DIY: Homemade Ice Cream

In a talk regarding American citizens and nutritional practices, Michelle Obama noted that her daughters had the same eating habits as any typical American kid. “If they could eat burgers and fries and ice cream every day, they would,” she said, “And so would I. But that doesn’t sustain us.” Now there are many things that the First Lady supports that I can rally behind but, Michelle, I have to disagree with you on this one: Ice cream can definitely sustain us. And it is a lot easier to make then you might think.

With the heat of summer quickly approaching, it is easy to resort to running to the nearest grocery store to grab your favorite pint of ice cream, but let’s face it: Those pints can be tough on anyone’s wallet and waistline. The other night I sat down with Stephanie Heimburg, a soon-to-be graduate of the University of Virginia, to get the scoop (pun intended) on how to make ice cream at home. Stephanie’s brains and baking skills have continously left me in awe; she will be graduating from UVA’s McIntire School of Commerce and will be pursuing a career in the health and wellness field. But when Stephanie isn’t crunching facts and figures, you will probably find her experimenting with baking recipes including (you guessed it!) some amazing ice cream recipes. Stephanie graciously offered to answer some of the basic “How-To” questions of making your own ice cream and even supplied us with some of her own recipes! Enjoy, darlings!

What are the basic tools that I’ll need to make my own ice cream?

A pot, a bowl, a whisk, and a rubber spatula/spoon are the necessities. An ice cream maker is great if you’ve got one!

Is there a way that I can make ice cream without an ice cream maker?

Definitely! Basically, once you’ve made the ice cream “base” you can pour it into a bowl, and put it in your freezer. Then, every 30 to 45 minutes, stir the base vigorously with a whisk. This helps to break up the ice crystals that are forming—the smaller the ice crystals, the smoother the finished ice cream will be.

What is the difference between Philadelphia-style and French-style ice cream?

Philadelphia-style ice cream is made purely with milk, cream, sugar, and flavoring—it’s also sometimes called “uncooked.” French-style ice cream is “cooked” because it contains egg yolks in the base—the cream and sugar are heated and slowly added to the yolks, thereby “cooking” them, and creating a thick custard base.

What are some tricks to avoid ice crystals and keep my ice cream soft & smooth?

If you think of things that don’t freeze—or ingredients that will raise freezing temperatures— those are the things you want in your ice cream. For example, a higher ratio of cream to milk and/or more egg yolks, salt (only a little bit—too much can cause your ice cream not to freeze at all!), and alcohol (again, only a little bit—a teaspoon of vodka does wonders and is undetectable) will give you that smoother texture you’re after. Liquid sweeteners (corn syrup, maple syrup, and honey) also lack the same crystalline structure as regular white sugar and therefore won’t freeze in large crystals in your ice cream.

I love ice cream, but I am making an effort to make healthy food choices. Is there a way to make these recipes low calorie?

Totally. I love substituting some or all of the cream with a higher ratio of regular, almond, or soy milk for a low-fat ice cream, and you can always cut the amount of sugar down to your taste or use sugar substitutes. However, with less fat, the ice cream won’t be as smooth and will freeze harder. If you’re looking for low-fat and great taste, I would recommend eating the low-fat ice creams the day they are made!

What books/websites would you recommend for beginners?

“The Perfect Scoop” by David Lebovitz is my go-to for most ice cream recipes. He also has a blog which you can check out here. Lebovitz writes about living in Paris and traveling the world and, of course, all the food he eats and the recipes he picks up during his travels. But making ice cream becomes so simple after your first few tries and once you get the hang of it you can start making up your own recipes!

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You can try some of Stephanie’s recipes below:

1. Nutella French-Style Ice Cream Recipe (makes 2 cups)

  • 1 cup whole milk
  • ½ cup of heavy cream
  •  cup of sugar
  • 2 egg yolks
  • ½ tsp of vanilla extract
  • 6T (or more) Nutella

For French-style ice creams, simply bring the milk and cream to a boil, temper the egg yolks (this will ensure that your eggs won’t cook in the mixture), strain the liquid, add remaining ingredients and throw the final mixture into your ice cream maker!

2. Apple Pie Ice Cream Recipe (makes 2 cups)

  • Leftover apple pie OR 1.5 apples, small diced (any variety, but preferably something crisp)
  • 1.5 T butter
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • pinch of cloves
  • pinch nutmeg

Throw all of the above ingredients together in a pan and cook on medium-low until soft.

  • 1 recipe pie dough (any will do! Simply roll some out, cut into little pieces and bake at 350 degrees until golden brown)
  • 1 cup cream
  • ½ cup milk
  •  cup powdered sugar
  • ½ T vanilla
  • heaping ½ tsp of cinnamon
  • pinch salt

This is a Philly-style ice cream, so ingredients from cream onward just have to be whisked together, no cooking necessary! When ice cream is almost done freezing, that’s when you add in the pie dough pieces and cooked apples.

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