Ice cream makers all come with manuals, and these all have some great recipes in them, but to really experiment, it might be good to see some basics, so here’s the GadgetGuy crash course with some of our own recipes for you to try.
With the warmer months coming, it’s good to get your head wrapped around making things that can not just cool you down, but tantalise your tastebuds.
Fresh off the back of a review we’ve just done on an ice cream maker, we figured it would be good to have a starting point for anyone interesting in making ice cream, because while the manuals for ice cream machines all have recipes in them, some of the best work comes from experimentation from a starting point.
It’s important to note that you don’t need an ice cream maker to make ice cream, but it helps tremendously. Without one, you’re rushing to the freezer to stir a mixture every five or ten minutes. With one, it does all the work, so you’re free to make the recipe, and then go off and do your own thing, coming back in a short time to have your treat.
This writer has been making ice cream for a number of years and it’s a hobby of his, so sharing some recipes and tips seems only fair, especially if it will encourage others to try their hand at making delicious desserts.
The important thing you need to know about ice cream is that it needs a base to start with. Once you have the base, you can add whatever flavour you want and churn an ice cream flavour. For instance, if you take a sweet cream base and add crumbled Oreo biscuits, you effectively get cookies and cream ice cream. If you just want basic vanilla, add vanilla essence to a sweet cream base. If it’s chocolate you’re after, add either condensed chocolate milk, melted chocolate, or cocoa powder. If you ever decide to make cheesecake ice cream, you essentially take a cheesecake mixture and combine it with the cream base.
Essentially, the base is key, and there are tons of recipes out there for sweet cream bases. You can make them in a saucepan and produce a warm custard, infusing the flavours over the stove, or you can do it cold, infusing the flavours with a hand-mixer or leaving it overnight in the fridge.
As an ice cream enthusiast, the mixture I use is a cold custard, in that you don’t use the saucepan at all, and you mix everything cold, leaving it to cook in the freezing temperatures of the ice cream maker.
For this example, we’re going to make peanut butter ice cream with chocolate, and we’ll do it by making a cold base first, and then mix the ingredients.
You’ll need two eggs, a cup of caster sugar, 300mls of cream, half a cup of milk, peanut butter, and chocolate broken down into chunks. You’ll also need a hand-mixer, and some bowls. If you have a stand-mixer, even better. I’m cheap, so I use a hand-mixer.
To start, we need the cream base, so do to this, we break the two eggs into a bowl and mix them until they’re nice, blended, and frothy.
There’s no need to separate the eggs here. You want the white and the yellow, and you want it blended together.
A tip for eggs in ice cream: the more eggs you have, the more smooth the ice cream is. Two seems to be a good guide, three is a smooth ice cream, and between four and six is what a lot of high grade restaurants use, though it’s not great for your health. Anything more than this can get silly, and also bring you closer to making egg nog than ice cream.
Now add the caster sugar, pouring it into the mixture while you use the mixer, making sure the sugar and the eggs become a slightly thickened mixture.
From here, add the cream, pouring this in while blending it all together, and then add some milk. Half a cup is all you should need, though you can add less if you need. Just like before, mix it all together.
Voila. You have a cold cream base.
You can use this to make practically any flavour you want, but we’re going to use it to make peanut butter and chocolate, so grab a tablespoon of your favourite smooth peanut butter and add it to the mixture.
Mix again, though make sure you mix in a bowl with plenty of height, as the thick peanut butter can sometimes spray as a mixer is breaking it down and churning with the liquid. You can add two spoons if you really like it peanut-buttery, but one should be plenty. If it’s too peanut buttery, add a splash of milk and mix to mellow it out.
Once the mixture is combined, you should have a soupy sweet peanut butter blend, ready to be churned, so switch on the ice cream maker and churn that sucker.
If you have an ice cream maker that encourages you to add mix-ins, wait for the call out so that you can add the chocolate chunks to the mix near the end of that churn.
Never add mix-ins to the beginning of the churn, to any ice cream you’re churning. Regardless of what machine you’re using, excess chunks will often jam machines and reduce the functionality of the stirring paddle, which reduces the effectiveness of the machine and means the right size ice crystals can’t form. Add the mix-ins close to when the churn is finished, and if you feel like waiting, you can add them as you’re taking the ice cream out, using a spoon or fork to help spread them.
When you’re done, you should have peanut butter ice cream, and if you’ve added the chocolate, it will be peanut butter chocolate ice cream, a flavour that was practically demolished when it was made for GadgetGuy staffers this month.
There’s more than ice cream that you can make, though. Sorbets are fun, too.
Essentially, sorbets are a frozen dessert made from fruit and sugar, and you can control the amount of sugar or replace it with fructose if you’re particular sensitive to the stuff. You’ll need a blender or a stick-mixer to make one of these, as well as some bowls and spoons, and a cup or measuring cup.
