How to Make Ice Cream at Home
Once you learn the basics, you can turn out your own small-batch artisanal frozen desserts (you could totally call it that) in any flavor imaginable. Get ready, here's how to make ice cream at home.
Types of Ice Cream
Homemade ice cream comes in two basic styles: Custard-style (also called French) and Philadelphia-style (also called New York or American).
- Custard-style ice cream starts with a cooked base enriched with egg yolks, sugar, and cream. This style of ice cream has the smoothest, creamiest, richest texture and flavor.
- Philadelphia-style ice cream contains no eggs, eliminating the need to cook a base. The texture is lighter and more delicate than custard-style ice cream. It's also faster to make because there's no cooked base to cool before churning, although you do want to make sure the mixture is quite cold before it hits the ice cream machine.
How to Make Custard-Style (French) Ice Cream
Get the recipe for a classic cooked custard Ice Cream Base.
What Do You Need to Make Homemade Ice Cream?
- 8 egg yolks
- 1 cup granulated sugar, divided
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 3 cups half-and-half
- Pinch salt
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract (optional)
- Measuring cups and spoons
- Heatproof spatula (this $8 set is an Amazon #1 best seller)
- Fine-mesh sieve
- Ice cream maker (like this popular model from Cuisinart)
- Freezer container
1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and half of the sugar. Set aside.
2. In a medium saucepan, stir together the cream, half-and-half, salt, and remaining sugar. Heat the mixture over medium-high heat, stirring often, until it comes to a simmer, then reduce heat to medium.
3. Add about 1/2 cup of the cream mixture to the egg mixture while whisking constantly (this helps prevent the eggs from cooking). Repeat with another 1/2 cup of the cream mixture.
4. Using a heatproof spatula, stir the cream mixture in the saucepan constantly as you pour the egg mixture into the pan.
5. Cook, stirring constantly, until thickened and mixture coats the back of the spatula, 1 to 2 minutes longer. Remove from heat.
6. Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a clean bowl and whisk in the vanilla extract. Set the bowl in an ice bath and stir the base occasionally until it's cooled to room temperature. Remove the bowl from the ice bath, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate at least 2 to 4 hours or overnight before churning, either in an ice cream machine or by hand (see below for tips on how to churn ice cream).
VIDEO: See how to make Maple Ice Cream
This creamy maple-sweetened ice cream tastes like it came straight from the sugar house. It's a simple custard-style ice cream recipe that just replaces refined sugar with maple syrup for a just-sweet-enough maple-y treat. Feel free to dress it up with mix-ins or toppings or just enjoy it plain.
Top-rated French custard-style ice cream recipes to try:
How to Make Philadelphia-Style Ice Cream
Philadelphia-style ice cream contains no egg yolks and does not require cooking. It's based purely on cream and sugar. You simply mix the ingredients in your recipe, chill, and churn in an ice cream machine or by hand. Tip: Chill the ice cream mixture for 1 to 2 hours before churning.
Top-rated Philadelphia-style ice cream recipes to try:
How to Churn, Ripen, and Store Ice Cream
You can churn, ripen, and store French custard- or Philadelphia-style ice cream recipes using the same method.
Churning: Churning (by hand or in a machine) prevents large ice crystals from forming in the ice cream and produces the smooth texture that makes ice cream feel so rich and luxurious when you eat it. Ice cream churned in a machine will generally have more air whipped into the mixture than hand-churning can achieve.
- If you're using an ice cream machine, churn following the manufacturer's instructions. When the mixture has thickened and is hard to stir, remove it from the ice cream maker and transfer it to a freezer-safe container. (You might like this top-rated ice cream maker from Cuisinart.)
- If you don't have an ice cream machine, pour the chilled ice cream mixture into a freezer-safe container and place in the freezer. After an hour, stir vigorously (spatula, whisk or electric hand mixer) in order to break up any hard ice crystals. Repeat every 30 minutes for the next 2-3 hours or until frozen. If not eating immediately, cover until ready to serve.
Ripening: Freshly churned ice cream will have the loose consistency of soft serve ice cream. To get a more scoopable texture, you'll want to "ripen" the ice cream by storing it in the freezer for several hours or overnight. Your patience will be rewarded. Tip: To keep your ice cream from becoming super-hard as it ripens in the freezer, make sure both the ice cream maker and the mixture are kept ice cold as you're making the ice cream.
Storing: To store leftover ice cream in the freezer, place it in an airtight container with a layer of plastic wrap pressed onto the surface to prevent it from absorbing odors or forming ice crystals.
Adding Flavors to Homemade Ice Cream
Popular add-ins include ripe summer fruits, chocolate, and toasted nuts. Other good choices? Vanilla beans, lavender, green tea, fresh peppermint, and candied ginger.
Tips: How to Add Flavors to Ice Cream
- Infuse herbs and spices into the mixture as you heat the milk. Strain them out before proceeding with the recipe.
- If you're cooking a custard base, let it cool slightly before adding extracts, liqueurs, and flavoring oils (citrus, peppermint, cinnamon).
- To get the most flavor from a vanilla bean, split it lengthwise with a sharp knife and scrape the seeds into the milk. After the bean has steeped, remove the pod and rinse in cold water and pat dry. "Used" vanilla beans are still powerfully aromatic, and can be stored in a canister of plain granulated sugar to make vanilla sugar.
- Add perfectly ripe fruits and berries to your ice cream base: Sprinkle fruit with sugar and crush it with a potato masher before mixing it in. This adds much more flavor than plain chunks of fruit stirred into the mix.
- To add nuts, chocolate, crumbled cookies, or whole berries, let the ice cream reach the consistency of soft-serve, and then stir in the garnishes; pack in airtight containers and freeze until firm.