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Tips on How to Make Ice Cream: Questions & Answers

Gelato Spoons

For a number of years, this forum has been a place to ask questions about ice cream making. However after hundreds of questions, everything that could be asked and answered about ice cream making has been said. So comments have been closed and if you have a question, you can use the search feature on your browser to scan the comments.

I’ve learned a lot listening to you about ice cream making and am thrilled that so many of you have taken up the task of churning up ice cream and sorbets at home. Thanks for participating in this forum!

-david


Here’s a list of links to various places on the site where you can find more information and tips about how to make ice cream.

However because to the number of inquiries, please keep in mind…

-If you have questions regarding a specific machine, I suggest contacting the manufacturer as they’re best equipped to give advice on your particular model.

-If you have questions about other people’s recipes, it’s advisable to contact the chef or author of that recipe.

-If you wish to try to recreate a favorite flavor you’ve had in a restaurant or ice cream shop, I suggest contacting the source of the inspiration, such as the company or chef, for guidance.

-While I appreciate those who are on special or restricted diets, there are a number of books out there which address ice cream recipes that are specifically tailored for those seeking recipes on that nature and it’s best to check those sources for recipes and for making modifications.

-Due to the number of comments and questions, yours might have already been answered. You can do a search using your browser for keywords in your question, to find is there is already a response.

-For questions about ingredient substitutions, check out my post on Baking Ingredients and Substitutions.

  • Recipes to use up leftover egg whites

  • How long does ice cream last?

  • Tips for making homemade ice cream softer

  • Recommended equipment to make ice cream

  • Vegan Ice Cream Books

  • Recipes to use up leftover egg whites

  • Making ice cream without a machine

  • The ice cream shops of Paris

  • Meet your maker: buying an ice cream machine

  • Compendium of recipes for ice creams & sorbets

  • What is gelato?

  • How to make the perfect caramel

  • Let’s Make Ice Cream!

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    Chocolate FAQs

    chocolate

    My chocolate has gray streaks. It is okay to use?

    That’s called bloom and it happens when the chocolate melts or gets warm, and then cools again without being tempered. When you buy chocolate, it is already tempered. However if it’s exposed to heat or melted, it can fall out of temper and lose its emulsification. (You can read my instructions for how to temper chocolate.)

    Those streaks that you see are harmless swirls of cocoa fat rising to the surface because when the chocolate was warmed, it lost its emulsion (like chicken stock or vinaigrette, which separates when heated, then cooled). Similarly, if there are crystal-like formations on the surface, those indicate ‘sugar bloom’ and the chocolate is safe to use. In either case, the chocolate can be melted and used as normal. If there is green mold, or anything furry, that means the chocolate got damp. In that case, it should be tossed.

    How long does chocolate last?

    Contrary to what you may hear, dark chocolate lasts around five years. That’s in part due to the high amount of antioxidants, as well as the sugar, which is a preservative. Milk chocolate and white chocolate contain milk solids and should be used within a year.

    What’s the difference between bittersweet and semisweet chocolate?

    Technically nothing. Both chocolates must contain a minimum of 35% cacao solids in the US. Some manufacturers that make both will often call their sweeter chocolate “semisweet”, although it’s totally arbitrary and they can be used interchangeably in recipes.

    What’s the difference between bitter and bittersweet chocolate?

    Bitter chocolate contains no sugar, and is often called “unsweetened” or “baking” chocolate. In some countries it’s called 100% cacao since it’s composed only of ground up cocoa bean mass. Because bitter chocolate has no sugar and no added fat (cocoa beans are about half fat), it is more stubborn to melt and may be slightly grainy in custard and ice cream recipes. Often that can be mitigated by whirling the mixture in an electric mixer before cooking or churning it.

    There is so substitution of bittersweet and unsweetened chocolate for the other, although if you don’t have unsweetened chocolate, you can replicate it by mixing 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder with 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil or melted butter to equal 1 ounce of unsweetened (bitter) chocolate. Mix them together as a paste and you can use that for unsweetened chocolate in recipes.

    Why does chocolate and liquid melted together sometimes become grainy?

    Chocolate is an emulsion, which means when you add something to it, and heat it, you break that emulsion. When melting chocolate, make sure you have at least 1 part liquid to 4 parts chocolate. So if you have 1 ounce of water and melt it with 8 ounces of chocolate, that won’t work and you’ll end up with a seized, grainy mass. You need at least 2 ounces of liquid for 8 ounces of chocolate, or at least 1 part liquid to 4 parts chocolate by weight.