We’ll start with a basic that’s good to eat on a hot day: rockmelon sorbet (or cantaloupe sorbet, if you’re browsing from America).
Rockmelon sorbet is a good example of an easy sorbet to make because it’s literally fruit mixed with sugar, and then churned in an ice cream maker on a sorbet or gelato setting.
To make this, grab half a rockmelon and scoop out all those lovely insides, storing them in a bowl. When you’ve removed that sweet orange flesh from the rockmelon, grab your blender or stick-mixer and turn the scooped out orange flesh into a pulpy liquid. A blender seems the easiest from our point of view, but lacking one at work, the stick-mixer worked a treat.
Once you have that pulpy liquid, it’s time to add your sugar. Some people add glucose syrup, but I’ve found it’s just as easy to use caster sugar being it’s small enough to be absorbed by the liquid with either a stick-mixer or a blender.
In the rockmelon sorbet, I use half a cup of sugar, though it’s totally down to what your tastes are like. It’s good to remember that even though a sorbet or ice cream can taste sweet, the freezing process will dull that sugar intensity a little, so if you add too much sugar, you can either hope the freezing process dulls it a touch, or blend in a little water to even out the flavour.
For the one litre tub of the Breville Smart Scoop that we reviewed, half a cup seemed to make sense.
Now with sugar blended into your liquid and pulpy rockmelon mixture, it’s time to churn, so grab that ice cream maker, switch it on, pour the liquid in, and go away for a while.
When you come back, there should be rockmelon sorbet waiting for you. Yum yum.
Sorbets can be playful, though, and in the past few years, our experiments with sorbet have come from some of the drinks we’ve seen. One of the flavours has been very popular not just at work, but at the dinner parties this writer has thrown, and that’s one based on Rekorderlig’s Strawberry and Lime cider.
So here’s my (Leigh’s) recipe for strawberry and lime sorbet.
You’ll need two punnets of strawberries, two limes, half a cup of caster sugar, and a blender or stick-mixer.
Grab the strawberries, remove their greens, cut them up into pieces, and throw these pieces into a blender or bowl for use with a stick-mixer. Now blend, and make sure you turn this into a very strawberry liquid pulpy mixture.
Now cut your limes into halves, and squirt the juice of the limes into the liquid mixture you just made. If you’re not getting all the juice out, grab a fork and shove this inside the lime flesh, forcing out every last bit of juice.
Blend/stick-mix again, and make sure it’s in there. You might find one lime suits you better, though I generally work by the logic of one lime per punnet of strawberries. It’s like making other food, so make sure to season to your tastes.
Now grab your half cup of caster sugar and pour it in, blending/stick-mixing immediately after, making sure the sugar doesn’t form in clumps and blends nicely with the liquid mixture.
You can taste it and see if it evens out, and one way of working with this is to add the juice of one lime, add the sugar, and then see how sweet it is. If it needs to be more tangy, add that second lime.
Lime is like the MSG of fruit. It’s essentially a flavour enhancer for fruit, and while if you add too much the end result will be tangy, if you add a small amount — basically a squirt or two — the fruity mixture you’re making will come alive. In this sorbet, it’s a primary ingredient, but it doesn’t need to be in other sorbets, and if you’re making a fruit sorbet and you want the flavour to have more punch, squirt a bit of lime in.
Once your mixture of strawberries, lime, and sugar is made, you’re ready to churn, so grab that ice cream maker, set it up, turn it on, and churn your strawberry and lime mixture so that in 30 or 40 minutes, you have a tangy and not-so-bad-for-you sorbet. Easy.
Sorbets are easy like this, because essentially it’s just fruit and sugar, and you can always experiment yourself.
Books are also a great source of inspiration, not just because there are some excellent ice cream and dessert chefs out there (paging Messina), but also because they provide a starting point. You might find an excellent sorbet or gelato in a book, but feel it needs a little tweaking, so you can go for your life.
One of the best books to check out (in this writer’s opinion) though is the “Ben & Jerry Ice Cream and Dessert Book” by Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield (the “Ben & Jerry” in the company name). It’s relatively inexpensive, nicely printed, and has some of the tastiest recipes out there, with many of the flavours found in the stores available for recreation via recipe in the book.
Another favourite of this writer is “Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams At Home” by “Jeni Britton Bauer, a title from America that boasts some unusual flavours such as baked rhubarb frozen yoghurt, toasted rice ice cream, lime cardamom frozen yoghurt, and many others. The recipes are often playful, and provide inspiration for making others.
And if you get really curious about which flavours work with what, “The Flavour Thesaurus” by Niki Segnit provides a way to work out which fruits and spices work with what. Once you have that perfect cream base in ice cream, these flavour combinations will allow you to really be playful, while the fruit and veggies can be made into liquid pulpy mixtures for sorbets without any extra help.
Regardless of what you end up producing, make sure it’s tasty. That seems to be the one prerequisite for churning a successful ice cream.