free don’t worry, corn flour gets the job done just as well as normal flour. The perfect amount of flour to use is one heaped teaspoon.

Alcohol

I actually do not use alcohol in my ice cream recipes unless I actually want an alcohol flavour but I know that a lot of people out there have said that alcohol prevents the formation of ice crystals by lowering the freezing temperature of ice cream. That is partly true but it will require you to use a large volume of alcohol to get that effect and unless you want super boozy ice cream, adding alcohol is not worth it. There are better ways to prevent the formation of ice crystals like using cream, flour and liquid glucose.

Flavouring

Good quality vanilla extract is in the base of all my ice cream recipes regardless of the flavour. It adds a slight bit of depth and enhances the flavour of whatever actual flavour you want your ice cream to be, granted you use a small amount (About a teaspoon). Of course you can use any kind of liquid flavouring to flavour your ice cream. The sky is the limit. But do get the greatest quality you can get your hands on because in most cases that means you can you use the least amount but still have all the wonderful flavour.

A pinch of salt

Just a pinch to enhance flavours.

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Number 3: Add ins

Adding anything else to your ice cream to give it a little more texture is fairly easy but there are small things that you can do with your add ins that will make a huge difference to your ice cream.

Sifting your add ins

When you want to add something like chopped cookies or nuts in your ice cream I find that it is best to chop your them and then place them in a sieve to sift out all those tiny little crumbs so that you are just left with the nice big chunks. Those crumbs can really result in an unpleasant eating experience if you leave them in the ice cream because it could change the texture and make the overall texture all gritty with tiny pieces of things in it instead of smooth with little chunks of lovely nutty or cookie goodness.

Chocolate

Chocolate does this weird thing when it freezes. It looses flavour and changes texture and becomes a little chalky. It’s honestly quite sad. But I have a solution! A top tip that I found on Serious Eats was to firstly melt your chocolate so that when you add it it breaks up into lovely shards and wisps of chocolaty goodness and secondly to add a light flavourless oil to the melted chocolate. When you add oil to the chocolate, a little magic happens so that when it freezes the texture does not change and the flavour does not disappear and it melts smoothly in your mouth. Use one teaspoon for every 57 grams of chocolate.

When to add them in

Regardless of what kind of add in you are adding in, it is best to add them during the last few minutes of churning, if you are using an ice cream maker, or last few stirs before it completely freezes if you are using the no-churn method. Adding it just before the ice cream is finished churning keeps add ins like cookies or nuts intact and prevents the chocolate from streaking and making a mess instead of breaking up nicely into lovely shards.

How much to use

It honestly depends on how chunky you like your ice cream to be. If you like super mega chunks in every bite, as I do because going all out is fun, then you can use anywhere between 200 and 300 grams. But if you believe in less is more than you can use anything between 100 and 200 grams.

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Number 4: Methods and procedures

Like I said in the beginning, making ice cream at home does not have to be a complicated thing.

If you’re familiar with homemade ice cream recipes that require eggs you may have noticed that the recipes ask that you heat your milk in a pot before slowly adding the heated milk to your sugar and egg mixture in an attempt to “temper” the eggs. That is such a completely unnecessary step that just makes life more complicated. Leave it. Making ice cream is easy breezy, don’t over complicate things. All you need to do, after you’ve whisked your eggs and sugar together, is to just add the milk as it is and stick it all in a pot to cook. There’s no need to temper anything. As long as you continuously stir the custard, you will not end up with sweet scrambled eggs or salmonella.

!!Myth Busters!!

You may have read that it is essential to leave your custard overnight in the fridge to “age” because that really allows the ingredients to meld together and enhance the flavour. Let me tell you something, friends; that is complete poppycock! We’re making ice cream here, not cheese. Nothing needs to be aged. I do, however, still leave my ice cream in the fridge overnight  but only to cool it completely which just makes the whole churning process easier.

The no-churn method

Making ice cream without an ice cream maker. It’s obviously more labour intensive but still pretty simple. Once you’ve made your custard, place it in the fridge for a few hours (preferably overnight) to cool completely. This is done just to make sure it is at it’s lowest possible temperature before it begins to freeze to make the freezing process a little easier. So once the ice cream has completely cooled, place it in whatever vessel you would like to keep it; an old ice cream container, Tupperware or even a loaf tin and place it in the freezer for 30 min. Then you are going to have to take the ice cream out and stir it with a fork or a little whisk to break up any ice crystals and “churn” the ice cream a bit. Once you’ve stirred the ice cream well enough place it back in the freezer. Do this every 30 min for a couple of hours until the ice cream is actually ice cream. Just before the ice cream has properly frozen, stir in any add ins if you wish and put it back in the freezer to freeze completely. Easy as! There’s your homemade ice cream without using an ice cream maker.

Using an ice cream maker

Read the instruction manual of your ice cream maker to use it. It’s quite simple.

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And there you go friends! All the tips and tricks I’ve learned to making ice cream at home without much trouble.

Basic Vanilla Ice Cream Recipe

Ingredients
  • 100g sugar
  • 2 extra large egg yolks or 3 medium egg yolks
  • 1 heaped teaspoon flour or corn flour
  • 1 heaped tablespoon liquid glucose
  • 625ml whole milk
  • 250ml cream
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
method
  • In a bowl whisk the eggs and sugar until paler in colour and fully combined. Then stir in the flour and glucose and then the milk.
  • Place contents in a heavy based pot over a medium to low heat stirring constantly. Cook the custard until it has thickened and when you coat the back of a spoon with it and you draw a line through it with your finger the line stays.
  • Remove from the heat and stir in the cream and vanilla extract. Place in a bowl and cover in cling film making sure the cling film is in direct contact with the custard so that no crust is formed and place in the fridge for a few hours but preferably overnight until it is completely cool.
  • Use the manufacturer’s instructions to churn the ice cream in the ice cream maker or use the no churn method as explained above.

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I do hope you found this useful and hopefully it showed you that making ice cream at home is not as daunting as it seems. Do comment and tell me if you like these kinds of informative posts and I might do more or comment any queries you might have or just tell me anything. Let’s make friends here 🙂

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