Canonical ice cream
Earlier this year, Liz and I purchased a KitchenAid ice cream maker stand mixer attachment. We’ve used it less than we expected, because of a few things:
- The double-walled mixing bowl needs to freeze for up to 15 hours before use;
- The mixing bowl, once frozen, needs to defrost for us to be able to clean it effectively;
- Ice cream is caloric.
It’s still more compact than a traditional ice cream maker and makes ice cream just as well in our experience. We’ve served it at our dinner parties and it’s been a hit every time. I’m here tonight, then, to share with you my canonical recipe for ice cream.
Ice cream maker trivia: the process of converting a custard or sweet syrup base into soft-serve ice cream or sorbet is known as conversion; the process of solidifying that soft-serve into a full ice cream is known as ripening. This latter process can often be omitted entirely, yielding a soft-serve ice cream or sorbet of a similar consistency to the soft-serve frozen desserts with which you may be familiar.
As with my shortbread recipe, the base instructions consist of volumetric proportions, viz. a ratio of the amounts by volume of constituent ingredients, in a massively complex formula that looks like this:
- 1 part sugar
- 8 parts cream, chilled
Mix the cream and sugar together and follow the conversion and ripening instructions for your ice cream maker of choice. You’re done!
Blending with half-and-half or whole milk can yield a delightful milkshake.
Some topping ideas include:
- Chocolate sauce, fudge sauce, caramel sauce, nutella, etc.
- Pistachio and honey
- Olive oil, for an earthy touch
- Blood orange olive oil, which tastes like an earthy orange creamsicle. It was a huge hit with our guests!
- Balsamic vinegar, for a kick
- Mixed berries
Serve with pie, cake, and more!
Base recipe variants
It’s called ice cream, not ice milk! I used heavy whipping cream (minimum 36% milk fat here in the United States) and the result I consider very much like the “Sweet Cream” flavor from Cold Stone Creamery. If you want something lighter, use half-and-half, soy/almond/coconut/oat/etc. “milk”/“mylk,” whole milk, etc. The more fat, the more creamy the result. The less fat, the more ice crystals may be a problem, and the sweeter you may want it, or the longer you may want to churn it. I do want to give a special shout-out to coconut milk because of its high saturated fat content, which can render a very creamy frozen dessert. Avoid skim milk like the plague.
Yoghurt gets its own paragraph because I feel strongly about it. Frozen yoghurt has the potential to be healthier and more flavorful than the basic recipe. It also is pretty much guaranteed to have less fat, and therefore come out a little more icily. If using yoghurt, I recommend the use of full-fat yoghurt made from whole milk, plus mixing in as much heavy cream as needed to counter ice crystal formation.
Sugar could be replaced with honey. We intend to try this soon. You could also try brown sugar. I suggest not using a sugar substitute unless the fat ratio is so high that you don’t need to worry about ice crystals. Honey or sugars in the raw, such as turbinado or muscovado, may or may not dissolve in cold liquid. The cream base may need to be heated in these cases.
Eggs are frequently cited as an important ingredient in ice cream: it is, after all, frozen custard! Frankly, if you substitute milk or even half-and-half for the heavy whipping cream, I would generally be inclined to agree. If you use actual heavy cream for the recipe, you may not feel you need the eggs. Try it as-is before going through the process of making a “real” custard base with eggs. If you do use eggs, please be careful to cook them at a high enough temperature, for a long enough time, to neutralize any salmonella bacteria! I cannot stress enough that once eggs become introduced to the mixture, the need for proper hygiene increases tremendously. Please don’t just put egg yolks into your ice cream maker and hope for the best. With all that said, we will doubtless continue to explore egg-based options.
A hint of vanilla can impart a nice lilt to the recipe. I will repeat this in the section below on flavor variants.
The part you’ve all been waiting for! Mixing in raw versions of some of the toppings we mentioned can create a basic flavored ice cream: cocoa powder (or chocolate syrup), vanilla extract, cinnamon, mint extract, orange extract, even a flavored olive oil.
Using absolute amounts of one pint (two U.S. imperial cups) of heavy whipping cream and one-quarter cup white sugar, we tried puréeing six full-size bananas and gently mixing that into the cream and sugar before chilling. It was a smash hit with our dinner party guests last night. (We previously had success with the same sugar/cream amounts and only four bananas. Try out different proportions!)
We also made a strawberry balsamic vinegar variant of the base recipe. It was delicious. We didn’t serve it to guests because we added eggs and I became concerned we hadn’t cooked them enough. Safety first!
Chunks of fruit can make for a more interesting texture. They will also likely turn into inedible ice cubes unless reduced in a sugar syrup first on the stovetop.
- Consider mixing in some wine, mead, liqueur, or even rum to serve to consenting (and of-age) guests.
- How about puréeing mango, strawberry, pear, apple, blackberry, blueberry, kiwi, or other fruit for flavor?
- Coffee, saffron, pumpkin, Meyer lemon juice, Key lime juice, grape juice could all yield amazing flavor profiles for you and your guests.
When using heavy whipping cream as the cream base, take care not to turn this into whipped cream when mixing in sugar or other ingredients. White sugar into heavy cream should require maybe five seconds of stirring with a wire whisk or even just a spoon, and even that stirring may be unnecessary since the ice cream maker will churn the ingredients together.
When incorporating solid pieces of fruit or chocolate, consider dicing into small pieces if you’re using a mixer like ours, to prevent the mixer paddle from getting caught.
We find that once the ice cream is fully ripened, letting it sit at room temperature for five to fifteen minutes helps it defrost enough to insert an ice cream scoop.
Currently we have no data points on freezer longevity, because our ice cream never lasts that long.
In case I didn’t mention it before, avoid skim milk like the plague.
Doubtless I’ve overlooked some important details or flavor ideas. This enormously flexible base recipe has proven very forgiving, provided the proper fat balance is maintained. Go wild and find some flavors to please friends and family: Shared cholesterol is lessened; shared flavor, increased!