    Pure oil, such as peppermint or essential oils, can be added to chocolate in any quantity since the oil doesn’t break the emulsion like water or other liquids do.

    melting chocolates

    Can I Use Chocolate Chips for Melting in a Recipe?

    Most commercial-brands of chocolate chips are made of baking resistant chocolate, fabricated with less cocoa butter than standard chocolate so they keep their shape when heated. (Think of classic chocolate chip cookies with clearly-discernible chips.) If you melt them, you’ll often end up with a sludgy, thick pool of chocolate rather than one that’s smooth.

    Some recipes, however, may specifically call for melting chips and although I can’t vouch for every recipe out there, I advise people to follow the author’s advice. Also there are now many chocolate chips that are made from premium-quality chocolate, such as those from Ghiradelli, Guittard, and Scharffen Berger, which can be used for melting, as well as baking in cookies.

    What is the best chocolate?

    That is a tough question. Like anything edible, many things come into play. Do you like bitter chocolate? Or one that is sweeter? Do you prefer a roasted flavor? Or one that is softer, and creamier?

    I tell people that the best chocolate is the one that tastes best to them. So I encourage folks to taste as many chocolates as they can, and choose one they like best.

    What Country Makes the Best Chocolate?

    Like the previous question, that’s very tough to say. Almost all cocoa beans are grown close to the equator, then shipped for processing, so there is nothing geographically advantageous if they’re processed in America, Belgium, France, or Switzerland. Most of the quality of the finished chocolate comes from the quality of the raw beans, their fermentation, then the roasting, grinding, and mixing at the factory.

    I Should Only Bake with Top-Quality, Very Expensive Chocolate. Right?

    When you melt chocolate and add it to a batter, such as for brownies or cookies, the finer points of an expensive chocolate may get lost. And while those fancy chocolates may be excellent for nibbling, I’m not sure if using an extremely pricey or rare chocolate is best of baking. I recommend sticking with a middle-range chocolate for baking.

    Similarly, many of the new high-percentage chocolate, boasting cocoa contents of 70% and above are very acid and can cause creams and ganaches to break. So I recommend following the advice in the recipe, or using a dark chocolate in the 35-64% range, for best results.

    I Can’t Get, or Can’t Afford, Good Chocolate. Any tips?

    To boost the flavor of chocolate, you can add 1 teaspoon of instant coffee powder to the recipe. The roasted flavor helps improve and highlight the flavor of the chocolate.

    I also like to use chocolate extract, and add a dash to recipes along with vanilla extract (or in place of) in recipes. Some of the ‘top notes’ of flavor are lost when cocoa beans are processed, and chocolate extract replaces many of them. It’s a secret used by some manufacturer’s, and one whiff from the bottle is enough to convince you that it’s a secret worth sharing.

    Can I Use Drinking Cocoa or Ground in a Recipe That Calls for Cocoa Powder?

    Nope. Both drinking cocoa and ground chocolate are formulated with sugar and sometimes other ingredients, since they’re meant for beverages, not baking.

    When a recipe calls for unsweetened cocoa powder, do not substitute anything else.

    What’s the Difference Between Dutch-Process Cocoa Powder and Natural? And Can They Be Interchanged?

    Dutch-process cocoa means that the beans have been acid-neutralized, which tames the flavor and makes the cocoa darker as well. Many recipes that call for baking powder call for Dutch-process cocoa. Recipes that use baking soda will often call for ‘natural’ (or non-alkalized) cocoa powder. One should not switch one for the other. If you’re unsure of whether your cocoa powder is natural or not, a look at the ingredients will reveal if there is potassium bromate or carbonate in it, an indication it’s been ‘Dutched’.

    In Europe, virtually all the cocoa powder is Dutched, whereas in America, both kinds are widely available. Companies like Hershey’s, Nestlé, Ghiradelli, and Guittard make natural cocoa, and Askinosie, a bean-to-bar chocolate maker, produces a ‘natural’ cocoa powder as well.

    Hershey’s makes a Dutch-process blend cocoa which is extremely dark (think Oreo cookie- colored) and European brands like Droste and Valrhona are good-quality Dutch-process cocoa powders.

    chocolate-covered cups

    Paris and Chocolate-Related Posts

    What is white chocolate?

