Get the Scoop

Homemade Ice Cream

by Ali Berlow

Homemade Ice Cream

Elizabeth Cecil

Spoons, from left: jasmine pearl, coffee hazelnut, star anise, turmeric ginger, strawberry balsamic, blueberry lavender, matcha, and buttermint.  

These days, there is nothing quite as gratifying for me as having a freezer full of ice creams for the loves of my life. Eli’s Dank Chocolate. Blueberry for Max. Buttermint for lucky man Sam.

But it was D.’s Vanilla that teed all this up, and set me free of any ice cream-making inhibitions. It was so simple, easy and delicious and, more importantly, it made D. very happy. Just three ingredients: cream, sugar and vanilla extract, gently heated, chilled, and spun in an ice cream maker into sweet, ivory folds, gracefully undulating like little whirling dervishes.

What had been the usual and ordinary in my pantry, became brighter with potential, alluring in essence and flavor. I infused ice cream bases with coffee and teas; I added citrus zest, rosemary, or fennel seeds. And I experimented with add-ins like fruit compotes, crystallized ginger or peanut butter cups, all depending on whose ice cream dreams I was spinning to fulfill.

Ice cream makes people happy. And stocking my freezer with my family’s favorites warms the cockles of my heart. Maybe that’s what this confidence and creativity in my kitchen is all about—sweet, sticky, rich, creamy, frozen-melty love.


SERIOUSLY, TAKE YOUR ICE CREAM SERIOUSLY

• INVEST IN YOUR MAKER. For around $50 to $60, you can get a decent electric ice cream maker. The ‘old fashioned’ crankstyle makers are nostalgic, but if it’s consistency and quality you’re going for, I’d recommend springing for the modern appliance.

• USE THE BEST INGREDIENTS YOU CAN. Organic sugar, real extracts, high-quality heavy cream, and whole milk make a difference when that’s all that ice cream is. This isn’t the frozen dessert of big food conglomerates and doesn’t require supersized portions—a little scoop of rich homemade goes a long way.

• PLAN AHEAD. Read the recipe through before cooking. Time is on your side when making ice cream. Make sure you have everything you need mise en place (meaning, it’s all in place before you begin) from ingredients, tools, and storage containers to room in your fridge and freezer.

• WATCH THE WATER. Water is the enemy of ice cream. (I should say extra water: milk is approximately 85% water.) What you don’t want is extra water or condensation dripping into your base before you freeze it, otherwise your ice cream could come out crumbly, icy or crunchy. Try not to jiggle your base around in the fridge as it cools, as that may cause condensation to drip down into it.

• FOLLOW THE MANUFACTURER’S INSTRUCTIONS. The appliance’s freezer bowls truly do need a full 24 hours in the freezer before using. Your homemade ice cream base really does need to completely chill before freezing in the machine. And your finished ice cream could use at least four hours in the freezer for it to harden evenly and for the flavors to ripen.

• KEEP IT CLEAN, DRY AND COLD. Store your bases and ice cream in clean containers at the correct temperatures. Milk fat is a great taste-deliverer and it loves to take on other flavors, so be forewarned: It’ll latch onto flavors you give, but it’ll also latch onto the ones you don’t want it to have from your fridge, like leftover broccoli, meatloaf, or kimchi.

• FREEZE YOUR FREEZER BOWLS LEVEL. Not cock-eyed or on their side, because then they’ll spin out of whack. I keep two bowls in my freezer so they’re ready to roll when I am.

• ADD YOUR MIX-INS LAST. Chopped nuts and candies, crystallized ginger, and swirls are best added after the ice cream is spun, as you scoop your ice cream into a storage container.

• KEEP IT FRESH. A piece of parchment pa- per pressed on top of your ice cream will extend the freshness of your creation in the freezer.


PAIRINGS

Infuse a basic ice cream base with your favorite fresh herb, like mint, basil, or rosemary. Add minced fresh cilantro to lime sorbet; tarragon to strawberry ice cream; fresh thyme leaves to lemon ice cream.

Peruse ethnic markets and mixology books for ingredient inspiration.

Freeze your veggies! Make a tomato or cucumber—Virgin Mary, even—sorbet. If you make it a Bloody, only add a touch of liquor. Alcohol doesn’t freeze, so it can turn your sorbet into a slushy. Check out the cookbooks in the Resources section for experts’ alcohol ratio recommendations.

Save those corn cobs! Add sweet corn kernels and a corn cob to the base as you cook it. Remove before chilling. Spike it with a dash of cayenne for a sweet-hot-milky experience.

Steep chocolate ice cream base with a chili pepper and a cinnamon stick. Remove before spinning.

Stock up on fresh, local fruit this summer, and process it into purees and fruit pulp that you can use as ingredients for your ice creams throughout the year.