Homemade ice cream... do we have the technology?
June 19, 2015 11:43 AM   Subscribe

I would really love to know if it is possible to make gelato/ice cream at home as good or better than the best brands you would buy in the store or high end ice cream parlors (in NYC, some of my idols include Ample Hills Creamery, Fresco Gelateria, Chinatown Ice Cream Factory). Are there any good books or resources out there? Is special equipment needed? Does anyone have any great methods and tools they would like to share?
posted by incolorinred to Food & Drink (24 answers total) 38 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at Home. I've made her sweet corn ice cream and her brown butter ice cream, and both were AMAZING. You do need an ice cream maker, but they're not terribly expensive.
posted by Weeping_angel at 11:46 AM on June 19, 2015 [6 favorites]

Do you have a blender?
posted by corb at 11:51 AM on June 19, 2015

Seconding Jeni's*. There's also a sequel cookbook which has dessert recipes + more ice cream recipes.

If you have a Kitchenaid stand mixer at home, there is a not-too-expensive attachment you can make.

(*Note that her ice creams are very thick, so it might be a little different than what you're used to. If they ever get production moving again-- they've been having some listeria problems, unfortunately-- you can pick up a pint from Whole Foods and see if you like it.)
posted by damayanti at 11:51 AM on June 19, 2015

In my experience it's just up to the quality of ingredients (and I suppose how well you mix them if something needs to be melted in). A combo of "The Best Ice Cream Maker Cookbook Ever" and a $60 ice cream maker has yielded me some amazing results.
posted by deathmaven at 11:53 AM on June 19, 2015

I use the Ben and Jerry's base which is one egg blended whilst you slowly add 90g sugar. Then throw in 300ml double cream, 150ml milk and half a tablespoon of vanilla paste, whisk and then put in an ice cream maker for however long you need.

It's not as good as the stuff you get from the ice cream places, but it's extremely nice.
posted by mr_silver at 11:58 AM on June 19, 2015

Best answer: OMG homemade ice cream is _so much better_ than any available out in the retail world. For starters, you don't add any gums (guar gum, locust bean gum, etc.). Secondly, you can use your own preferred combination of organic cream, half-and-half, etc. Thirdly, you can add a little more vanilla or almond extract than a retailer would. Fourthly, if you like strawberry ice cream, you can put in as much strawberries as you wish. Fifthly, if you are an adult, you can cut the sugar content waaaay down (especially if you use strawberries) and make it just... delicious. Sixthly, you can invite friends over and eat alllll the ice cream while it's really fresh.

If you make really good (gumless) ice cream, then save it in the freezer for later, it can get pretty hard. Just let it sit on the counter for a few minutes, then squish it around in your serving mug with a spoon to get it reasonably soft again.

Oh, I want some right now. I tried getting an ice cream cone at a shop yesterday and it was so sweet I couldn't even finish it.

I've never tried this "Jeni's artisanal" recipes. I'm sure they're fine. I see the first one in Amazon preview uses cornstarch, which would function much like a gum.

I use the vanilla ice cream recipe that came with my ice cream maker 20 years ago (2 parts scalded whole milk, 2 parts cream, 1-2 parts half and half, 3/5 the sugar called for, pinch salt), then add about 3 bags of strawberries (frozen bags, then thaw the berries to "slushy" and cut the strawberries into tiny pieces; they're soft enough that the ice cream gets flavored well and you don't end up with frozen strawberry rocks later.) I also add a lot of really good vanilla.

The texture is a little different from commercial ice cream, but it's a transcendant experience. If you want the actual recipe, let me know.
posted by amtho at 11:59 AM on June 19, 2015 [5 favorites]

Best answer: If you want to make a lot of ice cream, you'll want a standalone appliance with a compressor -- the Cuisinart ICE-100 is quite popular and I've had excellent ice cream made with it. At home we use the Kitchenaid attachment, the key to which is a very cold freezer to chill the bowl in (and chilling it for a minimum of 24 hours -- we usually just keep it in the freezer when not in use). I find the ice cream we're able to make as good or better than what we're able to get at high-end ice cream shops in the Bay area, with the notable exception of fruit/berry ice creams (the high water content of these ice creams makes them more difficult to make at home).

