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How can I Make Homemade Ice Cream?

Mary McMahon
Updated Feb 04, 2024
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There are several ways to make homemade ice cream, depending on available equipment and the texture and flavor you want for your ice cream. Basically, there are two styles of ice cream: French or custard-style, and Philadelphia or New York-style. French-style ice cream is made with a custard base which needs to be cooked before the ice cream making can begin, and it yields a very rich, creamy end-product. New York-style ice cream is made with fewer ingredients, and it has a lighter, more delicate flavor; it is also faster to make, since no cooking is required.

When ice cream is made, the ice cream base is churned in a sealed container while being slowly frozen from the outside. The churning incorporates air into the base while mixing it, which slowly freezes the base through to create the familiar dense texture of ice cream. Errors in this process can create ice cream which is grainy, ice cream with chunks of ice, or ice cream which is too soft, melting easily. Ice cream is typically made with ice and rock salt so that the freezing temperature of the ice is lowered, making the ice cream colder.

Making homemade ice cream will require some equipment for the freezing process. Many people like to use an ice cream maker, a machine which consists of a container with enclosed churning paddles which can be inserted into a larger container packed with ice and rock salt. The ice cream base is poured into the smaller container, which is then sealed and inserted into the larger container, and then the ice cream maker is churned, by hand or with a machine. This method tends to be the most reliable, although people should be aware that hand-churning can get onerous as the ice cream starts to thicken.

However, you don't need an ice cream maker for homemade ice cream. You can improvise one, as long as you have a watertight container and a larger container to put it in. Two coffee cans of varying sizes, for example, can be ideal. In this case, the ice cream base is put into the small container and sealed before it is packed into the larger container with ice and rock salt, and then the container can be rolled around on the floor until the ice cream hardens. Some companies sell ice cream balls, which work on the same principle.

Numerous recipes for custard-style homemade ice cream can be found on the Internet. In addition to custard ice cream bases, creme Anglaise also works very well for homemade ice cream. The flavor can be tweaked with the addition of spices and flavorings, and cooks can also add inclusions such as chocolate chips or fruit to their ice cream. For Philadelphia-style ice cream, equal parts of cream, milk, and sugar should be used as an ice cream base.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGeek researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By Cageybird — On Mar 01, 2014

To me, a soft serve machine makes better homemade ice cream than the old-fashioned churning kind. I think it whips more air into the mix and the ice crystals are smaller. It's still not as smooth and creamy as the soft serve at an ice cream parlor, but the flavor is good. My kids like to help out with the custard making process, and they will pick out the toppings they want at the grocery store. We have a good time making homemade sundaes after dinner.

By Phaedrus — On Mar 01, 2014

I was surprised the first time I had homemade ice cream that it wasn't the same as commercial ice cream. Commercial ice cream uses stabilizers and high tech refrigeration to create a smooth product with tiny ice crystals. There's also a lot of air whipped into the mix. Homemade ice cream, on the other hand, can be very thick and icy. I like both kinds, for different reasons. I like the texture of commercial ice cream, but I think homemade ice cream tastes more authentic and fresher.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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