Every year in Austin, Texas, an ice cream festival is held called the Austin Ice Cream Festival. And it is apropos to the sweltering heat of the setting. Although ice cream creation has come a long way from hand churning, the locals of the Texas community still prefer this classic method of producing the favorite cold treat. In this episode I caught on one of the food channels one lonely night, I saw that homemade ice cream is a meticulous process of balancing flavors and creating the most ideal temperature for freezing.
A Quick History of Ice Cream Makers
Officially invented in 1843, hand-cranked machines were simple enough to use and became popular with the public. Comprised of an inner layer for the cream and the rest of the ingredients, as well as an outer layer for the ice and salt. The addition of salt only freezes the ice more. As the salt melts the ice, the ice will absorb heat from the inner layer’s mixture, thus freezing the ice cream. However, hand churning has an art to it and must be done evenly at a certain speed over a period of time. Churning it too fast will thin the cream out and the flavors of the ingredients will be lost.
But nowadays, machines that show us how to make ice cream has greatly improved from manual churning to a press of a button. And because of this magical innovation in the world of frozen desserts, ice cream recipes have vastly expanded from the good old classic vanilla to more savory blends such as maple bacon. Some fares even making use of outrageous ingredients once unheard of in the sweet delicacy, incorporating fish and meat into an ice cream maker, although that type of cuisine may not appeal to a mass palette.
Choosing the Best Ice Cream Maker for You
Before heading to the nearest Home Depot to buy your very own personal ice cream maker as a vital addition for your home especially during the summer season, do consider a number of factors. Even with a motor, units differ invariably with some that include options and some a bit more basic. Here are a few considerations to keep in mind before making your purchase.
Honestly, this is the first factor I delve into before buying anything machine-related. Ice cream makers have such a diverse price range it’s daunting with all the choices available. While some models go as low as $30 (or less), some of the higher end machines can go up to $350. Of course, the price is never a testament to the quality of the machine so don’t be fooled.
The reason that some models reach up to hundreds of dollars is because of their additional features. More often than not, a machine that’s around the $200 range has a built-in freezer which allows you to place the ingredients directly into the bowl and make homemade ice cream in just a matter of minutes. However, less expensive models will have a bowl that you will need to freeze from 8 to 24 hours depending on the model’s requirements. Although you get to save on a machine, you may need to refreeze the finished product. You may want to consider cheaper models if you’re new to ice cream making or if you have the patience to pre-freeze and refreeze.
This is often overlooked especially in the cheaper models. But your machine’s ability on how to make ice cream also depends on its adaptability with the amount of ingredients you put in or how long you’ve left the bowl in the freezer. This is usually the case for those that have detachable bowls you need to freeze prior to the actual ice cream making. However, with models that have built-in freezers, a click of a button will shift settings quickly where you can choose type and texture for your ice cream recipes.
If you and your kids are into soft serve, then the basic motorized ice cream maker will satiate your taste buds. Many users of this particular type of machine have expressed that the results were big on flavor but not as frozen as expected. Refreezing the bowl after a new batch should help harden a creamy consistency. Now, if you want a bit more variety, models with settings (usually the ones with built-in freezers) can whip up everything from yogurt and sorbet to a gelato-like thickness with the ingredients of your choice.
If none of the motorized machines, whether basic or compressor types, appeal to your needs, there are other options out there. For instance, KitchenAid has a canister attachment for its stand mixer where you can make homemade ice cream by freezing the bowl before and after. And if you want something more picnic and travel friendly, there are novelty ice cream makers that makes use of muscle. These require churning by hand via a crank and will have a separate outer layer for ice and rock salt. Because these do not need electricity, I would love to take this on an RV camping trip or a backyard barbecue. There are also battery-operated units but I don’t suggest those since batteries seem wasteful.
After daydreaming about all those delicious ice cream recipes you’re willing to try out, do consider one often overlooked question. Where will you place or store the ice cream maker? You may need to consider a more basic machine if your home is a bit more strapped for space while compressor types will fare well on vast countertops and large closet spaces. In my tiny apartment, I wouldn’t mind a smaller, more basic version which will feed mostly just myself. But even these fundamental motorized styles are best to teach one how to make ice cream at a very amateur level.
So summer or not, an ice cream machine is the ideal home accessory, especially for a house full of kids and kids at heart. Do remember what you want to use it for. You may even develop your own unique recipes and find the opportunity to sell your product to a niche market.