Remember I mentioned that I had received a few food-related gifts for Christmas? Well, the most exciting, and by far the largest surprise was courtesy of my darling boyfriend, who took it on himself to get me a commercial-style ice cream maker!
Although my original, faithful ice cream maker had been serving me admirably, it was undeniably thrilling to have the chance to make ice cream without the last-minute, stomach-sinking realization that I’d forgotten to put the bowl in the freezer, or the frustration of trying to make ice cream on a scorching summer day when the bowl just doesn’t seem to get cold enough.
That said, I was surprised to read in Kate Zuckerman’s The Sweet Life that she prefers the insert-style cream maker to the compressor-style machine, mostly because she feels that the latter takes too long to churn ice cream. The faster an ice cream base can be chilled and churned into ice cream, the better its texture will be – too long and your ice cream will come out grainy, not smooth.
Zuckerman suggests an ideal of 15 minutes churning time to go from base to ice cream. With both of my ice cream makers, I have been able to make ice cream in between 20-30 minutes, with very satisfactory results. I can see the insert-style maker may have an advantage if you are trying to lower the churning time – if you take the time to chill the insert so it’s really cold, and if you have a second bowl also chilled as a backup in case the first bowl gets too warm (I got two bowls with my insert-style maker when I bought it), it is possible to get ice cream very quickly.
Regardless of which style maker you have, there are still a couple of things you can do to improve your ice cream’s chances of success. 1)Chill the base before churning. Almost all ice cream recipes say to chill the base in the refrigerator for a couple hours. I always chill my bases overnight – not only does a colder base decrease churning time, it will also thicken as it sits, leading to a creamier result. 2) Churn less base in the maker at a time. This is Zuckerman’s suggestion, and it makes great sense: less base will freeze faster and with better results.
So how do I feel about my Christmas present? Well, I made recipes from Zuckerman’s book, with beautiful results:
Mandarin Orange Sorbet with Hazelnut Shortbread
A gorgeous shard of sun in the middle of winter. A simple sugar syrup is combined with juice from winter citrus and sparked with cinnamon and star anise. It’s like eating snow infused with sunshine. Accompanying the sorbet is Zuckerman’s buttery, nutty hazelnut shortbread. The high proportion of butter in the recipe gives it a dreamy, melting tenderness – just what you want in the best of shortbread.
Apple Cider and Caramel Ice Cream
The recipe describes this as tasting like Tarte Tatin, and it does. The sweet tang of apples mixes with buttery caramel to make an intriguingly complex – and utterly delicious – ice cream. This ice cream is almost ridiculously creamy; after a couple of days in the freezer it is still soft and scoopable. A crispy butter pecan tuile takes the place of the Tarte Tatin crust – a delicate counterpoint to the lushness of the ice cream.
So my verdict? I think my new ice cream machine performs quite well; both ice creams came out smooth and luscious, without discernible crystals or graininess. And I was able to make two batches of ice cream one after the other without waiting – definitely a plus. However, I’m not sure I’m ready to regulate my old ice cream maker to the donation pile yet. I guess I’ll be making more batches of ice cream before I can come to a final conclusion…
P.S. I’m off for a quick jaunt to Maui to escape the sudden chill that’s descended on San Francisco. See you in a week!