There’s no way around it: If you want to make ice cream at home, you need an ice cream maker. Without an ice cream maker, you can make adequate ice cream substitutes — among them slushy granitas and moderately creamy frozen whipped cream — but you cannot make ice cream. That’s because ice cream gets its smooth, rich texture from being churned in an ice-cold bowl, a process that forces air into it as it freezes. Yes, an ice cream maker is a space hog, and no, it doesn’t have many other uses, but without one your only options are buying a pint of Häagen-Dazs (probably freezer-burned) or visiting your local artisanal ice cream boutique (probably overpriced).
You will notice that ice cream is not called “ice milk” or “ice half-and-half,” and there’s a reason for this: Ice cream ought to be made with cream. Specifically, heavy cream (sometimes called whipping cream), the kind with a high enough fat content that it will hold stiff peaks when beaten. Lower-fat dairy products will yield a disappointingly icy-textured frozen dessert with the dull flavor of malted milk.
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