best economical, small-quantity ice cream makers?
It's about a gazillion degrees here in Atlanta and I'm dying to try my hand at some ice creams/sorbets (particularly after experiencing La Duree's rose sorbet last month). I'm only cooking for two maximum, so I just need something small and manageable, and preferably inexpensive. Any suggestions?
I'm fond of my Cuisinart model with the freezer bowl. Takes some planning with the need to freeze for 24 hours, but you can't beat 60 bucks and dependable. If memory serves, Williams Sonoma and a few of the other retailers even have them with double bowls now which is great for days when one flavor isn't enough.
You don't need an ice cream maker.
You can easily make ice cream, esp. in small quantities, without the use of a special contraption. http://crafts.kaboose.com/ice-cream-i...
So, to answer your question, best economical, small quantity ice cream maker is a couple of good-sized Ziploc bags.
We took your advice and tried the ice cream in a bag method this weekend. It worked great! Though first attempt it was just good at making chilled cream soup, we were just needing to wait a bit longer than the prescribed 5 minutes.
Our method that we found worked much better than shaking was to add a small amount of water to the ice/salt mixture, and knead the bag (gently!) on the countertop while rolled up in a dish towel. We double bagged the big bag to ensure we didn't get leakage.
No saltwater leakage (either to the towel or the ice cream) using this method, and a really nice consistency of ice cream product (read online the the kneading will keep ice crystal formation more uniform).
I picked up my Cuisinart (I assume the one Nocturnalbill mentions) at a resale shop for $15. I keep the freezer bowl in my freezer all the time, which means it's always available to make ice cream at the drop of a hat. It makes about 1 quart of ice cream in about half an hour. You don't have to fill it to capacity, though - so you can make half that amount if you prefer (but who can't eat a quart?). Downside: it takes up space in your freezer and furthermore the freezer needs to be one that gets really cold - so fridge-top unit might not do the trick.
I have a Rival 1.5 quart model, the kind where the bottom goes into the freezer. I bought it for $15 new at a close-out, overstock store. I have also seen them real cheap at thrift stores. Just make sure they aren't leaking (the bottom part that goes into the freezer can leak sometimes, I dropped mine and it would leak if I ever let come completely to room temperature) and make sure all the parts are there including the dasher.
I recommend the Cuisinart too, but I would also recommend buying an extra bowl and keeping them both frozen. For some reason, ice cream just can't seem to be a single flavor project around here.