I Scream,
You scream,
We all scream,

Sounds more like a marketing slogan.

nursery rhyme

Ice creams are normally based on carefully cooked, well-chilled syrups (or heavy custards) added to unwhipped cream, although there are some simple recipes that consist of milk, sugar and flavouring.

When making a ice cream in an ice cream churn, prepare the mix the day before you freeze, to increase yield and to produce a smoother-textured cream. When you do churn it, fill the container only 2/3 full to allow for expansion. When packing the churn around the inner container, use four parts chipped or cracked ice to one part coarse rock salt. Pack about 1/3 of the freezer chamber with ice and add layers of salt and ice around the container until the freezer is full. Allow the pack to stand about three minutes before you start turning the handle. Start slowly at first (+/- 40 revolutions a minute) until a slight pull is felt, then triple the speed for five to six minutes. If any additions are going to be made (fruit, nuts) do it now. Then repack and taper off the churning to about 80 revolutions a minute for a few minutes more. The ice cream should be ready in 10 to 20 minutes, depending on quality and quantity.

Vanilla Ice Cream
Scald over low heat, but do not boil:
1 cup of cream
Stir in, until dissolved:
3/4 cup sugar
1/8 t. salt
If you have a vanilla bean, add to the hot mixture.
Chill. Once chilled, add:
3 cups of cream

Chocolate Ice Cream
Using a double boiler, dissolve together:
2 oz. of unsweetened chocolate
2 cups of milk
Stir in:
1 cup sugar
1/8 t. salt
Remove from heat. Beat with a whisk until cool and fluffy. Add:
1 1/2 t. vanilla
1 cup of whipping cream
1 cup of cream

The Joy of Cooking by Irma S Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker have more variations worth checking out

You can also make an 'ice cream churn' from coffee cans. Here's a simple recipe using coffee cans, and as a plus, you don't have to use the stove.

Coffee Can Ice Cream

2 cups whipping cream
1/2 cup sugar
vanilla or other flavouring

Rock salt
Ice (you'll want small ice, probably crushed)

Mix the sugar, whipping cream, and (liquid or semiliquid) flavouring in a 1 lb. coffee can, and duct tape the cover on. Put ice, salt and coffee can into a 3 lb. coffee can, which will also need duct tape. Mix for about ten minutes -- the easiest way to do this is by rolling or (gently) kicking it back and forth between two people. After about ten minutes, open it back up and scrape the ice cream that has stuck to the sides of the can, and mix it in. If you want to add any other flavourings (cookie crumbs, chocolate chips, etc.), do it now. If the ice/salt needs changing or topping off, do it now. Seal it all back up and mix for another five minutes or so. And there you have it.

But that's a lot of work, and requires special equipment. Here's an easier way to make ice cream -- but be warned, shortcuts like these may result in an inferior end product, not to mention a big mess.

Ice Cream in a Bag
2 Tablespoon sugar (you may want to add more)
1 cup milk
Vanilla to taste (probably about 1/2 teaspoon)

2 cups ice
3 tablespoons rock salt
Two sealable plastic bags, one sandwich sized, one gallon sized. Yes, I mean ziploc bags, but not necessarily Ziploc(tm) bags.

Mix these sugar, milk, and vanilla in the smaller 'Ziploc' bag, and seal it. Fill the larger bag with the ice, salt, and smaller bag. Shake, roll, knead, and gently pummel the bags for about 15 minutes. If you're having kids help you with this, you may want to double-bag the smaller bag.

Some ice cream history (yep, it exists people! Ice cream has no mercy)

Already before 1000 BC the Chinese whipped together and froze cream, eggs and sugar to make a delicious ice cream. It was probably introduced to the barbarian Europeans by Marco Polo. Some people (Ouroboros might be one of them) think it was actually Marco Polo who first added milk to frozen liquids, since only the Mongols, the Xiugurs and the Tibetians eat milk products. There is, however, no proof of that, although there is some evidence that the Chinese indulged in iced drinks and desserts, which gives some weight to the Marco Polo theory. Water ices were known in ancient Greece and Persia.

Italy and Russia were renowned for their ice cream (handmade in a large bowl) even before it became a mechanized industry some hundred years ago. The ice cream industry started off in the United States and England. In 1774, a caterer named Phillip Lenzi announced in a New York newspaper that he had just arrived from London and would be offering for sale various confections, including ice cream. A New Jersey woman, Nancy Johnson, invented the hand-cranked freezer in 1846. Only from the 1950s, technical developments made possible for 'soft' ice cream to be mass distributed, resembling the original Chinese type in appearance.

Ice cream - the chemistry

The best ice cream has a wonderful flavour, texture and body. It should melt in the mouth to a creamy liquid at a temperature which feels neither too cold nor too warm.

It is essential to get the balance of ingredients right to make good ice cream and the relative quantities of fat, water and sugar need to be carefully adjusted.

