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Why Won't My Homemade Ice Cream Freeze?
August 10, 2008 5:52 PM   Subscribe

Why is my homemade ice cream not freezing in the ice cream maker?

So last week I broke out our Cuisinart Ice20 ice cream maker for the first time in years and tried to make this recipe for Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream. Both times, after 40 minutes, my ice cream came out no more frozen than it started as (still a thin liquid after the suggested time in the ice cream maker).

The first time I suspected I didn't freeze the freezer bowl long enough, so this time I had it in the freezer for 2 full days before I re-attempted the recipe, but the same result occurred. The only possible reason I can think of is that this recipe claims to make 2 quarts, while this ice cream maker suggests making no more than 1 1/2 quarts at a time. But would slightly overfilling cause my ice cream not to freeze at all? Any ideas what might be going on that I'm not thinking of?
posted by The Gooch to Food & Drink (22 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
I had some trouble freezing ice cream before we got a new fridge. The old freezer couldn't make it down to 0 degrees Farenheit. You might get a freezer thermometer and check the temperature.
posted by lore at 5:57 PM on August 10, 2008


Are you chilling the mixture before putting it in the ice cream maker?
posted by stefnet at 6:18 PM on August 10, 2008


Stefnet, no I didn't chill the mixture beforehand (the recipe didn't call for it which may have been an oversight)
posted by The Gooch at 6:33 PM on August 10, 2008


Yeah, I notice the recipe says nothing about chilling the mixture before freezing, which is very important.
posted by oneirodynia at 6:34 PM on August 10, 2008


ditto stefnet. the base must be thoroughly chilled before you put it into the machine. and yes, the churning process puts air into the mixture (so it becomes ice cream instead of rock-hard custard) so you should only put 1 to 1 1/2 qts of base into a 2-qt machine to prevent overspill.
posted by killy willy at 6:34 PM on August 10, 2008


I had problems with my own ice cream maker wimping out if my churn wasn't cold enough -- I have the kind where you have the container that you freeze for 24 hours, and then you wait until you're just about to make the ice cream before you take it out of the freezer. I finally turned the fridge and freezer temp way down and that finally got the churn cold enough.

Another thing to note -- homemade ice cream isn't the same consistency you'd expect right when you take it out of your ice cream churn. It's more like Dairy-Queen soft-serve consistency, and only gets to harder, "pint of Ben and Jerry's" consistency after you let it sit in the freezer another hour or so. I
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:06 PM on August 10, 2008


All fresh ice cream is somewhat soft, but should not be liquid. It will never be hard like it is in store. Let it churn until it is the consistency of soft ice cream, and then let it harden a bit in the freezer to get to the consistency you want. It's possible you actually let it churn too long and it started melting again.

Another method I used is to just put the ingrediants in the bowl, put in the freezer, and then take it out of the freezer and churn it myself, moving a butter knife around the edges to get all the frozen parts out, then a fork to mash it up. The ice cream takes less time to freeze and is generally harder. I take the bowl out every five minutes or so and it's generally done in 15 - 20 minutes. I like it better this way.

Also, for your recipe I suggest you mix two eggs with sugar first, then mix with 1 cup cream and 1 cup milk. The eggs will also help with your consistency issues. Ice cream without eggs is a "Philadelphia-style" ice cream that is also not as hard generally.
posted by xammerboy at 8:10 PM on August 10, 2008


If you have a good freezer and your ingredients are nicely chilled, you can get hard ice cream out of an ice cream maker. Too hard. I chilled the cream for a while in the freezer. It was overkill in our case, but it might solve your problem. Oh, yeah, another idea is to stick it in the fridge while it's running. I did this because it was a very hot summer day and the kitchen was about hot enough to melt your face.
posted by Listener at 8:20 PM on August 10, 2008


Chilling the mixture? You don't have to do that for your recipe. You would only need to do that if you made the egg-milk-sugar mixture into a custard over the stove first. This is the way the pros make their ice-cream, but personally I haven't found it gets better results. Anyway, I don't think pre-chilling the milk and cream is the problem. At least, I've never done it.
posted by xammerboy at 9:18 PM on August 10, 2008


We have the same model of ice cream maker, and had to lower the temperature of our freezer in order to get it to work. One giveaway sign is if the freezer bowl sloshes around after you take it out of the freezer to use...that means it's too warm. It should be frozen solid, no sloshy noises at all.

Another thing is to check it while it's mixing. 40 minutes sounds a little long, and we've had the ice cream freeze, then melt because we left it mixing too long.
posted by Gorgik at 9:43 PM on August 10, 2008


Making sure the mixture is chilled before freezing is good advice. If you're still having trouble, I recommend substituting some or all of the heavy cream with milk or half and half.
posted by i_am_a_fiesta at 10:48 PM on August 10, 2008


Yeah, as others have said, three things to do before trying tweaking the recipe or anything drastic like that:

1. Chill bowl properly
2. Chill mixture in fridge before churning (preferably overnight)
3. Reduce batch size

In my experience, number 3 is usually the culprit. Should be frozen inside 15 - 20 minutes if all variables are fine.
posted by bifter at 2:09 AM on August 11, 2008


We've always had to chill the mix overnight to get it to work at all, no matter which recipe we use.
posted by litlnemo at 4:16 AM on August 11, 2008


Overfilling alone would not make your mixture stay liquid. It will make the soft-frozen ice cream fluff up over the edge of cannister and ooze down the sides and all over the counter and make a frightful sticky mess, but the stuff left inside the cannister should be the soft-serve texture of newly-churned ice cream. Learned that one the hard way.

