Homemade Ice Cream (with or without an Ice Cream Maker)

As summer settles in across the country, ice cream season is in its peak (indeed, July is National Ice Cream Month!). We curated and tested several homemade ice cream recipes – SO delicious that they passed our Recipe ROI test despite the effort involved.

A few tips for making ice cream at home:

  1. Ingredients matter. It’s our mantra that ingredients matter in general, but even more so in recipes with so few simple ingredients. You can take ice cream from YUM! to OOOOOMMMMMGGGGG! by using high quality vanilla, chocolate, cocoa powder, organic milk and cream, sugar, and farm fresh eggs if you can get them!
  2. Keep everything cold as you go. Grab your ingredients from the fridge as you need them, don’t dawdle when shifting to ice baths or back to freezer, and most importantly, pre-freeze the final mixing and storage bowls.
  3. You can make it dairy free. Some of our favorites: a Chocolate Avocado Ice Cream that is so good our taste testers had no idea it was dairy free, and a 1-Ingredient Banana Ice Cream recipe.
  4. An ice cream maker might be worth it. It makes the process easier (no hand-stirring), more fun (something willy-wonka-esque about that churning sound), and the results more consistent.  Our current fave is a basic Cuisinart model, currently $49.99 on Amazon. Worth it for Mary, considering she spends up to $25 on a trip to the ice cream shop with her kids. (It also makes a great summer birthday gift!)
  5. But you can make great homemade ice cream without a machine – details below!

With an Ice Cream Maker: The only thing these machines seem to do is stir. However they stir in a frozen vessel and therein lies the magic – simultaneous stirring and freezing which results in consistently frozen ice cream that’s soft enough to scoop.

  1. Put the ice cream maker bowl way in the back of the freezer, 24 hours in advance.
  2. Follow any recipe. Generally you’ll prep the ingredients, then pull out the frozen bowl, pour in the ingredients, and turn it on to stir. After about 15-20 minutes of stirring you can either (A) eat it as is, it will be on the soft side… OR (B) Put it back in the freezer for the final firm up to store-bought ice cream consistency. (And yes, in the interest of science we did in fact get to step B a few times, but it’s hard to wait!)chocolate sauce with ice cream

Without an Ice Cream Maker: There are many methods for making ice cream without an ice cream maker, but our favorite comes from David Lebovitz’s book The Perfect Scoop.

  1. Use the right recipe. Some ice cream recipes are better suited to not using a machine, and these tend to be cooked recipes that contain egg yolks since they give it a creamier texture even without the benefit of mechanical churning. (The Gatheredtable Recipe for Homemade Chocolate Ice Cream is well suited for this. To make it vanilla just remove the chocolate and cocoa powder.) Sorbet or Granita also turn out well without an ice cream maker!
  2. Pre-freeze your dish at least 24 hours in advance.
  3. Use the most shallow dish you can for freezing. Shallow means faster and more thorough freezing.
  4. Get ready to stir. Once you’ve followed the prep recipe and placed the ice cream in the frozen container, you’ll need to pull it out and give a hearty stir every 45 minutes to break up ice crystals and ensure a creamy consistency.

caramel sauce with ice cream

This is Emily’s favorite part of ice cream – the Gatheredtable Chocolate Sauce is perhaps her biggest weakness… it’s been known to disappear before even getting on top of ice cream! We also have some delicious Caramel and summery Berry Sauces. Homemade toppings can also put a homemade twist on a store-bought pint of ice cream!

So for fun, try a homemade ice cream night this summer. It will make the inevitable heat wave much sweeter.

Happy Cooking,
Emily and Mary

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