David Lebovitz's book The Perfect Scoop is an excellent book of custard-based recipes (plus others -- his fudge ripple is a mainstay in our sweet ice creams). The key thing to remember with custard ice creams is that you do not actually need to make a "true" custard, and in fact many recipes you find in books and online do not contain enough egg yolks to do so. Rather than using a thickness test, you should use a digital thermometer (we use a Thermapen) and you should bring the mixture to about 180°F, no higher. This ensures that the yolk proteins are denatured enough to coagulate (even if there aren't enough of them to bind the custard) and that the eggs are fully pasteurized. Also take the time to temper the yolks -- I typically try to mix in at least 1/3 of the milk very slowly. Taking time with both of these steps will yield a much creamier, smoother product. You will likely find that non-custard (Philadelphia-style) ice creams made at home have a less satisfying texture, but this is also a lot of personal preference.

I'd also recommend letting the unchurned custard chill at least overnight, rather than the four hours many instructions recommend. You'll ensure that it will churn well, and with certain ice creams (particularly those containing bitter ingredients like dark chocolate and coffee) I've found that the extra time to "steep" will improve the flavor.
posted by j.edwards at 12:00 PM on June 19, 2015 [3 favorites]

The Pioneer Woman has a bunch of great ice cream and sorbet recipes (involving an ice cream maker) including this cinnamon version which is awesomesauce.
posted by BlahLaLa at 12:01 PM on June 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

My one piece of advice is to perfect a custard icecream base


Once you have a good base, the world of flavoring is your oyster.

Any decent ice cream maker will work if you get the base right. I have the cuisinart one and it works fine.
posted by bitdamaged at 12:02 PM on June 19, 2015

I came to recommend The Perfect Scoop, and to say that an electrically-cooling ice cream maker, while more expensive, is a lot more consistent and less of a pain than the kind where you either have to know two days in advance to freeze your container or take up giant swaths of freezer space by keeping them in there all the time.
posted by Lyn Never at 12:06 PM on June 19, 2015

Another vote here for Jeni's. Her ice creams are superior in both flavor and texture. really truly awesome if you follow the recipes. We are cooking through the books and make ice cream about once a week.
posted by sarahnicolesays at 12:07 PM on June 19, 2015

Best answer: Ample Hills actually has a cookbook. You can get it at their shop or online. If you use high quality ingredients and follow their recipes exactly, I've found you can make ice cream that's just as good as the stuff from the shop. I use an $80 electrical ice cream maker - the kind with the insert you pop in the freezer, not the rock salt kind, and I just keep the insert in the freezer all the time.
posted by Itaxpica at 12:14 PM on June 19, 2015

2nding the notion that if you already have a kitchenaid mixer, we find that the ice cream maker attachment for it works perfectly well. We use ours quite a bit, even though it takes up a bit of freezer space. You can't really do batches back to back, but it makes a full 2 quarts at a time, which seems pretty sufficient for us.

Also, Lucky Peach ran an insanely detailed article about ice cream, and how to build some good recipes. I haven't delved into it much, as it looks a little intense, but if you're looking to make something particular, that might be a good resource…we just use Alton Brown's recipe, and it turns out fantastic. He has a pretty good framework for making alternate flavors too.
posted by furnace.heart at 12:14 PM on June 19, 2015

Two words - goat milk.
posted by atomicstone at 12:18 PM on June 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I am surprised that Van Leeuwen Artisan hasn't made your list of best ice creams. They just released a book yesterday, and while I haven't made anything from it yet, it looks amazing. It is almost entirely ice cream recipes, and includes sorbet and vegan ice creams also.
posted by Lycaste at 12:21 PM on June 19, 2015

It's possible to make damn good ice cream at home.

I personally am on The Perfect Scoop side of the debate -- most people prefer EITHER that book OR Jeni's, but not both. Depends on your preference in ice cream.