I've done fine with counter-cooling an egg-based recipe, but chilling definitely improves set time. I think your cannisters must not be freezing hard enough or are thawing too fast out of the freezer. Mine are so cold I have to handle them with oven mitts or a towel, and are still too cold to handle after 30 minutes churning.

Are your canisters still sloshing after being in the freezer for two days? You say you haven't used your maker in years, I wonder if the magic fluid in there has stopped behaving in the traditional manner and isn't freezing or isn't staying frozen like it should. You might test this by freezing a cannister until it is no longer sloshy (and figure out how long it takes to reach that point) and then leaving it out on the counter until it becomes sloshy again, which should take at least an hour.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:29 AM on August 11, 2008


Thanks for all the advice thus far.

The second time I made the recipe the liquid inside the freezer bowl was definitely frozen solid (no sloshing around) although it was sloshing a bit less than an hour out of the freezer.

Also, and here is the more embarassing part of my question: To those who also own this ice cream maker, is there a "top" that is supposed to go on it. There is a small opening at the top of the machine (the clear plastic cover) for pouring in ingredients and there does not appear to be a cover for it. Did I lose a piece in the years between uses that is causing this not freezing problem or it is normal to have an opening at the top of the machine?
posted by The Gooch at 9:04 AM on August 11, 2008


That's normal. The hole is so you can pour in hard ingrediants like candy and or chocolate chips during the last five or ten minutes of churning.
posted by xammerboy at 9:28 AM on August 11, 2008


My machine has an uncovered opening at the top, and can't imagine why that would be your problem.

Basically you have a pretty simple physics problem: you want the ice cream to reach a certain temperature in order to 'set'. There is no chemical reaction that occurs in helping to set ice cream when you freeze it that is comparable to the thickening that occurs when you cook the custard base for the mix beforehand. All you're doing is making the mix cold, and breaking up ice crystals by churning in an ice cream maker.

Anyway, the freezing disc or bowl will be at a certain (hopefully low) temperature, and the ice cream mix will be a bit warmer. While churning, the temperature of the bowl and the wet mix will equalise because of conduction (ie the bowl / disc will get warmer by contact, and the wet mix cooler), until they reach approximately the same temperature (aided somewhat by the churning action, although that is mainly to break up ice crystals). You can approximately calculate the end temperature as long as you know the respective volumes of each of the two items (ie if the disc is a pint by volume at -5 degrees, and the wet mix is a pint by volume at +2 degrees, you can expect an approximate final mix temperature of -1 degree).

While other factors will come into play (eg ambient temperature), the volume of the disc / bowl will always be constant, meaning that the only variables you have to play with are the temperatures of the disc / wet mix, and the volume of the wet mix that you add. Assuming that your freezer will keep store-bought ice cream at an appropriate texture, you can rule that out as a factor in your troubleshooting. You can only improve the situation by chilling your wet mix (you could even do this in the freezer, to get it more than fridge cold, but not actively frozen - this will definitely get you closer). If you still can't get the right result, then the only variable you have to tweak is the volume of wet mix that you add. Try chilling your mix and halving the batch size. If that doesn't fix your problem, I would be amazed.

Unfortunately the down side of frozen disk / bowl machines is small batches. If you want to make larger batches, or use it more frequently than once every day then you probably have to suck it up and buy a more expensive mains powered machine.
posted by bifter at 9:31 AM on August 11, 2008


Also so you can put in a spoon and taste while it's churning. :-)
posted by xammerboy at 9:45 AM on August 11, 2008


The second time I made the recipe the liquid inside the freezer bowl was definitely frozen solid (no sloshing around) although it was sloshing a bit less than an hour out of the freezer.

Hmm. Ideally, you should have ice cream in 20 minutes, and by that point the sloshing in the bowl wouldn't matter and you wouldn't have noticed it -- so if you've been leaving the freezer bowl out on the counter for a while before making the ice cream, that's definitely influencing things. Try leaving it in the freezer until the very last minute -- get the bowl of ice-cream-to-be out of the freezer, plug in the top and attach the churn so it's ready to go, and THEN get the freezer bowl out, plunk on the top, turn it on and pour the ice-cream-to-be mixture into it through that hole in the top.

Also, and here is the more embarassing part of my question: To those who also own this ice cream maker, is there a "top" that is supposed to go on it. There is a small opening at the top of the machine (the clear plastic cover) for pouring in ingredients and there does not appear to be a cover for it. Did I lose a piece in the years between uses that is causing this not freezing problem or it is normal to have an opening at the top of the machine?

That opening is normal, because that is how you pour the ice-cream-to-be into the machine in the first place. It's also there for when you want to add chocolate chips or what-not, because you don't add those kinds of things until the last minute.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:40 PM on August 11, 2008


Whoops -- that last post should have read "take the ice-cream-to-be out of the REFRIGERATOR."

Sorry.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:44 PM on August 11, 2008


In addition to keeping the ice cream blend and any additions chilled before churning, I discovered I have to turn my freezer down to about its lowest setting for it to freeze my ice-cream maker canister enough to really properly make ice cream. As noted above, don't take anything out until you absolutely have to, then work quickly getting the churn going. I even chill the beater.
posted by nanojath at 2:27 PM on August 11, 2008


TG, I'm chiming in this late because no one else has suggested this - it's a crappy ice cream maker. I used to have the same model, and it did the same thing to me. Did the paddle also stick to the inside of the bowl and just spin the whole thing around? That was my problem.
I've since upgraded to a much cheaper ice and rock salt churner, and it works and thickens beautifully.
posted by Gilbert at 10:00 PM on August 11, 2008


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