There are some secrets to great ice cream. It doesn’t have to be complicated or difficult, but having the right ingredients, technique and equipment can go a long way toward success. Here are 5 tips for creamy ice cream every time and a recipe for my family’s favorite strawberry ice cream.
1. Ingredients: Fresh is great, but not a must. I used frozen strawberries for this ice cream and it was AMAZING! In fact, they often pick and freeze the very best fruit. You want to get the IQF (individually quick frozen) fruit, which means they are frozen separately, then bagged together, so they aren’t stuck in a massive clump and they have no syrups or other additives.
I like to use full cream, full fat sour cream and whole milk or half and half when I am making ice creams, but there are many recipes for ice milks and lower calorie frozen treats that are excellent, so go with what fits your diet and taste. However, don’t try to substitute those ingredients in a recipe calling for heavy cream and expect it to come out as luscious.
The ice cream maker you use will make the experience either quick and easy or messy and laborious (but that’s not always a bad thing). I’ve picked my top 3 machines in order of ease and price (the two go hand in hand).
Cuisinart Compressor Ice Cream and Gelato Maker – There are machines with compressors in them, which means you make your ice cream base, turn on the machine and it starts freezing almost instantly. My mother-in-law found a Simac il Gelataio ice cream machine at a garage sale for $10. It works perfectly and churns the best ice cream I’ve ever made outside a professional kitchen. It lives under her counter in Florida and I’m fairly certain it’s only used when I go to visit. I’ve never begged her for it, because it weighs a ton and I’ve had a perfectly good ice cream machine at home. Mine didn’t have a compressor, so I had to store the freezing bowls in my freezer, but that’s hardly a sacrifice. It was plenty good enough, until this past weekend when I scored my very own Simac at a garage sale. Mine was twice as much, but at $25 I’m not complaining, since they sell used on eBay for $150. I’m not sure Simac makes a home machine anymore, but there are plenty of other models that have compressors built in and if you’re a frequent ice cream maker, then I HIGHLY recommend splurging or putting it on your birthday wish list or keeping your eyes peeled at garage sales.
Cuisinart 2-Quart Ice Cream Maker with removable freezing bowls is a fantastic machine for those who just make ice cream once in a while and have some room in their freezer. It makes great ice cream, but if you don’t park that bowl in your freezer you’ll need to plan about 24 hours ahead to make sure it is good and frozen. I’ve tried to rush the process and end up super disappointed with a sloshy mess of ice cream. It is also worth investing in a second bowl if you want to make lots of ice cream and don’t want to wait for the first bowl to refreeze. This machine runs about $70, extra bowl not included.
Wood Bucket Electric Ice Cream Maker with Salt and Ice – never underestimate the relevance of tradition. When I worked at Ben & Jerry’s while I was attending the University of Vermont, all the ice cream in the store was made in a bucket just like this sitting in the window. Not any more, but if it was good enough to launch that ice cream empire, then it’s good enough for us. And it is only $33.
I’ve tested other people’s recipes over the years and have come up with some of my own. I wouldn’t put them on the site if I didn’t live by them, but these are just a few and I always recommend experimenting and finding the ice cream that makes you happy. Here are some books that I really love and some recipes of my own:
The Perfect Scoop: Ice Creams, Sorbets, Granitas, and Sweet Accompaniments by David Lebovitz – the strawberry ice cream below is based on this book, although I changed a couple of things because I used frozen berries. I’ve liked everything I’ve made from this book.
Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Ice Cream & Dessert Book – This ice cream was my first true love. I grew up in Vermont, worked at the scoop shop during college and learned to decorate cakes as their ice cream cake decorator.
Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home – Her recipes are a bit more work and tend to require some starches to get the right consistency, but for those who love to play in the kitchen this is a really fun book.
You’ll find more tips and recipes as we go through the process of making the Strawberry Sour Cream Ice Cream.
Strawberry Sour Cream Ice Cream from The Perfect Scoop: Ice Creams, Sorbets, Granitas, and Sweet Accompaniments
1 pound (450g) strawberries, fresh or frozen (cleaned and hulled if fresh)
3/4 cup (150g) sugar
2 tablespoons vodka or kirsch
1 cup (240 g) sour cream
1 cup (250 ml) heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (how to make your own)
If you are using frozen berries, place them in a bowl and cover with the sugar and vodka. Let them sit until the sugar mostly dissolves, you’ll want to toss them a few times as they sit. By the time they thaw and the sugar dissolves the fruit will have released much of its juices.
For fresh berries, slice them before you toss them with the sugar and vodka.
David says to cook the berries and sugar, but I skipped this step because I used frozen berries. If you are using fresh strawberries it is a good idea to break them down a bit by cooking them for a few minutes. if you do, you’ll need to let it cool before proceeding.
Place the strawberries in a blender or food processor with the sour cream.
Pulse until they are combined and the strawberries are broken up, but not pureed, you want some small chunks left in the mix.
Remove from the food processor and whisk in the cream, lemon juice and vanilla. Refrigerate the ice cream mixture for an hour before freezing.
Follow your machine’s instructions for freezing the ice cream.
It will be frozen, but still soft and not at all grainy, just beyond soft serve.
4. Storing the ice cream:
I put an empty Pullman Loaf Pan in the freezer, so it would be cold when I put the ice cream in it. Freeze until ready to serve. The pullman pan comes with a lid, so it is a great way to store the ice cream. I always place parchment or plastic directly on the ice cream so it won’t get freezer burn. As if it would last long enough to get freezer burn.
5. Serving the ice cream:
This seems like a silly tip, but how you serve the ice cream will make a big difference. If you can serve it within an hour of churning it, that is ideal. But, that isn’t always possible. If you remove the ice cream from the freezer and it is very hard, you’ll want to let it sit for up to 10 minutes or longer for super dense ice cream. This will “temper” the ice cream and put it at a nice consistency for scooping and eating. If it is too cold it won’t scoop nicely and you won’t taste the subtle flavors.
Ice Cream Scoop – I like these simple scoops, since they are so useful for making muffins, cupcakes, cookies and other tasty things that need portioning.
More recipes to try:
Roasted Strawberry Ice Cream – one of my favorite and most popular posts.
Chocolate Ice Cream – A classic
Roasted Banana Ice Cream – this post has my ice cream base that you can use for anything from simple vanilla to chunky monkey banana.
The TRICK to Smooth Sorbet from any fruit – An easy way to make sure your sorbet freezes to just the right consistency.