The raspberry chocolate recipe from Perfect Scoop is a great starting place -- easy and very very nice. I do suggest running through a food mill or sieve to remove the seeds.

If at all possible, make the base the night before, and chill in the fridge overnight. Same for the freezer bowl -- freeze for as long as possible. And then stick the finished product in the freezer for a few hours before digging in. (As Alton Brown is fond of saying, your patience will be rewarded.)

I've heard you can sometimes pick up good deals on the self-chilling machines with compressors on either eBay or Craigslist. Personally, I eat little enough ice cream that a cheapo churn with a freezer bowl is more than adequate for my needs.

One downside is that homemade ice cream is not really that much cheaper than storebought (at least for me). Cream and half-n-half and eggs and vanilla beans all add up. (Well, of course they do. But damn good vanilla ice cream can be made with a vanilla bean per batch.)
posted by pie ninja at 12:41 PM on June 19, 2015

Came here to recommend Jeni's as well. Her at-home recipes are different from what you'd normally see in a traditional ice cream cookbook (e.g., use of small amounts of cream cheese and corn syrup), but they really do create a better ice cream (IMHO), and are closer to the texture you find in their scoop shops/pints than traditional recipes. Also, one of the best tips I learned from making her ice cream (can't remember if this is in her book or if it was at a cooking class she taught) was to put the ice cream base in a gallon freezer bag, remove all the air, and put in an ice bath in the fridge to cool it down. Then when its really cold and you're ready to put it in the ice cream maker, just snip off a corner of the bag and squeeze it into the machine. Super simple and very little mess.
posted by noneuclidean at 1:20 PM on June 19, 2015 [2 favorites]

I'd also recommend Sweet Cream and Sugar Cones from the folks at Bi-Rite. Their vanilla bean ice cream recipe is the best I've tried. Just perfect. I'll have to look into Jeni's book as well after all the praise it's gotten here.

I got a small Cuisinart ice cream maker as a wedding gift last year and I will never, ever buy ice cream from the grocery store again.
posted by darkchocolatepyramid at 1:49 PM on June 19, 2015

I'm quite pleased by all of the recipes I've tried in the Ben & Jerry's recipe book. Also, Costco sells heavy cream in half-gallon containers, which is very helpful if you're whipping up several flavors.
posted by gregor-e at 4:35 PM on June 19, 2015

For an ice cream machine, I prefer the kind that is automated, but that still uses ice and salt - that way you don't lose any freezer space, and you can crank it up any time you want. The ice you can buy by the bag and the salt you can also use on your driveway in the winter. Plus - I think I paid $25 for mine...
posted by ersatzjef at 7:04 PM on June 19, 2015

The best ice cream I ever made was a batch in which I accidentally doubled the cream.
posted by SLC Mom at 7:19 PM on June 19, 2015

Max Falkowitz on Serious Eats is brilliant on ice cream -- ice cream recipes, ice cream theory.
posted by neroli at 8:56 PM on June 19, 2015

Response by poster: Wow, everyone here hit this question out of the park! Thanks so much. I am going to archive this page and use it as my manual going forward.

Itaxpica, thank you for pointing out Ample Hills recipe book. I will defnitely have to pick that up. Their ice creams really are works of art.

Lycaste, now that you mention it, I have been to Van Leeuwen Artisan once several years ago. I think at the time I was too stuffed to the rafters with dinner to order ice cream and had coffee instead, but I remember my companions were raving about the flavors they tried. I am going to have to go back for an ice cream run very soon!

Thanks again all, I'll have to post some of my results once I get going!
posted by incolorinred at 8:14 AM on June 20, 2015

I just made some ice cream last night. I've been following the Ben & Jerry's book linked above. In the book they talk about how much they experimented with new recipes, and how even if it was a kind of weird flavor, they rarely made anything inedible. Last night I modified their basic coconut ice cream by adding in some coconut flakes and chocolate shavings. Sort of a mounds bar-esque thing. Turned out pretty good, could maybe use more bits of chocolate. Last week I made their strawberry ice cream, it was a big hit with the wife.
posted by borkencode at 9:55 AM on June 20, 2015

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