Summer is here, the Fourth of July is almost upon us, and nothing says summer and the Fourth like ice cream! Even better is homemade ice cream! I fondly remember summers past of family gatherings, picnics, barbecues, and the much-anticipated meal-finale of homemade ice cream.
We had an electric ice cream maker, the kind that has the bucket-like container cradling a metal container inside, with a motor on top that made a distinct, loud, whirring noise. The ice cream was placed in the metal container, the metal container was placed inside the bucket, the bucket was filled with ice and salt, the motor whirred on top and in an hour or so ... ice cream! It was magic!
The only complaint I had with homemade ice cream was the texture. It always seemed to be too soft and grainy. I always believed it was just because it was homemade, and that the commercially produced products had some secret ingredient or massive machine-produced process that made store-bought ice cream seem so much, well ... better.
However, now I know this is not the case. I have learned how to make the most incredible, creamy, better-than-store-bought ice cream; with no artificial or weird ingredients! And it is a relatively simple process! Here's how:
The secret to creamy ice cream is a process of the way the ice cream mixture is made and how it is frozen. First, the mixture should be heated at some point during the making. This helps to concentrate the proteins in the mixture, which reduces the size of ice crystal formation. The grainy texture of many homemade ice creams is due to trapped water freezing into larger ice crystals.
After heating, the ice cream mixture should be cooled to at least room temperature. This prevents trapping excess water in the mix, which can also contribute to larger ice crystal formation and that grainy texture.
The second secret is how the ice cream is frozen. First, before making your ice cream, place the metal inner bowl and the dasher in the freezer.
This way, any heat from the bowl and dasher is not transferred to the ice cream, which could contribute to ice crystal formation.
So, without further delay, I will share my recipe for fabulous, creamy homemade ice cream! The basic ice cream recipe is from an old Farm Journal Cookbook, and the standard flavor is vanilla. I am including two flavor variations I recently made that turned out to be absolutely fabulous: Brown Bread (an old-fashioned favorite) and Mint Chocolate Chip (Kate's favorite).
Basic Ice Cream
2 quarts heavy whipping cream, divided
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
2 cups milk
2 to 3 teaspoons all-natural vanilla (to taste) – reduce or omit when making other flavors
Mix eggs, sweetened condensed milk, vanilla, and milk in a large bowl. Set aside.
Combine sugar and 2 cups cream in a large double boiler over medium heat. Stir constantly. Heat through, for about 5 minutes, or until the mixture is 176 F; when the mixture just coats the back of a spoon, it is done. Slowly add the rest of the cream to the hot mixture. Once incorporated, add this mixture to the egg and milk mixture, stirring constantly. Cool mixture to room temperature or below. (If you wish to make a different flavor, this is the point at which to add other flavorings or additions.)
Slowly pour mixture into cold ice-cream mixer bowl. Place dasher in and secure lid. Place inside ice cream mixer bucket. Fill the chamber space between mixer bowl and mixer bucket with ice. Pour ice-cream making salt (rock salt) on top of the ice. Place motor on top of machine and start. Monitor ice and salt and add more as needed, keeping ice (not ice water) in container at all times. Continue to churn ice cream until frozen. The faster the mixture freezes, the creamier it will be. Once the ice cream is frozen as much as the mixer will allow (mine stopped when it couldn’t mix anymore due to the frozen ice cream becoming too hard for it to turn the dasher, and it only took about 15 to 20 minutes), remove the lid, remove the dasher, replace the lid, and place the metal container in the freezer as soon as possible to continue freezing (unless you are going to eat it right away!).
To make Brown Bread flavor:
1/3 cup bread crumbs (whole wheat, or some other “brown bread”)
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 to 2 tablespoons Bourbon, to taste (optional)
For the bread crumbs, set two pieces of whole wheat bread out on the counter for a day to dry, or place in a warm oven to dry them out faster. Process in food processor until no large pieces remain.
In a saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat until it is browned. Add bread crumbs and brown sugar. Cook just a few minutes until bread is lightly browned, the sugar is melted, and the mixture thickens just a bit.
This only takes a few minutes. If you burn it, never fear. It still tastes great. (I know from experience!)
Add to ice cream mixture, and then stir in Bourbon, if desired. Pour into ice cream mixing bowl and churn as previously instructed. Enjoy!
To make Mint Chocolate Chip flavor:
2 or 3 squares semi-sweet baking or organic chocolate (about 3 ounces), chopped fine
2 to 3 teaspoons all-natural mint extract – NOT artificial mint flavoring! (to taste)
Add the above ingredients to ice cream mixture, stir to incorporate well. Pour into ice cream mixer bowl and churn as previously instructed.
Try adding any of your favorite flavors and let me know which ones are your favorites! Happy summer!