For those old enough to remember, homemade ice cream was one of the real glories of summer. Made in a wooden bucket filled with ice and rock salt and a big heavy crank that had to be turned for hours and hours, or what seemed like hours to the little kids turning the crank, the ice cream that ultimately came out of the inner container was indeed a summer miracle.
But then, the wooden bucket became a plastic one and the big old crank was replaced by a little motor and ultimately, the whole shebang gave way to a little gizmo that had to be pre-chilled in the freezer and suddenly, homemade ice cream just wasn’t the same.
So if you don’t have an ice cream machine any more or are too young to have ever had one, maybe you still want to try your hand at making some ice cream but don’t want to invest in a seasonal gadget that’s going to take up space all year long. maybe you’re afraid you want use it often enough to justify the expense or you’re afraid you’ll use it too much if it’s in the house, you can make ice cream at home without one.
There are several methods. None of them are very fast, or particularly easy, but they do work. Sort of.
The main thing to remember is that fat is your friend when making frozen desserts. The higher the fat content, the less frozen water crystals. That’s why cheap commercial ice cream isn’t as satisfying as the good stuff. There’s less milkfat and more ice.
So cream is better than half and half, half and half is better than whole milk and don’t even think about reduced fat milk. Exactly backward from what your doctor tells you.
The simplest method is to put the cooled ice cream mixture into a sealed plastic bag and then put that bag into a larger, sealed plastic bag filled with ice and salt and then shake it or throw it around or generally agitate it. This method works really well unless the outer bag breaks or leaks and ice and cold salt water spills all over the kitchen or, worse yet, the inner bag breaks and your ice cream gets salty and ruined. But if that doesn’t happen, it’s easy.
You can sort of rig an ice cream machine by nesting a bowl of your ingredients into a bowl of ice and mixing with a hand mixer. Or making ice cream ice cubes and then using your food processor to blend them back into additional cream. Or using the magic ingredient; sweetened condensed milk. Somehow, that stuff freezes up creamy without too much iciness. Which is why in the winter, some people swear by it for snow cream.
Or forget the dairy altogether and make a granita. A granita, also known as granita siciliana, is a frozen dessert made from sugar, water and assorted flavors. Originally from Sicily, it’s very similar in texture to sorbet or Italian ice. In restaurants, granitas are often served as a palate cleanser between courses; they can also make wonderful desserts.
One-Ingredient Banana Ice Cream
Homemade ice cream can be as simple as freezing a banana. It doesn’t get easier than this.
1 large ripe banana
Start with ripe bananas. They should be sweet and soft. Peel the bananas and cut them into coins. Put the bananas in an airtight container: A freezer-safe glass bowl is fine or you can use a freezer bag. Freeze the banana pieces for at least 2 hours but ideally overnight. Pulse the frozen banana pieces in a small food process. At first the banana pieces will look crumbled or smashed. Scrape down the food processor. Keep blending. Then it will look gooey, like banana mush. Scrape down the food processor. Keep blending. It will get smoother but still have chunks of banana in it. Scrape down the food processor. Suddenly, as the last bits of banana smooth out, you’ll see the mixture shift from blended banana to creamy, soft-serve ice cream texture. Blend for a few more seconds to aerate the ice cream. (If adding any mix-ins, like peanut butter or chocolate chips, this is the moment to do it.) You can eat the ice cream immediately, but it will be quite soft. You can also transfer it back into the airtight container and freeze it until solid, like traditional ice cream.
Ice Cream without an Ice Cream Machine
Using regular kitchen stuff, you can simulate an ice cream maker. it’s a bit of a science project but it works. You’ll need a large bowl to fill with ice and rock salt, a smaller bowl to nest in it, 6 or 8 trays of ice and a hand mixer.
3/4 cups whole milk
1 large egg
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
3/4 cup heavy cream
Beat milk and egg together in a saucepan. Add sugar and vanilla extract, and cook over medium-low heat. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon until slightly thickened and registering 170° F on a thermometer. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Stir in cream. Pour mixture through a fine sieve into a bowl and cover surface directly with plastic wrap to prevent skin from forming. Refrigerate at least 3 hours or up to 12 hours.
Fill a large bowl about halfway with ice. Stir in 3/4 cup rock salt. Nestle the smaller bowl in the ice. Try to get almost completely buried in the ice. Fill the smaller bowl halfway with ice cream mix (use at most 1 pint of mix). Use a hand mixer to beat the mix for 10 minutes. You may find it helpful to half cover the bowl with a towel, to help prevent spattering. The mix should get very cold to the touch, although it will probably not start transforming into actual ice cream. After you have aerated and chilled the mix for about 10 minutes, cover with a towel and place the entire set of nested bowls — large and small — in the freezer. Freeze for 45 minutes. Remove the bowls from the freezer. Draw a spoon across the top of the ice cream mix. It’s probably the consistency of loose pudding, especially on top. Mix again with the hand mixer for 5 minutes. At this point the mixture should be the texture of soft-serve ice cream. Remove the small bowl from the large bowl, and cover the top with plastic wrap touching the surface of the ice cream. Freeze for an additional two hours, or overnight, before serving.
