Thursday, January 30, 2014

Tools and Techniques of Making Ice Cream - Part One

Making ice cream at home is a lot easier now than when I was young. I remember having one of these ridiculous contraptions:

Old fashioned Ice Cream Maker
He had found a machine which had provided him with a metal cup filled
with a viscous liquid that was almost, but not quite, entirely unlike ice cream.

It was such a hassle. We had to buy crushed ice and layer it with salt in that giant bucket. The manual was written poorly and the recipes were really basic. No exotic flavors like I used to get at Baskin-Robbins. I dreamed of this thing churning out hard serve ice cream when we were done, but it never quite gelled properly. We poured the contents into an over-sized mixing bowl and stuck it in the freezer. The resulting brick of milk-like substance was stuck to the ceramic bowl as if it were superglued. Every exposed surface was covered in ice crystals and made every bite taste like freezer burn. We stuck the ice cream maker on a shelf in the basement and never used that horrible thing ever again.

In all fairness, it wasn’t entirely the ice cream maker’s fault. I’m sure there are people who have used this type of device with great success. We really didn’t know what the heck we were doing. There was no Internet back then. There were no books at the local library with pictures and step-by step instructions. I don’t ever recall seeing a VHS tape on home ice cream making and even if such a thing existed back then, it was probably crap.

Ice cream without ice? How cool is that?

I considered buying an ice cream maker when I went on a low carb diet, but was reluctant to go through that aggravation again. Then one day, I discovered a new kind of device that didn’t require ice or salt.

Cusinart ICE-30
Cuisinart ICE-30
The 2-quart freezer bowl on the bottom right of the picture contains a liquid that takes the place of the ice and salt. The bowl is placed in the freezer until it’s completely frozen. Once that’s done, put it in the motorized base, pour the ice cream mix in, drop the dasher in, put the cover on, and turn the switch. It works pretty well, but there are some caveats. The temperature isn’t regulated. If the bowl isn’t frozen well, or the ice cream mix isn’t cold enough, or the operating environment is too warm, then the overall mix may not freeze well. However, the usual problem wasn’t a lack of cold, but too much. The frozen container is extremely cold, which causes the ice cream mix to freeze hard to the inside wall of the bowl. I used to take a metal tablespoon and stick it through the top to scrape the build up of frozen ice cream from the sides while it was spinning. Not fun. Making space in the freezer for that giant bowl wasn’t fun either. Having to prep well in advance to ensure everything is as cold as possible wasn’t fun. Eventually this unit went on the shelf and forgotten, too.

Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.

I had known about the really expensive ice cream makers that have built in compressors when I bought the ICE-30, but I couldn’t bring myself to spend $300 on a gadget that might be a bust. What changed my mind was a deep discounted sale price, great reviews at Amazon, and breaking a long standing weight loss plateau with a fat-fast. You see, ice cream minus the sugar and milk can be a great way to trigger weight loss. It’s low carb, low protein, and high fat. Really high in fat. Finding recipes for foods that have over 85% of its calories as fat is not easy. Homemade sugar free ice cream can achieve those macronutrient ratios. I ended buying this compressor unit made by Cuisinart:

Cuisinart ICE-100
Cuisinart ICE-100

I gotta say, it’s a dream compared to the other units. I don’t need to worry about keeping everything cold before I make ice cream. The resulting ice cream has a consistent freeze throughout. Bottom line: I definitely reccomend a compressor unit. It’s worth the money.

It comes with two paddles; one for gelato and one for ice cream. The gelato paddle introduces less air (called overrun) into the final product. I personally never saw a difference. In fact, I feel the amount of overrun is low even when using the ice cream paddle.

Here’s a video showing it in action:

The presenter makes a couple of mistakes. Don’t insert the bowl into the main unit before you pour the ice cream mix. It’s going to splash around like it did for her. Put your bowl on a table, insert the paddle in the bowl, pour your mix in, and then lift the bowl and put in the main unit. Also, do not add your solid ingredients at the beginning. They’re supposed to get added a couple minutes before it’s done. Those strawberry chunks are going to interfere with the churning process and get atomized by the time it’s finished. Please, DO NOT use this video as a guide.

Everything else

Now that you know what kind of ice cream maker to buy, what else will you need? Not much, I promise. However, there are a lot of ways to screw up. Trust me; I know. I’ll list all of the other items you should and shouldn’t use in part two.

Oh, one last thing. The paddle that churns the ice cream is called the “dasher.” People who are really into ice cream get real snooty if you call it something other than a “dasher.”

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