    Cocoa Powder FAQs

    David’s Amazon Chocolate Shop

    Why you should use aluminum-free baking powder

    Ingredients for American baking in Paris

    Bernachon

    La Maison du Chocolat

    Jean-Charles Rochoux

    A l’Etoile d’Or

    Valrhona Chocolate School

    The Pâtisseries of Paris Guide

    Patrick Roger

    Le Furet Tanrade

    Fouquet

    10 Insanely Delicious Things You Shouldn’t Miss in Paris

    Paris Favorites

    Arnaud Larher

    The Great Book of Chocolate

    Paris Chocolate & Pastry Shop Archives

    Recipes To Use Up Leftover Egg Whites

    Italian Almond Cookies

    Often bakers and ice cream-lovers will find themselves with a few too many egg whites leftover. So what to do with all of them? It seems I, too, always have a few in a container in the refrigerator. Liquid egg whites can be frozen just as they are. I usually do it in a specific quantity, and label it as such, since there’s nothing more infuriating than needing 1 cup of egg whites and trying to chip that away from a frozen-solid block in the freezer. Some folks devote an ice cube tray to egg whites, slipping one in each indentation so they know exactly how many they have. Just so you know, one large egg white is about 2 tablespoons and weighs 25 grams. I often freeze the whites in plastic containers, then slip them out of the containers, once frozen, then wrap them in plastic and secure them in zip-top freezer bags – with the quantity and date written on the outside.

    Here are some favorite recipes of mine, and some from others, that are great ways to use up leftover egg whites:

  • Parisian Chocolate macarons

  • Angel Food Cake

  • Homemade Marshmallows

  • Italian Almond Cookies

  • Financiers (Eggbeater)

  • Egg White Cake (Nami-Nami)

  • Chocolate-Coconut Macaroons

  • Pecan Meringue Cookies (Simply Recipes)

  • Chocolate Angel Food Cake (Serious Eats)

    angel food cake

  • Seven-Minute Frosting (Smitten Kitchen)

  • Crème Brûlée-Pistachio Macarons (Tartlette)

  • Dacquoise (Bay Area Bites)

  • Pavlova (Simply Recipes) and Mixed Berry Pavlova (Smitten Kitten)

  • Kumquat & Chocolate Financier Teacakes (Cannelle-Vanille)

  • Chocolate Angel Food Cake (Epicurious)


    Or…you can make an ice cream ‘volcano’….like I did!

    volcano

    To Start Your Own Volcano: Line a deep bowl with plastic wrap, then fill with layers of ice cream or sorbet. You can either use homemade or store-bought. Either way, the ice cream should be slightly-softened so it’s spreadable.

    It’s best to create layers that are roughly equivalent in size. Add one layer, smooth the top and let it freeze for about an hour. Then add the next and let that freeze as well. You can add as many layers as you want, but three’s my limit and I fancy alternating ice cream and sherbet or sorbet layers.

    Once you’re done with all the layers, trim and line the bottom (the exposed end) with a layer of spongecake, saturating both sides with sugar syrup. Use a favorite spongecake recipe, but the piece should be about 1-inch (3 cm) thick. Make a small amount of sugar syrup by boiling about 1/4 cup (60 ml) water with 2 tablespoons sugar until the sugar is dissolved. Let it cool completely, then add a good pour of your favorite liquor. The syrup’s necessary to keep the cake from freezing too firm, but the alcohol can be omitted if you want.

    Now freeze the entire cake really well (which is especially true if, like me, you have to drive 2 hours en route to the party you’re going to and you get stuck in a traffic jam at le péage, the toll plaza, because some knucklehead in front of you didn’t have money or something and traffic’s backed up to lord-knows-where. I thought my heart was going to jump out of my chest. Me was freakin’.)

    To Meringue the Volcano: Add some room temperature egg whites to the bowl of an electric mixer. The amount of egg whites it will take depends on the size of your cake so it’s hard to say, but leftover whipped and sweetened meringue can be baked as cookies. (You can read detailed meringue instructions here.)

    Beat slowly, then increase the speed, adding a pinch of salt, until the egg whites start to hold their shape. Gradually add an equal quantity of sugar while whipping at high speed until thick, glossy and firm. You can add a few drops of vanilla extract if you’d like.