Ice Cube Method Ice Cream
8 large egg yolks
1 cup sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1 (12-ounce) can evaporated milk
2 cups heavy cream
In large bowl or stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment, whisk egg yolks, sugar, vanilla, and salt until pale yellow and mixture falls off of whisk in thick ribbons, about 5 minutes. Set aside. Stirring constantly, heat evaporated milk in medium saucepan on stovetop until it comes to a simmer. Slowly add hot milk to egg mixture, whisking constantly, until fully incorporated. Transfer mixture back to saucepan and heat, whisking constantly, to 180°F (it should become thick and custardy). Do not overheat, or eggs will scramble. Chill mixture completely. Whip 1 cup heavy cream with whisk or in stand mixer until doubled in volume. Add whipped cream to egg mixture and fold with whisk just until no lumps remain. Pour mixture into ice cube trays and freeze for 4 hours, or until solid. Combine frozen cubes of ice cream (use a spoon or a dull knife to remove them) and remaining heavy cream in food processor and process until smooth, about 30 seconds, scraping down sides and breaking up lumps as necessary during process. Transfer mixture to quart container, and freeze for at least 4 more hours before serving.
Cinnamon Bun Ice Cream
Whipped cream and sweetened condensed milk are the secret ingredients here.
2 cups heavy cream
1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
3 tbsp. butter, melted
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
Whip heavy cream to stiff peaks in large bowl. Whisk sweetened condensed milk, butter, cinnamon, and vanilla in large bowl. Mix well. Fold in whipped cream. Pour into a 2-quart container and cover. Freeze 6 hours or until firm. Store in freezer.
Extra-Quick No-Cook Meyer Lemon Ice Cream
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup milk
One 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
2 Meyer lemons, zested and juiced
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
Fine table salt
In a large bowl, vigorously whisk together the cream, milk and sweetened condensed milk until the condensed milk is fully mixed in. Add the Meyer lemon zest and juice, along with the vanilla extract and a pinch of salt. Whisk to combine, then use your favorite ice cream making method.
Granita, or Granita Siciliana
For 2 cups of granita you’ll need 1 cup of filtered water, 1/3 to 1/2 cup of sugar and approximately 1/2 cup of additional flavoring ingredients such as juice, fruit puree, coffee, liquor, etc. These ingredient measurements can be adjusted to taste. If you use alcohol in your granita the final consistency will be less firm. Make a simple syrup. Combine the water and sugar in a saucepan and simmer on medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Remove the pot from the heat. Add any solid flavoring agents such as zest, spices or fresh herbs (if using) and allow the flavors to steep for 30 minutes while the mixture cools. Strain any solids from the syrup and stir in the additional liquids. Pour the mixture into a flat-bottomed pan or glass dish. Place in the freezer for 30 minutes. Stir the mixture very thoroughly with a fork and allow it to freeze for another 30 minutes. Repeat this process every 30 minutes for 3 to 4 hours. Make sure to mix the granita well every time, scraping down the sides. The idea is to prevent ice crystals from forming so you wind up with a consistency similar to sorbet. If the mixture isn’t stirred thoroughly you might wind up with small blocks of ice, which aren’t nearly as fun to eat. Three hours will give you a good granita, but four hours will guarantee the consistency is smooth.
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
10 ice cubes
1 cantaloupe, peeled, seeded and cut into pieces (about 4 cups)
3 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
In a small, heavy saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the sugar and water and heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar dissolves, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat, pour into a heatproof bowl and stir in the ice cubes. Continue stirring until the sugar syrup is cold, about 1 minute. Discard any ice that does not melt. You will have about 1 1/4 cups sugar syrup. In a food processor, combine the cantaloupe, lemon juice and sugar syrup. Pulse a few times until the cantaloupe is broken up and then process until a smooth puree forms, about 1 minute. Pour the cantaloupe mixture into a 9-inch square stainless-steel pan or heavy glass dish. Freeze until the mixture is just frozen, about 1 hour. Using a fork, stir the granita to break up the ice crystals into clumps with a slushy texture. Return to the freezer and freeze until firm, but not solid, up to 1 hour. Spoon the granita into individual glasses or bowls and serve immediately. Serves 8.
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Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699, on Twitter @BillColvard.