Ice cream is one of my all-time favorite foods. But it can’t be just any ice cream. It has to taste amazing to be worth the extra calories. Homemade ice cream is always at the top of my list of favorite treats. But it isn’t just me that loves ice cream in fact 87% of Americans have ice cream in their freezer at any given time. While I love following homemade ice cream recipes, I also like to experiment a bit. Here is some basic information behind what makes a good ice cream recipe along with some delicious recipes for you to try.
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Ice Cream Bases
An ice cream base is the mixture of liquid ingredients that will eventually be frozen into ice cream. Every ice cream recipe starts with one of five different ice cream bases:
- Custard: The custard base contains eggs that are cooked together with the dairy and sugar. Custard style ice cream has a smooth texture and rich flavor.
- Philadelphia-Style: The Philadelphia base is just dairy and sugar. Sometimes the base is heated to help the sugar dissolve but often recipes skip cooking and go straight to churning. Philadelphia style ice cream will not be as smooth as the custard style but can still have a rich flavor and is often lower in fat.
- Egg Free: The egg-free base does not contain eggs and adds cornstarch to thicken and a small amount of cream cheese for richness.
- No-Churn: The no-churn base does not require any cooking or an ice cream maker. The base is made with heavy cream and sweetened condensed milk. The heavy cream is whipped to add a light and airy texture. The sweetened condensed milk is used as a thickener.
- Dairy-Free: The dairy-free base is made with milk alternatives such as coconut, almond, or cashew milk.
Typically the higher the butterfat content in the dairy the richer and creamier the ice cream
- Heavy Cream: At 36% heavy cream has the highest butterfat content. When it is whipped it traps air in tiny pockets which increases its volume. It creates a smooth very rich ice cream.
- Half and Half: Half and half has 10 to 18% butterfat content.
- Milk (Skim, 2%, and Whole): Milk has 0 to 4% butterfat and will create ice cream with fewer calories.
- Buttermilk: Buttermilk 1 to 2% butterfat and has a slightly tangy flavor.
- Sweetened Condensed Milk: Sweetened condensed milk is concentrated milk with 9% butterfat and added sugar. It is essential to no-churn ice cream bases.
- Evaporated Milk: Evaporated milk has 8% butterfat and 50% less water than whole milk. It gives ice cream a richer smoother texture.
- Coconut Milk: Coconut milk creates a rich and creamy texture. Because of the fat content, it offers a consistency similar to dairy bases. It does add a slight coconut flavor.
- Almond Milk
- Cashew Milk
- Sugar: Sugar while providing sweetness also helps to keep your ice cream from freezing completely solid. Most recipes recommend between 1/2 to 3/4 of a cup.
- Maple Syrup: Maple syrup will add a slight maple flavor to your ice cream. Use it at a ratio of 1 cup of maple syrup for every 3/4 cup of sugar.
- Honey: Honey will add a slight honey flavor to your ice cream. Typically the darker the honey the stronger the flavor. Use it at a ratio of 1 cup of honey for every 1 cup of sugar.
- Spices: Try toasting and then steeping whole spices like cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, mace, cloves, allspice, black pepper, etc. in the hot cream mixture. You can also add ground spices.
- Tea: Try steeping your favorite tea in the hot cream mixture.
- Herbs: Steep fresh herbs like basil, mint, tarragon, thyme, etc. in the hot cream mixture.
- Extracts: Vanilla extract is traditional but consider trying peppermint, citrus, or almond extract.
- Fruit: Try pureeing your favorite fruit or steeping peels in the hot cream mixture.
- Chocolate: Try dissolving cocoa powder or adding melted chocolate.
- Coffee: Either steep coarsely ground coffee in the hot cream mixture or add espresso powder.
- Alcohol: Do not add to a hot base or it could curdle the milk. Also, alcohol doesn’t freeze so be careful not to add too much or your ice cream will never solidify. Add the alcohol during the last couple of minutes of the freezing process and stick to 1 tablespoon of alcohol per 1 pint of the base.
Mix-Ins and Toppings
While your ice cream is still soft try folding in some of the following ingredients.
- Fruit: Try fresh fruit, dried fruit or jam. Fresh fruit will increase the water content in your ice cream so I recommend adding it to bases with a higher butterfat content to prevent your ice cream from becoming icy.
- Nuts: Add chopped and toasted nuts or try adding some nut oil.
- Chocolate, Caramel, or Butterscotch Sauce
- Nut Butter
- Breakfast Cereal
- Baked Goods: Brownies, Cookies, Cake, or Pie
Tools You May Need
- Ice Cream Churn: This model of ice cream maker uses ice and salt to freeze the ice cream. It typically has a higher capacity but can be noisy.
- Ice and Rock Salt: Used in a traditional ice cream churn. Follow a ratio of 2 cups of salt for every 8 pounds of ice.
- Indoor Ice Cream Maker: Contains an ice cream canister with liquid refrigerant sealed between the double walls of the canister. It is recommended to freeze the canister for 24 hours before making your ice cream. This Cuisinart ice cream maker is my favorite.
- Sieve: Use a sieve to strain out any ingredients that were steeped and any coagulated egg.
- Storage Container: Keep your ice cream fresh by transferring it to this storage container after churning.
- Plastic Wrap: If you have leftover ice cream, place a piece of plastic wrap against the top of the ice cream before covering with the lid. The plastic wrap will keep the ice cream from drying out and help to prevent ice crystals.
Recipes to Try:
If you don’t already own an ice cream maker check out my post on how to choose the best one for you.
What is your favorite flavor of ice cream?