Ice cream freezes at different temperatures depending on the amount of sugar. The greater the amount of sugar in the mixture, the lower the freezing temperature; this affects the size and structure of the ice crystals, and therefore the hardness of the finished product.

The fat (from milk, cream or egg yolks) forms an emulsion and this helps keep ice crystals small by physically getting in the way as the crystals try to clump together and grow. It is the fat element which produces a rich ice cream and also adds to the impression of smoothness on the tongue. (Many commercial ice cream manufacturers add other, cheaper fats to their ice creams, along with emulsifiers to keep the fat in suspension and to try to maintain a good texture.)

Equally important to good ice cream is the amount of agitation (churning) given during the freezing process, and the rate of freezing. A smooth ice cream is formed when the mixture is churned throughout the freezing process because the ice crystals are prevented from aggregating into larger lumps. Churning introduces air into the mixture as it freezes - cheap commercial ice creams often contain as much as 50% air, such that 'frozen foam' would be a more accurate description of this inferior product.

Rapid freezing encourages the formation of many very small ice crystals, rather than fewer large ones, thus producing a smooth-textured ice cream or sorbet. Rough textured granitas are left to freeze more slowly and the ice crystals are only broken up during a later stage of freezing.

The addition of flavouring ingredients, noteably alcohol, chocolate and/or fruit purées will also alter the freezing properties. Alcohol, in particular, significantly lowers the freezing point - if too much is added it is possible that the product will never freeze. So beware - in the case of alcohol in ice cream, it is definitely not a case of 'the more the merrier' ;)

Picture a waffle cone filled with vanilla ice cream suspended over blacktop on a hot summer day. The way the cream melts and drips, drips out the bottom drop by drop by drop and plunges in a freefall action similar to the way your stomach drops up to your throat as a roller coaster slips over its apex is how I sometimes feel. This is Mondays, this is Fridays, this is finals... this is Hell. This is a lifetime of pressure built up and delivered intravenously... drip, drip.

I can't get away, I can't escape. My tension has filled up my mindscape.

I seek relief from worries so risen. My panic has drowned out my vision.

I surrender to sleep often calling. It saves me from life-scenes appalling.

I choke and I gasp like a deep water diver with lungs begging for air and see spots dance in front of my eyes in a choreographed number and watch the room fade to black and listen to the white noise in an empty room in the tune of c-sharp and I know I'm not sick and I know something's not right


I scream.

A wonderful frozen concoction that generally contains cream, milk, sugar, flavourings, and sometimes eggs. Commercial ice creams also contain a variety of stabilizers and emulsifiers to give a creamy texture, but the home cook doesn't have - and probably doesn't want - those ingredients on hand. So how can you achieve that wonderful texture and mouth feel at home? The best way is to incorporate either eggs or gelatine (agar for vegetarians) into your ice cream. I recommend doing the former if you have an ice cream maker and the latter if you don't.

Let's discuss the egg option first. In general, this method involves making a custard of egg yolks and dairy, cooling it, and then churning. As BlueDragon explains admirably above, the dairy portion needs to be fairly high in butterfat for the best results: I use half heavy cream and half whole milk; skim milk is too thin and watery, all cream too buttery. Sugar is also necessary for sweetness and to make the ice cream more scoopable (see BlueDragon again on this). And finally, the ice cream maker. There are several different types on the market, admirably described by Bookworm here, all providing the necessary churning action required to make a good ice cream.

But what if you haven't got an ice cream maker? All is not lost, my friends. I discovered, in the days before I picked one up cheap at a garage sale, that incorporating gelatine in the ice cream can give a good texture of ice cream with minimal churning. It's not as good as the first version, but it's pretty delicious, and easy to make.

How to make 1 quart (1-1/4 litres) of ice cream, custard method

You'll need:

  • 1-1/2 cups (360 ml) whole milk
  • 1-1/2 cups (360 ml) heavy cream (35% butterfat)
  • 3/4 cups (180 ml) sugar
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, slit and seeds scraped out
  • 4 egg yolks
  • flavourings: 1/3 cup (80 ml) cocoa powder, or 4 oz melted and cooled chocolate, or 3 tblsp (45 ml) instant espresso, or 1-1/2 to 2 cups (360-480 ml) crushed fruit, or something else that strikes your fancy

What to do:

