August 12, 2010

La Gringa's ice cream making tips

Mango ice creamLa Gringa's Mango Ice Cream
(recipe here)

My promised ice cream week was delayed by weed eater research and other distractions. Don't worry, you'll still get your money's worth. ;-) I've been writing up a storm.

I love ice cream! I think of it as cooling myself from the inside out and it really works. My ice cream recipes usually get so long-winded as I give this tip or that tip, so I decided that I would try to combine every single tip that I could think of in one spot. I'm not holding anything back. I want you to love my ice cream recipes as much as I do. ;-D

Tips for making ice cream in an un-airconditioned kitchen in the tropics:

A few extra steps really are necessary to combat that 85-90°F average air temperature (29-32°C) with 85% humidity. I've tried some crazy things in the past, including putting the whole machine in the refrigerator to run or taking it to the bedroom and turning on the air conditioning. Neither one worked that great, especially considering that I kept opening the refrigerator to check on the ice cream. The following are some steps that I normally take.

ice cream mixing bowl/pitcherChill, chill, chill: Chilling the mixture for 1-2 hours in the freezer (and stirring occasionally) prior to making the ice cream is a necessary step at my house, sometimes even longer if some of the ingredients were warm. Just the 4-5 minutes of beating and mixing ingredients is enough to warm the mix beyond what my ice cream maker can handle and I work as fast as I can. I've regretted it every time I've skimped on the pre-chilling. Chill until about an inch of frozen crust rings the top of the bowl (see the photo) or until it reaches about 35-40°F (2-4°C). Don't overdo, though! If you put frozen bits into your ice cream maker, you may end up with 'icy' ice cream — not acceptable! Be sure to stir in any frozen bits for a few seconds before pouring the mix into your machine.

La Gringa's Cappuccino Caramel Swirl Ice CreamChill some more: I place the ice cream maker blade into the freezer at the same time I place the mix in the freezer and of course make sure the machine's freezer canister has been in the freezer for at least 24 hours. I chill the serving bowls and the container that I'm going to put the finished ice cream into in the freezer, too. It is amazing how quickly a room temperature warm bowl will start melting the ice cream.

Scrape: After a few minutes of churning, I stick a small plastic spatula into the ice cream maker and very carefully run it up and down the sides and bottom of the canister to scrape off the frozen part. Make sure the spatula doesn't interfere with the blade or slow down the machine. This mixes in the thin frozen mass from the edges and seems to help the ice cream freeze a little faster/better. Usually once is enough, but sometimes I do this two or three times.

Cover: I've recently tried putting a heavy towel over the machine cover while it is running to try to hold the cold in/keep the hot air out. It seemed to help and I'm going to try that again.

Time: Set a timer for 25 minutes. Anything over 30 minutes churning time on the Cuisinart does no good at all. By that time the ambient temperature of the kitchen has warmed the freezing canister too much so that the ice cream will actually get softer, not harder. Your best bet is to place the ice cream into a container in the freezer and just wait. ;-/

Wait: I'm sorry to say, but unless you like very soft ice cream, you are going to have to put your ice cream in the freezer to harden up a little, probably for at least an hour or two.

La Gringa's Toasted Coconut Ice CreamLa Gringa's Toasted Coconut Ice Cream
(Recipe here)

Using Eggs

This is such a controversial topic that I had to give it its own separate article. The eggs-in-ice-cream controversy and some alternatives also includes some egg-free recipes and Custard-based ice cream includes instructions for turning any of my recipes into a cooked custard base.

Other ingredients:

Chunky add-ins: I freeze any add-ins such as nuts, cookie pieces, chocolate chunks or chips, and just quickly stir them into the finished recipe as I scoop it out of the freezer canister. Solid ingredients added to the machine must be no larger than a chocolate chip. Sometimes they clog up the machine or don't mix in evenly and sometimes the difference in temperature causes the ice cream to get even softer. Soft add-ins can get beaten to death (pulverized).

Sugar: Honduran sugar is coarse and very slow to dissolve, sometimes resulting in a grainy ice cream. I sometimes (not always) run a bag of sugar through my food processor for a few seconds and store the resulting 'azúcar fino' in a separate canister for ice cream use. American style fine sugar is available in La Ceiba, but it is hugely expensive compared to Honduran sugar. Other things you can do is to melt the sugar if any part of the mixture is going to be heated, or mix it with fruit that is going to be blended for purée.

Fruit: I usually purée fruit in the blender with the sugar from the recipe. If the fruit results in much more than 2-3 cups of chunks, I might dice some of the fruit for topping, use the extra purée for topping, or use double the sugar and store half of the fruit purée in the freezer for another time. I'm very lax on the fruit measurement, using anywhere from 1 to 2 cups of fruit-sugar purée, adjusting the milk measurement to make up the difference.

Don't forget to adjust the sugar: very tangy fruit may need 1-1 1/4 cups, very sweet fruit may only need 2/3 to 3/4 cups. One cup is usually about about right for most fruits. (Pineapple is a whole other ballgame — I'll post my Pineapple Cream recipe soon.)

Fruit chunks: Chunks of fruit will freeze solid in ice cream (not a good thing) unless you macerate it in sugar for quite some time. Even then, it is iffy, so if I want fruit chunks, I usually stir them into the finished ice cream or serve it as a topping. I generally also add fruit purée to the mix as described above unless I want a vanilla base with fruit (think Cherry Garcia). Macerating the fruit in sugar with a bit of alcohol for a few hours might also work though I haven't tried it. The fruit should be drained of excess liquid before adding to the ice cream.

Alcohol: Vanilla and other extracts have alcohol which retards freezing. I don't use more than about a teaspoon. When adding larger amounts of alcohol for flavoring (rum or whatever), it is recommended to add it in the last 5 minutes of churning. Store the alcohol to be used in the recipe in the freezer for a few hours or overnight.


mixing ice creamMeasuring bowl: I use a plastic 2 quart measuring bowl/pitcher to mix my ingredients. I find it indispensable. It's easy to make sure that I have the right quantity for my machine (about 5 1/4 cups maximum). I always add the milk last, adding a little more or less than the recipe calls for as necessary. That is especially helpful for fruit recipes in which the quantity of fruit from, for example, one mango, will vary. The pouring lip makes it much easier and tidier to pour the mix into the ice cream maker than it would be to pour from a bowl. I use the same bowl to mix the ingredients, chill them in the freezer, and sometimes even to store the ice cream later.

Mine is an old Tupperware pitcher but you may find something similar at Target or a kitchen supply store. If not, Amazon has a glass one, 2 Quart Glass Batter Bowl With Lid. The lid could be handy so this doesn't happen to you. Don't use a regular shaped 2-quart measuring cup. It needs to have a rounded bottom so that the whisk can reach all of the ingredients.

Machine: My ice cream maker is the Cuisinart 1 1/2 quart electric ice cream maker and I love it. I've been using it for more than 10 years and it is still going strong! It cost US $50 when I bought it and still costs around US $50. This is the type where you have to store the ice cream canister in the freezer for at least 24 hours in advance. Needless to say, my canister lives in the freezer. Read more about this machine here: Cuisinart ICE-20 1-1/2-Quart Automatic Ice Cream Maker.

In a following article, I'll report on some other style ice cream makers.

You can find my favorite ice cream recipes by clicking on "LG recipes" in the topics list in the sidebar.

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