With these glorious long hot days of summer comes the need for something cool and refreshing such as ice cream.
With a myriad of flavours and styles available in our supermarkets that vary immensely in price, just how easy is it to make great tasting ice cream at home?
Essentially ice cream consists of milk/cream, sugar, air and ice crystals. Commercial ice creams usually have a stabiliser such as xanthan gum (adds creaminess) whereas most homemade ice creams and many gourmet ice creams contain egg yolk.
Most of us would agree that the key to a good ice cream is creaminess not iciness.
Water is the cause of ice crystals in ice cream, this comes from the milk/cream and also from any fruit that is added.
Creaminess in ice cream is achieved by having the ice crystals as small as possible. The larger the crystals, the icier the ice cream will be.
To prevent large crystals from forming the amount of water is kept at a minimum with a good balance of fat and churning or stirring also helps to stop large crystals forming.
Egg yolks are a good source of fat and protein, both of which are ideal in ice cream. Fat makes ice cream soft and creamy and protein, once heated, traps water in its fibres which stops water from forming rough icicles so therefore helps the ice cream to be smooth and creamy. The lecithin in egg yolks also works well with the fat in the milk or cream to assist with making a creamier ice cream. Egg yolks also prevent the ice cream from melting as soon as it comes out of the freezer and also assist in prolonging the shelf life of ice cream.
Made in a traditional custard style, the mixture then also requires an ice cream machine or stirring during the freezing process to get the desired creamy texture.
How many egg yolks are usually used to make ice cream? Recipes can use up to about 10 egg yolks per litre of ice cream, these are whisked with sugar until creamy and then heated with sugar and milk until the mixture coats the back of a spoon. This is then chilled and mixed with cream and flavours of choice before being frozen in an ice cream maker until firm.
Well this is all well and good for dinner party fare, these ice creams are often rich and not necessarily what the kids want scooped into cones on a hot summer’s day.
The aim though is to still make a creamy ice cream with or without eggs.
.Sweetened condensed milk is great as an easy base for homemade ice cream due to the milk being concentrated with much of the water removed. Condensed milk is high in fat and low in water which is beneficial for achieving a creamy ice cream.
Alcohol is beneficial in preventing water from forming large crystals. Alcohol doesn’t freeze and can be useful at assisting with less icy ice cream. Make sure you don’t add more than 3 tablespoons per 1 litre of ice cream though as otherwise the mixture will taste too potent and may not freeze at all.
Sugar also doesn’t freeze which is why it is worth considering the outcome if reducing sugar in an ice cream recipe, you may compromise sweetness for iciness.
Adding fresh fruit to ice cream; fruit is full of water and water forms ice crystals so for a creamy ice cream you need to reduce the excess water in the fruit before using it. This is done by heating the fruit with sugar and usually a splash of lemon juice until the liquid reduces to a syrup . Once you have a thick syrup you can then add the fruit to your ice cream base.
Easy Ice Cream 1
2 cups (500ml cream
400g can (approx) sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pour the cream into a bowl and whip until just stiff, do not over mix.
Fold the sweetened condensed milk and vanilla into the cream. Spoon into a plastic container, seal with a lid and freeze until firm.
Easy Ice Cream 2
4 egg yolks
1 cup caster sugar
2 cups cream
Beat egg yolks and caster sugar together until pale and creamy.
In a separate bowl whisk cream until just stiff.
Fold the cream into the egg mixture, pour into a plastic container and seal.
Freeze until firm.
Easy Ice Cream 3
250ml sour cream
Place the sour cream, banana and avocado into the bowl of blender. Blend until smooth and then pour into a plastic container. Cover with a tight fitting lid and freeze until firm.
Seriously Good Chocolate Sauce for Ice Cream
What are some of your favourite ice cream flavours and how do you make ice cream?
PS I have just made plum and gingernut ice cream using 450g plums from our tree, I roughly chopped them and sprinkled over 2 teaspoons of sugar, heated until they were thick and saucy and then mixed them into sweetened condensed milk and then cream with about 6 gingernuts blitzed into small pieces – delish.