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A FRESH Point of View: Homemade Ice Cream Primer

What kid – or what grown-up, honestly – doesn’t love homemade ice cream? To me, it speaks to so many moments and memories about summer. Church socials, pool parties and hot, lazy afternoons. Moms and grandmas pulling out that old-fashioned ice cream maker out of the back of the kitchen cabinet. The great anticipation of finally tasting that first ice-cold spoonful.

Today’s home ice cream machines make it so much easier than it was when those of us of a certain age were kids: You no longer have to crank the machine for what seems like hours, unless you just want to go all old-school. Seriously, the directions on most modern ice cream makers are so easy to follow, they’re practically fool-proof. Especially if you keep a few key points in mind:

  • Freeze the ice cream “base” for at least a few hours, and preferably overnight, before putting it in your ice cream freezer. This not only helps your ice cream maker work faster and more efficiently, but it allows the ice cream flavor to meld property.
  • Unless you’re an old pro, follow recipes precisely, at least the first time. It’s fun to experiment with liqueurs and sweeteners like honey, or to substitute cream for milk or vice versa, but changing up these ingredients can have a big effect on the consistency of your ice cream.
  • Using fruit? Make sure it’s ripe; underripened berries or peaches, for instance, won’t give you the sweet, fruity taste you’re after. Slightly overripe fruit, however, is fine, especially if you intend to mash it before adding to the mixture.
  • Toasted nuts provide a deeper, richer flavor and a crunchier texture. You can toast them in a 350 degree oven or in a skillet, over low heat. It takes just a few minutes; watch closely and stir occasionally to prevent scorching. Allow toasted nuts to cool completely before adding to ice cream mixture.
  • Consider freezing all add-ins, like chocolate chips, nuts or Oreos. Again, it helps the freezer work more efficiently to add only cold ingredients. Add chunky ingredients only in the last minute or so of churning. Your goal is just to get the add-ins suspended evenly throughout the ice cream.
  • Homemade ice cream is often denser than commercial brands, because commercial makers whip more air into the mix. That means homemade ice creams often freeze harder. If you like it softer, remove it from the freezer 10 minutes before serving to give it time to reach the right texture.
  • If you have leftovers – seriously, I hear this happens – press plastic wrap tightly against the ice cream surface before closing container and returning it to the freezer. This will prevent a layer of ice crystals from forming on the top. Still, homemade ice cream has a limited shelf life. Try to eat it all within five or six days.
  • A terrific shortcut for fancy flavors: Try eCreamery’s gourmet ice cream flavorings. These add-ins can be used with any home ice cream maker. And they will absolutely wow your guests, with flavors that that include buttered caramel and tiramisu cappuccino. Look for them on a stand-alone rack at the edge of the ice cream aisle at FRESH.