  1. Combine milk, cream, 1/2 cup (120 ml) sugar, and vanilla in a saucepan. Heat over medium until steaming. (If you're adding espresso or melted chocolate, do it here.)
  2. While the dairy mixture is heating, beat egg yolks and remaining 1/4 cup (60 ml) sugar until thick and pale. An electric mixer is the easiest to use. If you turn off the beaters and lift them out of the yolks, the yolk should fall in thick ribbons. (If you're adding cocoa powder, do it here.)
  3. Temper the yolks by spooning out 1/2 cup (120 ml) hot dairy mixture and, stirring constantly, pour slowly into the egg yolks. (This heats up the yolks a bit so they don't cook when you add them to the hot dairy mixture.)
  4. Stirring constantly, pour the yolk mixture slowly into the dairy mixture and continue to cook, stirring all the while. Soon the custard will become noticeably thick; it should coat the back of a wooden spoon. (What does this mean, anyway? It means that the custard should leave an even film on the spoon when it's removed, such that if you run your finger across the coating on the spoon, it leaves a clear trail. If the coating runs into the trail, the mixture needs to be cooked more.)
  5. When the custard is nice and thick, remove it from the heat and let it come to room temperature. (It will form a skin, sadly.) Stir it, cover tightly with plastic wrap, then put it in the fridge for a few hours to get really cool. (This will help it churn better.) Remove the vanilla bean, and if you're adding fruit, do it here.
  6. Churn the ice cream in the ice cream maker till firm. It'll still be a bit soft; it's best to transfer it into a container and freeze it for a bit longer, till it's firm. It'll keep for up to a week, though I'd be pretty surprised if it was around that long.

How to make 1 quart (1-1/4 litres) of ice cream, gelatine method

You'll need:

  • 1-1/2 tblsp (25 ml) gelatine or agar
  • 1-1/2 cups (360 ml) whole milk
  • 1-1/2 cups (360 ml) heavy cream (35% butterfat)
  • 3/4 cups (180 ml) sugar
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, slit and seeds scraped out
  • flavourings: 4 oz melted and cooled chocolate, or 3 tblsp (45 ml) instant espresso, or 1-1/2 to 2 cups (360-480 ml) crushed fruit, or anything else that strikes your fancy

What to do:

  1. Combine milk, cream, sugar, and vanilla in a saucepan. Heat over medium until steaming. (If you're adding espresso or chocolate, do it here.) Cool to room temperature.
  2. Sprinkle gelatine or agar over 1/2 cup (120 ml) cold water in a small pot and let sit for five minutes. Stir, then heat over low heat, stirring frequently, till the gelatine dissolves completely. (Don't let it get too hot or it won't do its gelling magic.) Mix in to dairy mixture, and if you're adding fruit, do it here. Remove the vanilla bean.
  3. Pour the mixture into a wide metal bowl or tray and place in the freezer. When it's frozen around the edges but mushy in the centre, beat or whisk it till smooth. Repeat once or twice, returning to the freezer each time. Then just let it freeze till firm. Again, this stuff'll keep for up to a week, if you can make it last that long.

The History of Ice Cream
According to legend, the first century Roman emperor Nero often sent slaves to mountains in the region to collect snow and ice to be flavored and eaten. The flavored concoctions were likely the ancestors of today's frozen dessert.

The first written mention of ice cream in the United States is contained in a letter dating back to the 1700's. The letter describes the strawberry ice cream dessert at a dinner party thrown by one of the governors of Maryland. George Washington was said to be an ice cream lover, and consumed vast amounts of it - perhaps resulting in his wooden teeth.

The first ice cream parlor in this country was opened in New York City in 1776. The hand-cranked ice cream freezer was invented in 1845, which opened up the market for homemade ice cream. As a welcome to America, immigrants at Ellis Island were often fed ice cream as part of their first meal in the country. Ice cream novelties such as popsicles and ice cream bars were invented in the 1920s.

The ice cream cone was introduced at the 1904 World's Fair in Saint Louis. The cone was invented, however, by an ice cream vendor from New York City, who apparently created the cone in 1896 to stop customers from stealing his serving dishes. He patented the ice cream cone in 1903 the year before the World's fair where it was made famous.

President Ronald Reagan in 1984, declared July as "National Ice Cream Month" because he believed it to be "nutritious and wholesome". He also suggested that patriotic Americans should engage in "appropriate ceremonies and activities."

Ice Cream Statistics
In the consumption department, America holds the first place in ice cream eaten per capita, and Australia in second place. In 1924, the average American ate eight pints a year, which jumped to 48 pints per year by 1997. The biggest area of ice-cream consumption in America is unexpectedly in a state with a colder climate: Omaha, Nebraska.

The most popular US ice cream flavor is vanilla at about one fourth of all sales, with chocolate a distant second at around a tenth. Twenty percent of ice cream eaters share with their pets.

Ice Cream facts
A major component of ice cream is air. Without air, the texture of ice cream would be too hard to eat. This can be seen by examining the consistency of ice cream that has been partially melted and refrozen.

Ice cream comes in a multitude of flavors. Some of the stranger flavors ever sold include white pepper, jalapeno, pumpkin, avocado, licorice, garlic, and even dill pickle ice cream which was meant to be sold to pregnant women! (This last item apparently didn't go over well.)

The biggest ice cream sundae according to the Guinness Book of World Records was made in Alberta, Canada in 1988, and weighed nearly 55,000 pounds (25,000 kilograms). Also in 1988, a baking company and a sheet-metal firm in Iowa made the world's largest ice cream sandwich which weighed nearly 2,500 pounds (1,130 kilograms). In 1999, Baskin-Robbins made an ice cream cake in the United Arab Emirates that weighed just under 9,000 pounds (4,100 kilograms).

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