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Home made ice cream -- what am I doing wrong?

  • f

I can never seem to make home made ice cream that is any good. It just either comes out grainy, or not creamy, or it is runny, or it is a frozen chunk of blech on the paddle or it freezes to the side of the bucket part of my mixer first preventing thorough and uneven mixing. I've used multiple recipes, multiple techniques, I have a super cold freezer for the bucket part of my ice cream maker and I freeze the paddle and I chill the ingredients, but I never ever seem to get the kind of results that you see on, say, Top Chef or AIC or even what the recipe says you'll get.
Is this a matter of equipment? Do you need commercial equipment plus a blast chiller to get a creamy smooth ice cream? And how do you store it after it is done (assuming any is left), without it freezing to a hard crystal? When I pack it and cover it with plastic wrap it turns into a popsicle even if I use a top rated recipe and ingredients.
Who here has consistent luck making and storing home made ice cream and how do you DO it?

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  1. Not sure what formula you're using, but one thing that makes a _huge_ difference and improvement in the texture of home made ice cream is the use of corn syrup rather than sugar.

    6 Replies
    1. re: The Professor

      OOH haven't heard of using corn syrup. I'll search for some links. Thanks!

      1. re: freia

        I had issues with texture because I have to use a combination of sugar substitutes in place of sugar. I learned on these boards (I think you can find a long thread about it from last year or the year before) that adding vodka prevents crystals from forming, for a better texture. I haven't tried it yet, but I did try the polydextrose solution, and as long as I didn't use too much, it was smooth and creamy and not gummy. HTH.

        Edit: Here's one thread, and there are a bunch more at the bottom of that page... http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7218...

        1. re: mcf

          Thanks, mcf! Much appreciated. I'm off to read!

      2. re: The Professor

        I never, EVER use corn syrup. I am highly allergic to it. And I always have lovely, creamy ice cream.

        I always use a cooked custard for starters, and chill it thoroughly before blending in the cream and churning.

        1. re: ChefJune

          "I always use a cooked custard for starters, and chill it thoroughly before blending in the cream and churning."

          This is the way to go...

          1. re: ChefJune


            My first attempts at ice cream used recipes from The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz. Every recipe I've tried from the book has been great. I follow his directions carefully and have never had any problems. No commercial equipment - I use Cuisinart's 2 qt electric stainless steel model and lovelovelove it.

        2. In my experience, you definitely do not need professional equipment to make creamy, delicious ice cream. Granted, few home ice cream machines whip quite as much air into the mix as professional or industrial ones do, but this isn't necessarily a bad thing (I'm not a fan of that storebought ice cream that's all air anyway). There are so many variables with ice cream, especially in regards to temperature, that I've found it impossible to get it perfect every time, but I do get fairly consistent results if I do a few things.

          I think of ice cream making as being more similar to baking than to cooking. There's chemistry going on and even a slight change in temperature or the balance of ingredients can throw everything off.

          Make sure that your canister and your ice cream mix have been chilling for at least 24 hours (longer for the canister if your freezer is less than arctic) and do not remove them from the fridge/freezer until right before you start churning.

          I've never tried freezing the paddle, and wonder if that could account for part of the sticking and uneven freezing problem. The way I see it, the ice cream mix freezes to the sides of the bucket and the paddle scrapes it off in thin layers, simultaneously whipping air into the mix to keep it light and frothy. If the paddle's frozen, it might start to freeze the mix unevenly from the inside out instead of from the outside in. Someone else can correct me if I'm wrong on this though -- I've never tried it myself, or heard of it. What is your paddle made of, by the way?

          The sugar and the fat content both have a huge effect on the consistency. If you try to reduce either, you will need to make other changes to the recipe to accommodate for the difference in consistency.

          I've never tried replacing the sugar with corn syrup, but I know that a bit of corn starch makes for a smoother mouthfeel, especially if your ice cream is not custard based.

          A tablespoon or two of alcohol (vodka works well if you don't want any flavour, but there are all kinds of fun combinations) will improve the consistency and stop the ice cream from freezing into a block in the freezer. Use it sparingly, though -- too much and it will remain slush forever.

          If you're making a puree-based fruit sorbet, a teaspoon of lightly beaten egg white will give it a lighter consistency and prevent the popsicle block from forming in the freezer.

