Easy Eats: Cold Comfort

Crank out your own sumptuous brands of homemade ice cream, guaranteed to stir up the whole troop’s taste buds.

Who makes the best ice cream? Haagen-Dazs? Ben & Jerry’s? Cold Stone Creamery? Naw. It’s you.

I’m serious. While those companies (and many others) do a fine job producing a cool, creamy, commercial product, they still can’t compare to the unbelievably delicious results you achieve when you spend the time and effort to make it from scratch. In addition, it’s fun and easy for every age group, from Cub Scout to Scoutmaster. And afterward, everyone gets to strut around feeling proud of themselves, which never happens just popping open a pint of Chubby Hubby.

Although the invention of ice cream dates back to ancient China, we should be grateful to an American woman, Nancy Johnson, who invented the first small, hand-cranked ice cream machine in the 1840’s. Today, there are innumerable electric ice cream makers that will do the cranking for you.

The less expensive countertop models have gel canisters that you must freeze for several hours beforehand. The ice cream mixture is then poured into the canister, and a motorized paddle stirs the mixture while it freezes, turning it into cold, velvety goodness. Or, if you’re willing to shell out more money, you can get bigger machines with built-in freezers that keep the ice cream mixture at a more consistent temperature as it’s being stirred and don’t require refreezing the canister before every batch. Sure, if you want to feel all “Little House on the Prairie,” you can buy an old-fashioned, hand-cranked machine and burn off a few calories before indulging in a double scoop.

Whichever machine you choose, making ice cream at home means you control the quality and type of ingredients that go into that bowl of heaven. Organic milk, local fruit, artisan chocolate, farmers’ market eggs, and imported vanilla — you get to choose.

You also get to choose between the two main kinds of homemade ice cream: Philadelphia-style (no eggs) and French or custard-style (with eggs). The difference between the two has to do with time and texture. Philly style is faster because it doesn’t require cooking first, which makes it a good choice for young cooks. You basically mix heavy cream and flavoring and pour it into the ice cream maker. The resulting texture is creamy and makes a good base for fun mix-ins such as chunks of cookies or candy bars.

French or custard-style relies on egg yolks to produce a silken, sumptuous texture. It also takes longer and requires your strict attention as you slowly cook a custard base of eggs and milk or cream until the mixture thickens. This is the method of choice for exotic or delicately flavored ice cream.

Before you get started, here are some tips to keep in mind:

  •  Chill the ice cream base ahead of time. For best flavor and texture, refrigerate the mixture of ingredients an hour or two, or even overnight, before adding it to the ice cream maker.
  •  Chill your add-ins; stir them in when the ice cream is semi-frozen.
  •  Fill the canister only three-fourths full. No matter what brand machine you use, you need to allow room for expansion.
  •  To scoop, freeze a little longer. When the machine is done, the ice cream will be relatively soft. If you need it firmer for scooping, transfer ice cream to an airtight container and put it in the freezer for an hour or so.

Easy Vanilla Ice Cream

An easy, no-cook classic. Enjoy as is, or add in pieces of your favorite cookies or candies during the last five minutes of mixing.

  • 1 cup whole milk, well chilled
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 2 cups heavy cream, well chilled
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

In medium bowl, combine milk and sugar and mix well until sugar is completely dissolved (this may take a minute or two). Add heavy cream and vanilla and mix well. At this point, mixture can be covered and refrigerated until ready to use.

Pour mixture into ice cream maker and freeze, according to manufacturer’s instructions. For firmer texture, remove from machine and freeze ice cream in airtight container for two hours before serving.

Suggested add-ins: When ice cream is semi-frozen (the last five minutes of mixing in the machine), add two cold, chopped candy bars, such as Snickers or Kit Kat, or ½ cup small candies such as M&M’s or Reese’s Pieces.

Makes 1 quart.

Peach Frozen Yogurt

(Adapted from Sunset magazine)

For all the low-fat goodness of fresh peaches, try this treat. Thawed frozen peaches can be substituted for fresh.

  • 1 ½ cups peeled, chopped ripe peaches
  • 2⁄3 cup sugar
  • 3 ½ cartons whole-milk or low-fat peach yogurt (6 ounces each, or about 2 ½ cups total)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice, optional

In a bowl, use a fork to finely crush peaches with sugar. Add yogurt, vanilla, and lemon juice, if using; mix well.

Cover and refrigerate 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes.

Pour yogurt mixture into an ice cream maker (1-quart or larger capacity). Freeze according to manufacturer’s directions.

Serve softly frozen, or freeze in airtight container for a firmer consistency for scooping.

Makes 1 quart.

No-Cook Chocolate Ice Cream

(Adapted from Southern Living magazine)

Easy, chocolatey goodness.

  • 1  (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 (5-ounce) can evaporated milk
  • 2 cups whole chocolate milk
  • 2⁄3 cup chocolate syrup

Pour all ingredients into large bowl and mix well until blended. Cover and chill for 30 minutes.

Pour mixture into freezer container of electric ice cream maker (1-quart or larger capacity) and freeze according to manufacturer’s instructions.

Remove container with ice cream from ice cream maker and place in freezer 15 minutes. Transfer to an airtight container; freeze until firm, about 1 to 1 ½ hours.

Makes 1 quart.

But What If I Don’t Have an Ice Cream Maker…?

You don’t need an ice cream maker for this quick strawberry ice cream from cookbook author Pam Anderson. Just five minutes in a blender, and an hour later it’s ready to eat.

Serve garnished with sliced strawberries, if desired.

Instant Strawberry Ice Cream

(Adapted from Perfect Recipes for Having People Over, by Pam Anderson; Houghton Mifflin, 2005)

  • 9 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 ½ cups heavy cream
  • 24 ounces frozen sweetened strawberries, chopped into large chunks

In a medium bowl, whisk the sugar into the heavy cream. Set aside.

Place the frozen strawberry chunks into a blender.

With the blender running, slowly add the cream mixture, stopping to stir three or four times, until the mixture is smooth but still shows bits of strawberries.

Transfer to a shallow metal pan. Cover and freeze to a scoopable texture, about 1 hour.

Candy Sagon is a former food writer at The Washington Post.

1 Comment

  1. We use the icecream shaker balls, they work great. Use extra rock salt if making in the summer sun. Try these flavors: rootbeer, raspberry jam, peach, Capri Sun punch.

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