I haven’t posted about a great kitchen gadget in a long time! Seeing as it has been quite warm in Florida, I felt that ice cream was in order. So naturally, I decided that a post about ice cream makers was in order. There are two different types of ice cream makers that I use and how I choose which one to use depends on the circumstances. Below I will discuss the two of them and how I decide which one to use. I will save some of the ice cream recipes for their own stand alone posts, because I foresee this being a lengthy post…I really love ice cream! Sorry, not sorry!
KitchenAid Ice Cream Maker Attachment
So, as many of you know, I am a huge fan of the KitchenAid mixer. In fact, I think it is so amazing that my first post was about the KitchenAid mixer. In case you missed it, you can read up on it here. I am also a fan of most of the attachments for the stand mixer. Staying in line with this post though, I will stick to talking about the KitchenAid Ice Cream Maker Attachment and save the other attachments for a different time. This is actually the second ice cream maker that I have used. I received it for Christmas a few years ago and have found it to be very useful.
This is best used for making a small batches of ice cream, as well as sorbet, sherbet, and gelato. Mind you, a small batch of ice cream by my family’s standards is about 2 quarts. I think it is perfect for trying out new ice cream flavors and experimenting without committing to a large batch of ice cream. It is also well-suited for small batches that you would like to just have around for a small dessert or if you’re having a small dinner party and want to serve some homemade ice cream as your dessert. It freezes ice cream very well, leaving you with an end product that has a great consistency. This attachment also freezes ice cream pretty quickly, about 20-30 minutes. This is mainly due to the smaller size of the batch, but makes for a relatively quick dessert. Finally, because the freezing process takes place without a lid, you are able to throw in any mix-ins that you would like to add to your ice cream. I have not tried this yet, but from what I have seen online, this ultimately depends on what you want to mix into the ice cream and how incorporated you want it to be. For instance, items such as M&Ms, Reese’s Pieces, or chunks of candy bars, frozen cookie dough bits or brownie bites, can easily be thrown in about 10-15 minutes into the freezing process without fear that their structure will be compromised. On the other hand, something like peanut butter, chocolate ganache, or caramel would depend on how incorporated you would like it to be. For a more incorporated mixture I would add it about 10-15 minutes in, but if you want there to be tracks or ribbons of these throughout the finished ice cream, I would wait until the ice cream has frozen and then add these while transferring to your airtight container to complete the freezing process. I think this is a chance to really play with different flavors of ice cream and have fun!
That being said, there are a few minor downsides to this ice cream maker. The first one is that you have to freeze the bowl a minimum of 15 hours before freezing your ice cream. It actually works best if it has been frozen for longer than 24 hours. If you have the freezer space and always want it ready for action then I would recommend storing it in your freezer. Being that I live in an apartment, my freezer space is rather limited, so I have to plan in advance to make ice cream. I recently tried it after freezing it for a little under 24 hours and I think that it probably could have stayed in the freezer a little longer, but this was not the only complication that I ran into. Being that I live in Florida now, even in March it can be up into the 80s. As a medical student, I usually try to keep the A/C use to a minimum to keep my electricity bill down, and usually leaving the windows open for a breeze is sufficient to keep my apartment at a comfortable temperature. That being said, I learned that this comfortable temperature is not conducive to freezing ice cream in the KitchenAid attachment. I would recommend trying to work in a cool kitchen that is no warmer than 75 degrees. My apartment was around 80 degrees and it was a little too warm and slowed the freezing process. Because you are using a bowl that was frozen in the freezer you are working in a limited window of time. If you think about it, the contents of the freezing bowl can only absorb so much heat from the ice cream mixture, before it reaches a temperature that will no longer promote the freezing process. This leads me to my final point, which actually goes for both ice cream makers: make sure your ice cream mixture cools completely before you begin the freezing process. Ideally I would recommend keeping it in the fridge and allow it to reach fridge temperature, but if you don’t have room in your fridge, at least let it cool to room temperature before freezing it.
The KitchenAid Ice Cream Maker Attachment has an MSRP of $99.99, but can be found for much cheaper online (i.e., Amazon.com) or in stores like Bed Bath & Beyond and Target. This is a great gift for the holidays, especially for someone who already has a stand mixer. I know that other manufacturers also make ice cream makers like this, Cuisinart being the one that sticks out in my mind the most, but I don’t have any experience using them, and I figure if you already have a stand mixer you might as well use an attachment that is made for one of the best small kitchen appliances!