          Ice cream makers do vary from model to model. My old bucket-in-the-freezer one was prone to under freezing (although my old freezer was partly at fault). My current ice-and-salt model makes a slightly icier product and works best with mixes that contain huge quantities of eggs or a bit of corn starch (or a combination of both). I grew up with a freezer-canister-hand crank model that churned out super dense, yet creamy, ice cream.

          Once you have found a basic custard mix that works for you and your ice cream maker, you can customize it based on different flavours and recipes you find. It sounds like it may take some experimentation (you may just have a finicky ice cream maker), but that's the fun part! Once you've developed a formula, you can use it for pretty much any flavour.

          1. Try the base recipe for Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream. It is fabulous, and pretty easy too. I just made it for the first time last week because my home made ice cream attempts were epic fails.

            1. My equipment is this:
              for my Bosch Concept 7 (oh how I love my Bosch
              I have a separate dedicated upright freezer and I store the ice cream attachment there 24/7 along with the paddle. The freezing I refer to is only on the sides of the bowl, not around the paddle, almost like the bowl is ... too cold....which makes absolutely no sense.
              I will definitely give the recipe linked above a try. My ice cream is general epically bad (lol loved that phrase, epic fail), and my storage is worse.
              So, any hints for storage?

              1. I use the KA mixer attachment/bowl for ice cream, and the vanilla recipe that came in the book - it's always perfect, never grainy, always creamy. I use heavy cream, no milk, and straight sugar.

                1. BBL has pretty much nailed it, but if your final product is hard like a rock, you may not be getting enough air into it. This can happen if you don't spin it long enough. With the type of freezer you have, it should be the texture of soft-serve when you remove it -- the motor should be laboring and on the verge of stalling.

                  You can add some Corn Syrup to the mix, but you can't replace all the sugar with Corn Syrup or it won't freeze. About 1/4 cup per quart is the most you can replace. Oddly, even the Karo Syrup website offers no advice on this.

                  Your machine should be running when you pour in the mix so it won't stick to the sides and jam up the paddle. And your mix should be refrigerated for 24 hours before freezing -- this enhances the flavors as well as speeding up the freezing process. Your mix should be 33 degrees when it goes into your zero-degree churn.

                  Your freezer core needs to be stored at zero or below, and you should cure the ice cream at this temp as well. But Ice Cream is best served at 10-20 degrees, so it does need to warm up and soften to be scoopable.

                  Are you using eggs? If not, Philly style ice cream (no eggs) can tend to be harder and icier. French style is usually smoother and softer.

                  Are you making any changes to your formulas from what's published? Ice Cream is a very fussy physics and chemistry experiment and any alteration can really change the end result.

                  Finally, there's a recent thread about the use of guar and xanthan gums, which can be purchased at most supermarkets. Many commercial brands use these to improve texture. I know it sort of defeats the purpose of home made ice cream to add this stuff, but it does work, especially if you use them sparingly and in combination.

                  1. My advice is to use simple, real ingredients and freeze it according to the instructions that came with your ice cream freezer. Alton Brown has a good recipe here:


                    The only "extra" ingredient that I'm on board with is the vodka one - this does prevent the too-hard freezing that can occur with homemade ice cream. Please don't succumb to artificial sweeteners and texturizers - also no cornstarch, gums, etc. That kind of stuff is in the cheap ice creams that you are going to a lot of trouble to trump.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: sandylc

                      But don't dismiss corn syrup...it _is_ a natural ingredient (made by a simple, natural enzymatic conversion of the starch to sugar) and can really make for a good texture without resorting to the vegetable gums (although they are also 'natural').

                    2. Need to know exactly what you *are* doing when making your ice cream.
                      Tell us the technique(s) you are using to execute whatever recipe you are following.

                      Also, regarding texture, before eating the ice cream from the freezer, let it rest on the counter for about 10 minutes. Amazing what that can do for the texture.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: ipsedixit

                        Or nuke it for 10 seconds. For impatient folks. Not that I am one, just sayinzall.

                          1. re: sandylc

                            Let's just make our "anti nuclear proliferation efforts" our dirty little secret, then.

