Making homemade ice cream on the last day of school is a long-standing tradition at our house. Every year, I lose sleep attempting to make enough to satisfy two full classrooms of kids while swearing that “I am never doing this again!” But the truth is that I love it and I love treating my kids and their friends to something fun and special to celebrate the last day of school. As our years of elementary are wrapping up after next year, I think I will miss it tremendously.
Homemade ice cream can be a complicated thing or quite simple, depending on the type of machine you use and the complexity of your recipe. In years of making a variety of different variations and flavors, I’ve come up with some tips and tricks that I find work best for me and my own ice-cream-making purposes.
It’s all about the base. (I just got Meghan Trainor stuck in your head, didn’t I?) If you have the time, a cooked custard base absolutely produces the best ice cream. HOWEVER, it needs to cool and then chill overnight to be cold enough to put into the machine. No-cook bases can be delicious and save a lot of time, but just aren’t quite as rich and creamy as the cooked versions.
Directions are not suggestions. That part about freezing the ice cream canister for 24 hours before using? Yep, that’s totally a thing. You need the canister to be cold enough to start the freezing process or it will take far, far too long to freeze your ice cream, if it freezes properly at all. Don’t ask how I know.
Splurge on ingredients. It is worth the difference. Real vanilla extract. Your favorite brand of chocolate chips. Fresh, in-season local fruit. Spend the couple of extra dollars for better ingredients and your end product will be amazing. Don’t waste the effort on a sub-par product.
Wipe the cover regularly. Unless you like your ice cream to taste like salt, wipe the top of the canister often to get the salt water residue off the top. Otherwise, you risk dripping it inside your ice cream and that may not quite be the effect you’re looking for.
Have patience. The instructions for my machine claim that it should take 30-45 minutes to freeze ice cream to the right consistency. I have never once had this actually happen. I’m not sure if it’s me and the way I add ice and salt or if it’s just wishful thinking on the part of the people who wrote the instructions. Either way, my finished product never comes out “grainy” so the slow freeze seems to be a good thing.
Be careful with your add-ins. Again, instructions are key here. If you’re adding in fruit, chocolate chips, or other items to make a favorite flavor, check the recipe to find out at what point you should add them. Putting them in too soon could cause issues with freezing and consistency or adding them too late may cause uneven distribution.
Make room in the freezer ahead of time. You want your ice cream to go directly into the freezer as quickly as you can, without much melting, to finish up the curing process. If you have to leave your ice cream sitting in the machine or out on the counter while you clean out or rearrange the freezer, it could over-freeze in the canister or melt to quickly before you make the move.
Homemade ice cream is one of my favorite parts of summer and really can be a fun treat to make. If you have your own tips, please share them with us! Happy churning!