Refresh yourself this summer with homemade ice cream

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(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?

“It sounds daunting, but it’s really, really easy,” Jackie Cuscuna, founder of the Brooklyn, New York-based ice cream shop, told The Social. Making homemade ice cream “is more like alchemy. You take a liquid and turn it into a delicious frozen solid,” she added.

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.

junce11/Adobe Stock

If you don’t want to use eggs in your ice cream base, “you need to add something else that will allow it to be as creamy as possible,” Cuscuna says. Philadelphia-style ice cream, so called because it is said to have been developed by Benjamin Franklin in the sweltering summer of 1787 to refresh his fellow delegates to the Constitutional Convention, uses heavy cream, milk and sugar as its base. The fats in the heavy cream help emulsify this mixture, although it may have a softer consistency than egg-based ice cream.
Other ingredients can also replace eggs to stabilize and emulsify ice cream. Portland, Oregon-based Salt & Straw Ice Cream uses xanthan gum, light corn syrup and powdered milk in its egg-free ice cream base, while Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream Base uses cream cheese, light corn syrup and cornstarch. For egg-free chocolate ice cream, make Philadelphia-style Rocky Road ice cream, which uses cocoa powder to thicken and smooth the base of the ice cream.

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!

With so many high-quality, plant- and nut-based dairy alternatives now on the market, making vegan ice cream at home is much easier than it was a decade ago. Coconut milk, almond milk, or cashew milk are some of the most popular swaps to get that rich, creamy dairy-free ice cream taste. This salted bourbon caramel ice cream uses cashews and coconut milk.

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.

Some modern recipes ditch eggs for sweetened condensed milk, which has a gooey structure similar to sugar-thickened egg yolks, and can be flavored any way under the sun. For dairy-free churn-free ice cream, whole coconut milk mimics the structure of heavy cream incredibly well for a thick, smooth finished product.
Homemade lemon ice cream, served with a lemon wedge and a mint garnish.

Homemade lemon ice cream, served with a lemon wedge and a mint garnish.

Oksana Bratanova/Adobe Stock

Where to start?

With so many options, it’s hard to decide which flavor of ice cream to make first. (I’m going with my all-time favorite: lemon crunch ice cream.)

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.

Casey Barbier is a food writer, illustrator and photographer; author of “Pierogi Love: New Takes on an Old-World Comfort Food” and “Classic Snacks Made From Scratch: 70 Homemade Versions of Your Favorite Brand-Name Treats”; and site editor Good. Food. stories.


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