You certainly don’t need to know how to make ice cream to enjoy it. But knowing how to shake up a batch of your favorite flavor, and understanding what’s going on when you do that, can help you appreciate the work and know-how that goes into making some of the delicious foods we’re lucky enough to be able to pick up, ready-made, at the grocery store. It seems like freezing sweetened cream into ice cream would be pretty easy, but it turns out that cream is complex stuff made from a delicate balance of fat, protein, and water. When you freeze cream, the water gets solid first and the whole thing breaks apart. In order to keep it creamy, you’ve got to keep it moving. So get shaking!
Makes 1 large or 2 small dishes of ice cream
- Enough ice to fill a gallon-sized zipper-lock plastic bag
- 6 tablespoons coarse salt, such as kosher salt or rock salt,
- plus a pinch
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- ½ cup half-and-half
- 2 tablespoons chocolate syrup (optional)
- ½ teaspoon flavor extract, such as vanilla, strawberry, maple, or mint
- Gallon-sized zipper-lock plastic bag
- Large bowl
- Pint-sized zipper-lock plastic bag
- Big dish towel or small bath towel (optional)
Make Your Ice Colder Than Cold
- Fill the gallon bag about halfway with ice cubes.
- Add the 6 tablespoons salt and shake the bag, so the salt gets all over the ice. Stand the bag in the bowl to keep it from falling over while you mix up the ice cream.
Make The Ice-Cream Base
- Put the half-and-half, chocolate syrup (if you want), sugar, extract, and pinch of salt in the pint-size bag.
- Seal the bag perfectly shut. (Any gaps in the seal and you’ll make a mess instead of ice cream.)
Shake Your Booty!
- Put the small bag of ice-cream base into the big bag of ice and gently push it down so the ice completely surrounds the ice cream.
- Seal the big bag.
- If you want, you can wrap the towel around the whole thing. Then pick it up and shake hard for approximately 5 minutes. If you don’t mind getting your hands cold, just grab the bag and have at it! Unless you’ve been training for the Ice Cream Olympics (that’s not real, but wouldn’t it be cool if it was?), you’ll probably need to take a break after a few minutes, or pass it off to a friend to shake for a while.
- Open up the big bag and take out the small bag of ice cream, which should now be creamy and thick.
- Wipe all the salt and water off the ice-cream bag and open it up. Dig in and get happy!
How Did That Happen?
Ice cream is made of three things: ice, cream, and air. Ice makes it thick. Cream makes it tasty. But air is what makes it feel creamy on your tongue. Here’s how it works…
When a mixture of cream, sugar, and flavoring is frozen, the water in the cream freezes into ice crystals, turning the mixture from liquid to solid. The size of the ice crystals determines whether the results are smooth or grainy. Shaking the mixture as the ice forms breaks the crystals into small pieces and traps air into the mix. Those tiny pockets of air keep the crystals separate from one another, so the base of sugar and cream doesn’t ever freeze as solid as the water in the mix. Instead, it keeps flowing, making the ice cream feel creamy and smooth in your mouth. Trapping air in the freezing mixture also makes the ice cream fluffier, and easier to scoop and bite into.
P.S. If you’re wondering why you added salt to the bag of ice before you shook up your ice cream, it’s because melted salt water is actually colder than solid ice water. The only way to freeze ice cream is to make sure the ice around it is colder than the ice inside it!
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