    Remove the cake from the freezer and unmold it onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you to remove the plastic wrap, but I’m going to tell you anyways. Spread the meringue all over the top and sides. Bury a half an egg shell in the top, open side facing outwards and smooth the meringue up and around it.

    At this point, you can refreeze the cake until ready to brulée—or torch that sucker right away.

    To Serve: Brown the volcano in an oven that’s been pre-heated to a very high temperature, around 500F (260 C). It shouldn’t take more than a minute or two to ‘cook’. I like to finish it with a blowtorch since it looks more dramatic with slightly-burnt edges.

    Fill the egg shell with liquor that’s at least 40% alcohol. Turn off the lights, ignite the liquor*, and let that Krakatoa glow!

    Cut the cake with a narrow, long knife dipped in very hot water.

    *Of course, always take precautions when lighting anything: Make sure nothing is flammable nearby including your sleeves. Avert your face when lighting the flame and keep kids away.

  • How To Make Ice Cream Without a Machine

    People have been making ice cream far longer than the invention of electricity so there’s no reason you can’t make ice cream and sorbets at home without a machine.

    The advantage to using an electric or hand-cranked machine is that the final result will be smoother and creamier. Freezing anything from liquid-to-solid means you’re creating hard ice crystals, so if you’re making it by hand, as your ice cream or sorbet mixture freezes, you want to break up those ice crystals as much as possible so your final results are as smooth and creamy as possible.

    Vanilla Ice Cream

    Machines are relatively inexpensive nowadays with models costing less than $50, and yes, I’ve seen the ball, but if I started tossing one of those around the streets here in Paris, I’d probably get even more strange looks than I normally get. (Plus you’ll need to lug some rock salt home as well.)

    But not everyone has the space or the budget for a machine, so here’s how you can do your own ice cream at home without a churner. I recommend starting with an ice cream recipe that is custard-based for the smoothest texture possible. You can use my Vanilla Ice Cream or another favorite, or even this Strawberry Frozen Yogurt recipe using Greek-style or drained yogurt. The richer the recipe, the creamier and smoother the results are going to be.

    Ice cream made this way is best eaten soon after it’s made—which shouldn’t be a problem.

    Cooking Custard

    Continue Reading How To Make Ice Cream Without a Machine…

    Tips For Making Homemade Ice Cream Softer

    Now that everyone out there’s been churning up ice cream, I’ve been getting a certain amount of questions about homemade ice cream, which I’m going to answer here over the next several weeks.

    I’m going to start with the number one question folks have been asking: Why does homemade ice cream gets harder than commercial ice cream in their freezer? And what can be done to prevent it?

    Salted Butter-Caramel Ice Cream

    While I do address this in The Perfect Scoop (pages 5 and 16), I thought I’d list some strategies here as well. I don’t necessarily follow these all the time, but thought I’d put them out for readers to ponder and use as they see fit.

    Alcohol

    Alcohol doesn’t freeze, which you know if you’re anything like me and keep a bottle of Zubróvka vodka chilled and ready in your freezer. You can add up to 3 tablespoons of 40 proof liquor to 1 quart (1 liter) of your frozen dessert mixture prior to churning. I use vodka if I don’t want the taste of the liquor to intrude on the flavor, but will switch to another liquor such as Grand Marnier or Armagnac to enhance the original flavor if it’s compatible.

    If my mixture is fruit-based, I prefer to add kirsch, a liquor which enhances the taste of stone fruits, like peaches, plums, nectarines, as well as berries. Generally-speaking, I’ll add enough so the taste isn’t very present, often less than a tablespoon.

    For sorbets and sherbets, a glug of Champagne, white wine or rosé is nice with fruit flavors. 1/2 cup (125 ml) can be added per quart (liter) of mixture prior to churning. Or if the recipe calls for cooking the fruit with water, substitute some dry or sweet white wine for a portion of the water; the amount will depend on how much of the wine you want to taste. (Most of the alcohol will cook out but enough will remain to keep your sorbet softer.)

    Sugar

    Like alcohol, sugar doesn’t freeze which is why you shouldn’t futz around with recipes and just reduce the sugar willy-nilly. Almost all frozen dessert recipes use white granulated sugar, however you can replace some or all of the sugar with another liquid sweetener, namely honey or light corn syrup.