                      2. Freia: fwiw, here's my "never-fail"cream recipe.

                        French Vanilla Ice Cream

                        makes about 1 1/2 quarts

                        1 vanilla bean

                        3 cups whole milk

                        2/3 cups sugar

                        1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

                        2 extra large eggs

                        1 teaspoon Bourbon Madagascar vanilla extract (the vanilla I prefer for all desserts)

                        1 cup heavy cream

                        1. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise and use the tip of a small sharp knife to scrape out the seeds. Add the bean and the seeds to the milk in the top of a double boiler. Scald the milk mixture.

                        2. Mix sugar and salt. Add the hot milk, stirring constantly, and return to the double boiler. Stir over boiling water until thickened.

                        3. Beat the eggs and add a small portion of the hot mixture. Return to the remaining hot mixture and cook, stirring occasionally until the mixture coats a metal spoon. Chill thoroughly.

                        4. Add the vanilla extract and cream, and freeze in a hand-crank or electric freezer, following the instructions given with either.

                        Teacher’s Tip: Make the ice cream up to step 4 and refrigerate it overnight. The next day, it’s a snap to add the cream and churn it to perfect consistency. Do let it “set up” in the freezer for several hours before serving so the flavor reaches its peak.

                        I use a Cuisinart 1 1/2 quart machine. The bowl lives in my freezer when not in use. I have never frozen the dasher.

                        1. So it sounds like our ice cream problem (icicles and rock hard) isn't what we are storing it in, (chubby hubby) loves the plastic freezer bags, but how we are making it. It comes out in a lovely smooth texture, but once it goes into the freezer over night the crystals appear. Will try a little vodka. So far we use the recipes that came with teh Cuisinart, and have had great luck with the butter pecan. The raspberry gelato was good, but the recipe calls for 1/4 c dry powdered milk, which left an after taste. My thought is too eliminate the dry milk, do we have to substitute anything else for it?

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: coolie

                            Adding the dry milk increases the milk solids in the mix, which improves texture. You could substitute evaporated milk for the regular but that may not be an improvement. More sugar, some cream, or some corn syrup might also help.

                            There is also a very good discussion going on now about the use of guar, xanthan and corn starch to help with smoothness.

                          2. Thanks everyone for the help. I try to make without additives, but since the weather has taken a turn for the worse (38F brrr) I'll be making more batches in a month or so. I'll update then, if anyone is interested!

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: freia

                              We've had great results following Mark Bittman's non-custard approach using corn starch as a binding agent. I think the link we found was from the NYTimes. Our favorite flavor has been a dulce con leches version in which we include a trace of cinnamon, cayenne and chili powder to contrast the sweetness for the caramel flavors. We cool the mixture in the refrigerator for at least 4hours and then run it thru our self-chilling ice cream maker. The result is incredibly smooth never grainy.

                            2. Hi Frela, you really don't need commercial equipment to make ice cream that is 100 times better than what you buy in a supermarket. I use my Cuisinart ICE 30 and get excellent results.

                              I would say that a starting point is making sure that you have a high enough total solids content (milkfat, non-fat milk solids, egg yolk, and sugar); somewhere around 47%.

                              Try the following recipe for vanilla ice cream:

                              If you are using cream at 36% fat:
                              Cream 474g
                              Semi-skimmed milk 413g
                              Sugar 141g
                              Egg yolks 72g
                              I whole vanilla bean.

                              It's really important that you heat your mix to 71.4°C and hold it there for 60 minutes, yes 60 minutes! This is crucial for promoting reversible protein denaturation and reducing the water content in your mix.

                              Let me know if that helps.

                              All the best, Ruben

                              1. Just received my KA ice cream attachment last night. Wow-hoo, can't wait to explore a bunch of recipes. However, looking for at least a few lower-calorie options (gelatos, sorbets) to offset the weight-gain (1/2 c portions--peshaw!)

                                1. You don't need commercial equipment to make smooth and creamy ice cream. You do need to make sure that you have a high total solids percentage in your mix (milk fat, sugar, egg yolks, and non-fat milk solids).

                                  Heating a mix is one of the most important factors in making ice cream, although this does take a while and can be a pain in the neck. If you are willing to heat and stir your mix for 60 minutes at around 71.4°C (to promote reversible protein denaturation) give this recipe a go. It will make extremely smooth and creamy ice cream.