Traditional Ice Cream Maker
The second type of ice cream maker that I use also comes with a tremendous amount of nostalgia. In my family we could always count on three things when summer came around: long course swim meets, brats, and homemade ice cream. We always used our grandparents’ ice cream maker that they brought with them to Oregon when they moved from Wisconsin. The process would start with Nani making the ice cream custard. Sometimes, but not often she would make vanilla. More often than not she would make chocolate ice cream, which was always a favorite of the grandkids. If strawberries were in season and we had recently picked several flats of fresh berries then she would make strawberry ice cream, which was also a crowd-pleaser. Once Nani had made the custard and it was cooled and ready for the big freeze, the duties were handed over to Papa and the grandkids. There were several jobs for us to fight over, such as using the stick to keep the drain clear, getting another tea kettle with hot water from Nani, scooping salt and scooping ice. Papa always sat with us the entire time, occasionally adding a drop of oil to the motor as it hummed away with each turn, and directing his team of helpers. By far the best part happened just as soon as the motor ground to a halt. Nani would remove the ice cream canister and we’d all gather around the picnic table, spoons in hand, as she would lay the dasher (the part that churns the ice cream) on a baking sheet. As soon as she gave us the green light we’d all dive in, scooping up spoonfuls of freshly frozen ice cream, as Nani would take the 6-quart canister inside to dish up servings for everyone. This has been a tradition that has now been passed down to my generation. The price of these ice cream makers really depends on several factors, such as the size of the canister, the type of motor, what the bucket is made from, etc. You can find some as cheap as $30.00 and they can go all the way up to over $100.00, though most seem to be right around $40.00 to $50.00.
For those are are not familiar with this method of freezing I will give you the general method, which is fairly straight-forward, but just requires some time. This method of freezing is as follows:
1) Fill canister with the cooled ice cream custard according to the recipe, insert the dasher into the container and place the lid on top.
2) Transfer filled canister to the empty freezer bucket, fit the motor on top as directed by the owner’s manual, and start the churning process.
3) Add ice to the sides of the bucket, then sprinkle a ice cream rock salt over the top, continuing this process until ice has just about reached the top of the canister. Avoid getting salt on or near the lid.
4) Slowly pour the boiling water evenly over the ice and salt. Add more ice and salt and continue alternating addition of ice/salt and boiling water just until water begins to pour out of the drain. You should also make sure that the level of the salty ice water does not get close to the canister’s lid (the drain is usually placed at such a level to prevent this).
5) Continue Step 4) periodically throughout the rest of the freezing process, ensuring that the overflow drain stays clear.
6) When the ice cream nears the end of the freezing process, the motor will slow and eventually come to a complete stop. You will know that it is nearing this point when you begin to see the ice cream expanding in the canister and it may also begin to touch the top of the canister.
7) When the motor stops, unplug the motor, remove the motor and pull out the canister, which is now filled with delicious ice cream, making sure to avoid getting any salt water near the lid.
8) Remove the dasher, set aside (with plenty of spoons for all your helpers!), and serve ice cream immediately or transfer to airtight containers to put in the freezer.
While we still have the old ice cream maker in Portland, I wanted one while I was in college to make fresh ice cream, so I purchased a Rival 6-quart ice cream maker. It looks a little something like the blue ice cream maker (pictured right). Rival also has a wide variety of sizes that can be found on their website, they even have a wooden one. It should be pretty apparent that this method takes quite a bit more work, but I think that there are still many advantages to using this method. For starters, this makes a large amount of ice cream in one freeze. As I mentioned before, my grandparents’ canister held 6 quarts of ice cream. The Rival that I purchased also holds 6 quarts, as the recipes that I have from Nani are geared toward this quantity of ice cream. The advantage of this amount of ice cream is that there is more to share! There’s plenty to go around at large parties, and if you don’t finish it all, it freezes really well in airtight containers. How long can you keep it in the freezer? That’s hard to say, because in my family it’s always disappeared in less than a week. I think that it works best for simple flavors like vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, etc that are easy to serve with a slice of cake or pie, or topped with some fresh summertime berries. Another great advantage of this method is that the freeze time is only limited to the amount of ice, salt and boiling water you have, and these are all things that are easy to have on hand in large quantities. Nani and Papa would always buy a couple big bags of ice, they had a big container of ice cream salt, and the teapot was kept on the stove to ensure boiling water was always on hand. Because of this extended freezing time, you are able to freeze a larger amount, and also have more control over the freeze time. It’s important to be very patient, because it will take a little longer to freeze, but it is well worth the wait. Finally, this is simply a great summertime activity for the family, especially if you have a lot of children. If you make this a tradition in your family at holidays like Memorial Day, Independence Day, or those summer birthdays, it’s something your kids will always remember fondly. Papa’s July birthday always involved making ice cream and roasting brats.
Despite the sentimental feelings this method always stirs up, there are a couple drawbacks. If you’re not looking to make a large quantity of ice cream, then this can be a bit of a disadvantage. The process is also pretty involved and requires either a large sink that you can place the ice cream maker in so that the overflow can drain into or an area of a patio or yard that won’t be ruined by the drainage of the salt water…that whole salting the earth thing should probably be avoided. Finally, the entire process from start to finish takes a long time. It takes a few hours to prepare and completely cool the ice cream custard, which I would suggest making the evening before and cooling in the fridge overnight. The freezing process takes about 40 minutes or so (more or less depending on the custard, ambient temperature, etc.), but time flies when you’re having fun! Although this is not something that I do regularly, I think it is great for large gatherings or barbecues, as many people can be involved in the process and then enjoy the fruits…or freezes…of their labor!