    Continue Reading Tips For Making Homemade Ice Cream Softer…

    What vanilla should I buy?

    salt & vanilla

    I sometimes get messages from people pointing me to bargain deals they find on vanilla beans online, but I’m happy to spend a bit more on the top-quality beans that my friend Patricia Rain sources, someone who’s dedicated herself to doing the right thing for the native farmers by working to ensure that the producers she works with get their fair-share of the profits. I suppose it would be different if I was going through a few kilos of vanilla beans a week, but for a couple of beans I split and use per month making Vanilla Ice Cream or adding to a batch of jam, paying an extra couple of dollars per year is money I consider very well-spent. Especially when I pull a slender bean from my stash, roll it around, and take a whiff of the tiny, fragrant seeds that cling to my fingers. The smell of pure vanilla is perhaps the most complex, captivating smell I can think of. We’re often faced with lots of choices in the marketplace.

    And when we are, lots of reasons come into play; economics, quality, price, convenience and politics. For most of us, we’re fortunate that we have the freedom to decide for ourselves what each of us wants to do. But often the things we buy do have a direct effect on local economies, and vanilla, being the most labor-intensive and highly-prized crop in the world, has led to a great deal of violence in the regions where it’s cultivated between growers and rustlers. Many less-fortunate people depend on getting a fair-price for their beans, which directly affects their livelihoods.

    I’m happy to have a supplier that I respect and trust, and who’s dedicated her life and business to working to ensure her products are both of the highest quality and benefit the growers and producers as well. So each time I take that little brown bottle of vanilla from my kitchen cabinet and take a sniff before adding a few drops to whatever I’m baking, I’m gratified for the wonderful scent she’s given me and happy that a very small amount of something can perhaps have a very positive impact.

    vanilla

    Visit Patricia Rain and read more about her vanilla and her relationship with the growers at Vanillaqueen.com


    Tips to Keep Cookies From Spreading

    chocolate chip cookies

    Several of you had asked about how to avoid cookies from spreading out during baking, which can be rather vexing…especially when you’ve gone through all that trouble of getting the counter all covered with flour, then rolling ‘em out, and cutting them into all those nifty shapes.

    So here are some tips…

    Continue Reading Tips to Keep Cookies From Spreading…

    Ice Cream Makers: Buying an Ice Cream Machine

    rockyroadicecream.jpg

    There are a few options to consider when buying an ice cream maker, but rest assured that there’s certainly one that’ll fit within any budget. I’ve had several readers inquiring about ice cream makers and although there’s extensive information in my book, The Perfect Scoop, here’s additional information about the various kinds that are available, to help you make your decision.


    cusinartice50.jpg

    Cuisinart ICE-50BC

    I’ve been using the Cuisinart ICE-50BC with excellent results for the past few years and could not live without it. Not only is the machine very efficient, the price is extraordinary for a self-refrigerating machine. Although if you are a novice, and only make ice cream on rare occasions, it does fall into the “investment” category.

    My ice cream maker has been a real powerhouse and I consider it an indispensable part of my batterie de cuisine nowadays. Some people find the noise bothersome, but frankly—it is a machine and machines make noise. I keep mine in another room when in use.

    I do recommend if you buy this machine to purchase a separate plastic churning arm. Mine lasted several years but eventually snapped and it’s nice to have a spare on hand.


    UPDATE: Cuisinart has released a newer model of this machine, the ICE-100, which boasts a sleeker design and gets good reviews, too.

    Cuisinart ICE-21

    A lower-priced option is a machine such as the Cuisinart ICE-21. This machine is a excellent value. The only drawback is that you’ll need to pre-freeze the canister for 24 hours—no cheating!, before you plan to freeze your ice cream or sorbet. These machines make great ice cream and are extremely affordable.

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    KitchenAid Ice Cream Maker Attachment

    If you have a KitchenAid mixer, their wildly-popular KitchenAid Ice Cream Maker Attachment works very well. I had the opportunity to use one during my visit to the KitchenAid factory, and was really impressed with the care and precision of this attachment.

    Like everything they make, the ice cream attachment did a great job of churning up the various ice creams that I ran through it.

    Note: If you live outside the United States, European KitchenAid mixers are different and the ice cream attachment made for US-models will not work with them.



    You can also find more of my recommendations for machines and ice cream making equipment at Let’s Make Ice Cream!

    Happy Churning!



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