(CNN) — When it’s hot and sticky in the summer, take it as a sign that the universe is giving you an excuse to eat more ice cream. You can get instant gratification by picking up a cone at your local scoop store, but why not take the time to whip up your favorite flavor at home?
This alchemy can be accomplished by any home cook, regardless of skill level. All you need are a few basic ingredients and a bit of imagination. Here’s how to turn your kitchen into a veritable ice cream lab.
You don’t need expensive equipment
First, you’ll need an ice cream maker to churn your frozen concoctions. But you don’t have to dip into your savings to get one that does the job well. “It’s absolutely 100% acceptable to start with a base model – anyone will do,” Cuscuna said.
The more affordable models use a bowl that must be pre-frozen before use, which takes up space in the freezer and requires advance planning. However, if that extra time and foresight makes sense from a cost perspective, these models are reliable and durable. Compressor models are more expensive (and heavier) but do not require prior freezing.
(If you’re wondering what this food writer uses for his homemade ice cream, after 15 years of developing and testing recipes using a basic freezer bowl model, I upgraded to a compressor in 2020 .)
For a challenge, you can make ice cream without electricity. Although they don’t use it for the large-scale batches sold at The Social, when his family makes ice cream for fun, “we prefer to do the old-fashioned way with a hand-cranked ice cream churn with ice and rock salt,” Cuscuna said. If you’re looking for something to keep the kids busy at the beach house or lake cabin, it might be fun to store one of these manual models.
You don’t need to use eggs
Many ice cream recipes use an egg custard base to give the finished ice cream its thick, smooth texture. “Eggs are an emulsifier,” Cuscuna explained, containing both protein and fat that help maintain the consistency of the ice cream as it spins and air bubbles are whipped into the creamy base.
Churn an ice cream base by hand, in a chilled bowl.
Or try The Social’s method of giving their ice cream bases, which are all egg-free, extra thickness and body. “We puree the mixes we use, like brownies or gooey buttercakes,” into the base of the ice cream, Cuscuna explained. Mixing ingredients like cakes and cookies into the base gives it “a thicker, creamier, more resonant flavor,” she said.
Churn-free and dairy-free ice cream? No problem!
No-churn ice cream might seem like a recent trend, especially if you spend enough time on Pinterest, but the idea has been around for over a century. The traditional Italian dessert semifreddo, for example, is made by mixing whipped cream with eggs and freezing the mixture until frothy.
Homemade lemon ice cream, served with a lemon wedge and a mint garnish.
Oksana Bratanova/Adobe Stock
Where to start?
Whatever you decide to do, “it’s never going to be bad,” Cuscuna said. Experimenting with homemade ice cream is “more about combining flavors that are going to speak to you and resonate with that childish sense that you have,” she added.