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Homemade ice cream - question about chilling custard base before churning

Most recipes I've come across say to chill the custard base over a bowl of ice water and then place in refrigerator to chill for several hours or overnight.

Is it really necessary to quick chick over ice water, as long as the base gets sufficiently chilled in the fridge before churning. Seems like an unnecessary step to me.

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  1. I've never done the first step you speak of and my ice creams turn out fine. I always leave in fridge overnight though. I agree, it seems unnecessary.

    1. I don't do the first step either. When the base is ready I let it cool a bit, put it in the canister, insert the paddle, put on the lid, and stick it in the fridge to chill several hours before churning. If I want it for after supper, I set it up in the morning.

      1. I'm no expert but they recommend it to ensure quick freezing. Apparently, the quicker it freezes the smaller the ice crystals will be and, consequently, the creamier the texture will be. That is why Alton brown recommends it.

        However, others on chowhound dispute this and say they don't have any problems.

        1. Ive done the ice bath step before, and I don't bother anymore. It doesn't make any noticeable difference in the way my ice creams turn out.

          However, the faster the ice cream freezes the more creamy it will be. The colder the base is, the faster it will freeze...so, you want the base to be very cold when you pour it into the machine. Stick in the fridge until it is cold (so at least a few hours) and then churn.

          8 Replies
          1. re: bluemoon4515

            Everyone who says the faster it freezes the creamier is right. But it depends on what kind of maker you have. If you put luke-warm (say 50 F) mix into a freezer bowl much of the cooling capacity will be wasted getting the mix down to 32 F and the transition from liquid and solid will be slow. If you use a compressor type machine it won't make much difference. I had a bowl type machine in the past and got the best results when I pre-chilled to just above 32 F, which took 6-8 hours typically. Now I use a compressor machine and I just let the mix cool a couple of hours in the fridge and don't bother to check the temp before churning.

            1. re: Zeldog

              A couple of things faster to below 40F does for you:
              gets the mix out of the temp danger zone, lessening the chance of food borne illness
              makes your fridge have to not work as hard to get keep the box cool
              arrests whatever carryover cooking may be happening if you making an anglaise

              Also, an anglaise ice cream base (french style) will benefit from the long cooling period (and a trip through a blender or a minute with an immersion blender) to ensure the smoothest possible texture. Something about the protein strands relaxing once fully cool, as I recall.

              1. re: LeroyT

                And these are the reasons I chill my base in a ice water bath.

              2. re: Zeldog

                What I'm still not getting is...why does it matter how the custard was initially chilled (ice bath and fridge or fridge only), if the temperature of the custard when it goes into the machine is the same and sufficiently chilled. Does it matter how quick the initial chill took place??

                1. re: JanRan

                  "Does it matter how quick the initial chill took place??"

                  Refer to Leroy T's post.

                  1. re: bushwickgirl

                    Days later, and I'm still thinking about this; what I should have written was, Leroy T's post points out the reasons why you should, but do you have to? Nah.

                  2. re: JanRan

                    As far as I can tell it doesn't...

                    1. re: JanRan

                      I don't think it matters. I'm using an old canister packed on the outside with ice in a tub type ice cream maker and I make sure the base has come to room temperature before putting it in the fridge, then wait until the base has started to chill before putting the lid on, just to make sure I don't get condensation inside the canister. I think that leads to ice crystals in my ice cream. I've never used one of these gel bowl things.

                2. I assume the custard you're chilling is one that was just cooked and needs to be cooled. The reason for the ice bath is that ice water conducts cold (is that the way to put it?) more efficiently than does air. So if you just put the hot custard in the refrigerator it will take a long time to get to 40 degrees and will also raise the temperature of the air in the refrigerator because of the steam rising off the hot custard. If you don't really care about the temperature rising in the refrigerator and you are not planning on churning the ice cream until the next day or at least for several hours, sure you can skip the ice bath. However, I've found that I can cook the custard and get it down to 40 degrees in about an hour by simple putting the custard in an ice bath, placing it if front of a small fan and stirring the custard every few minutes. The fan blows away the hot steam/air rising from the custard while the ice water chills it quickly. If time is not a problem, as I said, skip it.

                  1. This may be sheer dumb luck, but I always chill the custard in the ice water bath to get it out of the danger zone quickly before I put it in my piece o' crap refrigerator (GE Monogram), then leave it in the fridge for a full 24 hours and my ice cream is always perfect. We're talking creamy, multiple egg yolk, heart-attack inducing perfection.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Isolda

                      In my experience with a canister ice cream maker, it doesn't matter how you get the custard down to just above freezing, as long as you make sure to do so before you put the custard in the canister. Especially on a hot summer day.

                      I usually just put the custard straight into the freezer and give it a stir every five minutes until it tastes cold. One time the phone rang and I forgot about a blueberry sorbet mix for a lot longer. When I remembered it, it was a lot harder to stir, and there were a small number of ice crystals. I ended up just leaving it in the freezer and stirring it another couple of times before serving it. It was chewy rather than fluffy, but quite tasty.