The Ice Cream Maker is probably one of the most often over looked of home appliances. EVERYONE has a microwave, a toaster, a blender, or a crock pot, but few own an ice cream maker. And it's probably one of the most fun, enjoyable of small kitchen appliances.

There are many different styles of ice cream makers on the market. Some are electric, some hand crank. Some require ice and salt, others do not. It all becomes a matter of preference, though the hand crank machines that do require ice and salt tend to make a tastier blend. The downside of this is that these are also the most time consuming to use. Electric machines make a smoother blend and take much less work and time. In fact, with a little supervision, even an 8 year old can make ice cream with an electric machine.

One of the biggest benefits of having a maker of your own is flavor choice. You are limited only by your imagination, taste buds, and budget. There is a basic recipe for ice cream, sorbet, or frozen yogurt. You can adapt that by adding fruit, candy, or liqueur. In the mood for peanut butter fudge chunk? Just toss in some broken up brownies or fudge and a few spoonfuls of peanut butter. In the mood for peaches and cream? Toss in either canned or fresh (fresh is always better) peaches. If you are unsure of experimenting on your own there are many cookbooks available. You can also search the internet for pages upon pages of ideas. Some machines are even designed to take a pre-packaged ice cream mix, though I don't personally recommend these.

One major downfall I have found to commercial makers is the limitation on size. Machines traditionally come with only one container, which is usually 1-2 quarts. There are some makers which are 4 or 5 quarts in capacity, but they are difficult to find. With careful choosing in your purchase, you can locate a machine you like in which the maufacturer makes additional containers availble.

It should be noted that not all hand crank machines require salt or ice. The reason this type of machine produces a tastier mix may stem from a reminiscence to days gone by. The resultant ice cream seems almost creamier and more full of flavor, though I can not give a scientific basis for this. It is a matter of opinion, and I recommend you try ice cream from both types of machines (if at all possible) to form your own opinion.

These makers can range in price from $25 to over $600. Electric machines have a container which must be stored in the freezer for a minimum of 4 hours prior to using. Hand crank machines require rock salt or table salt and ice. Most machines take approximately 30-45 minutes to mix one batch, which should then be placed in the freezer for a minimum of 1 hour before eating. The additonal freezing is not necessary, but helps the dessert to achieve the correct frozen dessert consistency.

Some of the more popular ice cream makers are:

  • Rival® Ice Cream Maker, 5 qt. electric, requires rock salt or table salt, can use powdered mix, $45
  • Donvier® Ice Cream Maker, 1 qt. hand crank, does not require electricity, ice, or salt $50
  • Rival® Gel Canister Ice Cream Maker, 1.5 qt. electric, does not require ice or salt, $50
  • Scoop Factory® Ice Cream Maker, 1.5 qt. electric, no salt or ice required, $50
  • Hand Crank Ice Cream Maker, 4 qt. hand crank, requires rock salt or table salt, and ice $220.

One good thing about ice cream makers is that you can start with a base recipe. Here is one for Ice Cream:

1/2 pint (250ml) light cream
small can (4 oz.) condensed milk
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Mix all ingredients in a bowl until smooth. Add desired flavorings in quantities suitable for the size machine you have. Place mixture in ice cream maker and operate per manufacturer directions.

A good base recipe for Sorbet (also called Simple Syrup):

2 cups water
2 cups sugar

Boil sugar and water together until all sugar is dissolved, approximately 3 minutes. Remove from heat and cool completely. This can be made in larger batches and stored in the refrigerator. For every cup of mashed fresh fruit use 1/2 cup of the base recipe. Fill machine and operate per manufacturer directions.

It should also be noted there are many frozen deserts that can be created in an ice cream maker. In addition to ice cream, sorbet, and frozen yogurt one can create gelato (an Italian ice cream which contains less air than American ice creams), Italian Ice, sherbert, and frozen jello or pudding creations. Again, it's all a matter of taste, imagination, and budget.

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