Making homemade ice cream is an exercise in patience. The method isn’t labor-intensive—I do not spend the entire three days slaving away—but it does require a lot of rest between steps.
Let’s take a look at the process.
Day One: Prep Work
On the first day, I bring out my trusty old ice cream machine. I think I have the most well-traveled Cuisinart since I bought it in Chicago around eight years ago. I brought it to Manila with me and it returned to the United States when I moved back permanently. The machine has more travel miles on it than most people!
Some people may think it’s crazy I haven’t gone for an upgrade but it seems like such a waste when I have two canisters for it. If I had a spare freezer I could probably make a batch of ice cream every other day.
Anyway, I digress.
Most ice cream machines for home use need completely chilled canisters to work. So day one involves making sure your canister is completely clean and dry, and finding space in your freezer so that it can completely chill out. I prefer to let it sit in a freezer for twenty-four hours.
Ice Cream Base
1 cup milk (whatever you have on hand is fine)
1 cup cream
3/4 cup sugar
4 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla
In a clean pot, over a medium flame, bring the milk, cream, and sugar to a boil. Stir occasionally.
While waiting, whisk the egg yolks in a bowl. Once the milk mixture has come to a boil, add some of this to the egg yolks. Whisk this well to bring up the temperature of the egg yolks. (If you skip this step, you will have a lot of curdled egg in there.) When it is well-combined, add all of this back to the rest of the milk mixture. This should thicken fairly quickly. It takes around thirty seconds.
Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla. Strain the cooked ice cream base and then let it cool before refrigerating. Let it rest for around several hours—or twenty-four hours—before using.
(Since you now have four egg whites to deal with, I can only suggest making meringue cookies or a nice egg white-only omelette. Please don’t throw it down the drain.)
Day Two: Churning
Now that your canister is completely chilled, you can start churning. Find a cool place in your kitchen—do not churn right next to a hot stove—and pour the ice cream base into the canister. Plug in your ice cream maker and churn the mixture from thirty minutes to an hour.
If you stop with the ice cream base, you will get plain vanilla ice cream. While vanilla ice cream is an indispensable companion to floats, pies, and cake, unless you want to go all out with vanilla beans, it seems like a waste of effort. This is the time to improvise with your ice cream flavors.
Usually I throw in whatever is on hand: fruit, chopped chocolate bars, coffee, brownies, even crumbled madeleine cookies. For fruit like bananas and strawberries, I usually make a purée with some sugar thrown in—perhaps 1/4 cup. If I want to get a homogenous color instead of layers of swirl, I add the fruit purées and the chocolate at the thirty-minute mark. Just remember that larger pieces of cake or brownies may be crushed if added too soon—these should be added ten to fifteen minutes before shutting off the ice cream machine.
I haven’t experimented enough with alcohol in my ice cream but just bear in mind that it lowers the freezing point of the cream. Too much fruit purée, too, will result in a sorbet-like texture. While sorbets and traditional ices are awesome, they may not be what you want to eat. Also, bear in mind that without a commercial stabilizer, your ice cream will not look exactly like store-bought ice cream.
Again, I digress.
After your cream is beautifully churned, transfer it to a freezer-safe plastic container. To ensure the least amount of crystals destroying your work, press a layer of plastic cling-wrap to the surface of the churned cream. This will prevent freezer burn. Cover and freeze overnight to get a firm, wholly frozen product.
Day Three: Eating
Maybe some people don’t consider eating part of the ice cream-making ritual but I do! Upon waking up in the morning, the first thing I do is to check on my ice cream. I may not sample some right after breakfast but just knowing that it’s ready can brighten my whole day. If you get into the habit of making this recipe, then it will brighten yours, too.