Now that I’ve been making ice cream for 6 months, I’ve found that some recipes work and others don’t. There are some basic ice cream tips that everyone should know before getting started.
The Ice Cream Base
- Half and half has a misleading name. It’s not half cream and half milk. I’ve used it a few times but since I don’t keep it on hand, I changed all of my recipes to a mixture of cream and milk. I most commonly use about half heavy cream and half whole milk.
- 3/4 c. whole milk + 1/4 c. heavy cream = 1 c. half and half
- 2/3 c. low fat milk + 1/3 c. heavy cream = 1 c. half and half
- It’s extremely important to chill the base before churning it. This will usually take at least 4 hours in the fridge. Otherwise, you’ll end up with a really soupy soft serve. It’s definitely worth it to plan ahead. If you’ve chilled the base correctly, you should be able to eat the ice cream right after churning without having to drink it.
- When using chocolate, Dutch process cocoa gives a much better flavor. It’s also better to use bittersweet or dark chocolate since the final flavor will be muted by the dairy. This is for when you melt chocolate to include it in the base. Chunks of chocolate do not taste good when frozen.
- Don’t freeze candy bars. The texture is unpleasantly hard and/or waxy. The same goes for chocolate chips. Opt instead for a chocolate fudge that you can swirl into the churned ice cream or pour over the top. If you want a specific candy bar flavor, recreate it with a flavored base and mix-ins that freeze well.
- Dulce de leche is easier to make and mixes in better than caramel sauce (though caramel does make a great topping). When I used caramel, I found the flavor a little too complex when I just wanted it to be gooey and sweet. Another advantage of using dulce de leche is that I can easily make 1 can, which is the perfect amount to swirl into a batch of ice cream. My caramel recipe makes 3x as much, and I don’t like having leftovers.
- Most things don’t stay crunchy once they’re frozen into the ice cream base. Sometimes you’ll want this effect, as with cookies and cream. If you want a mix-in to stay crunchy, it’s better to leave it as a topping. (I’m thinking of pretzels in particular. They’re just not good when soft.) Nuts will stay crunchy if you eat the ice cream within a day or 2, which I strongly recommend for a homemade ice cream anyway.
- There are edible cookie doughs available (chocolate chip and peanut butter). They are still soft when frozen and save you the effort of making cookie dough to mix in.
- If you’re making a fruit flavor of ice cream, you’ll usually need to cook it down and puree it. Big pieces of fruit turn into icy chunks that don’t taste good.
- Most fruits will taste much better when fresh and in season. I think blueberries are an exception and taste much better when bought frozen.
- Use fresh lemon and lime juice when called for in a recipe (usually with fruit). The bottled kind has an aftertaste. Fresh amplifies the flavor of the fruit and helps cut through the richness of the dairy.
I recommend reading this book to get familiar with ice cream science. Jeni doesn’t use eggs, but I really like them in some of my recipes. I love these recipes from her book and will make them again and again:
- Brown Butter Almond Brittle Ice Cream. This is my husband’s absolute favorite, and it’s completely worth the work. You’ll end up with a bunch of ghee. I froze the ghee in an ice cube tray and ended up using it up much faster than I anticipated. The ice cream is phenomenal on a sugar cone.
- Maple Ice Cream with Salty Buttered Nuts. I decreased the maple syrup to 1 1/2 c. since it’s pretty strong. This ice cream stays really silky even when frozen hard.
- Mexican Hot Chocolate Ice Cream. We think this one tastes like a chocolate covered cinnamon bear. The spice makes it absolutely delicious.
- Root Beer Ice Cream. My husband didn’t like it as much because it doesn’t have fizz (obviously). I’d add a t. of vanilla next time to make it taste more like my favorite root beer, A&W.
I hope these ice cream tips help. It’s been such a fun experience to learn how to make my own frozen treats.
Find delicious ice cream recipes here.