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October 21, 2020

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There’s no cooler way to pass the days than making your own ice cream

Dogs and ice cream

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Everybody’s baking sourdough bread this year. Be an outlier. Be the person who churns ice cream as their pandemic hobby.

Making ice cream might seem super complex and intimidating, but it’s actually pretty easy. The basic ingredients are milk, cream and sugar. Anything beyond that is up to you. Egg yolks will add creaminess. Fruit, nuts and other flavorings will add personality. Since store-bought ice cream is often low-quality and filled with gummy preservatives, even a beginner’s efforts are going to taste spectacular by comparison.

Ice cream makers

It seems like magic, but the function of an ice cream maker is rather simple. The machine cools the cream while stirring it, so it doesn’t freeze solid. If you have more time than money, you can just put the ice cream mix in the freezer and hand stir it every 15 minutes for about four hours until it’s the consistency you like. We recommend the type of ice cream maker that has a freezable canister; it’s the best combo of convenience and price. But many types of ice cream makers are available.

How to make it

To make the simplest ice cream, you’ll need to do the following: Combine dairy, sugar and flavorings; chill it in the fridge; churn the mixture in an ice cream maker for about 30 minutes; post it on social media to become the envy of your friends.

But how much dairy, and which type? That depends on the kind of ice cream you want to make. You can make anything from a light dairy-free fruit sorbet to a rich custard. The world is your ice cream scoop.

If those directions seem too open-ended, here’s the ingredient list for “simple vanilla ice cream” found in the instruction booklet for Cuisinart’s ICE-30 series 2-quart Frozen Yogurt-Sorbet & Ice Cream maker:

America’s favorite flavors

According to a 2017 survey by the International Dairy Foods Association, the top 10 most popular flavors in America are:

• Vanilla

• Chocolate

• Cookies N’ Cream

• Mint Chocolate Chip

• Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough

• Buttered Pecan

• Cookie Dough

• Strawberry

• Moose Tracks

• Neapolitan

• 1 1/2 cups whole milk

• 1 1/8 cups sugar

• 3 cups heavy cream

• 1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla extract

Prefer to use lower fat milk? Less cream? More vanilla? That’s all perfectly fine. You might get a slightly different texture. In general, the higher the butterfat, the creamier the dessert. But who cares about the details? The best part of ice cream is that it’s super forgiving. All the ingredients are delicious, so if you mess up a little or make substitutions, it’ll still taste great.

Terms to know

• Butterfat. Also known as “milkfat,” this is the amount of fat found in your dairy product. The high butterfat content is what makes ice cream so rich and creamy.

• Overrun. Air that’s incorporated into the ice cream as it’s churned. The more air, the lighter the taste. The less air, the denser and more flavorful the result.

• Ice crystals. When ice cream freezes, it forms ice crystals. Pre-chill your ice cream mix, use more fat and freeze it as fast as possible to make the ice crystals as small and uniform as possible, which will make for a creamier dessert.

Styles

• French-style ice cream. Involves cooking up and then chilling an egg yolk custard for a creamier taste and longer freezer life.

• Philadelphia-style ice cream. No eggs needed, just dairy goodness. Easier to make with a lighter taste, but it freezes harder and it’s more likely to form bigger ice crystals, so eat it fast.

• Frozen yogurt. Super easy to make; just combine full-fat yogurt with your desired flavor and churn.

• Gelato. This Italian dessert has less overrun, lower butterfat and is served slightly warmer than traditional ice cream, which creates more intense flavors.

• Sorbet. This summer refresher consists of water, sugar and fruit (or perhaps another flavoring, like chocolate).

• Sherbet. Think of it like a sorbet, but with dairy. It’ll be fruitier than an ice cream, but richer than a sorbet.

• Granita. This Italian ice is great for those who don’t own an ice cream maker, because you freeze it and then comb it with a fork.

• Popsicle. A great solution if you don’t have an ice cream maker; simply pour juice or ice cream mix into the mold and wait.

• Non-dairy ice cream. Thanks to non-dairy milks and ingredients like arrowroot, there’s a ton of non-dairy ice cream options beyond sorbets.

Have fun and mix it up

Use the treats you already have in your kitchen: chocolate chips, frozen fruit, coffee, etc. They can all be ice cream flavors.

Let your imagination run wild. Think of ice cream mix as a blank canvas. Make it your masterpiece.

Don’t be afraid to tweak a recipe to your preference. Want something creamier? Add more egg yolks. Want it lighter? Use 2% milk or sour cream rather than whole milk or cream.

Suggested serving

Most ice cream recipes create about one or two quarts of ice cream. Because it’s not made in an industrial setting or pumped with fake ingredients, homemade ice creams and sorbets tend to freeze harder than the store-bought kind. To get the right consistency, let it soften on your counter for several minutes before serving. As for how much to eat, David Lebovitz, author of The Perfect Scoop, suggests health-conscious diners enjoy “a French-style portion: one perfect scoop.”

Sharing is caring

If you eat a bunch of ice cream, you will gain weight. The only way to healthfully indulge in this new hobby is to share the wealth with friends, family, neighbors and postal workers. Dropping off a little ice cream is a great way to connect with loved ones while social distancing.

We recommend buying a 12-pack of 4-oz freezer-friendly Mason jelly jars ($8 at Target). The quarter-pint size is a perfectly portioned single serving. And by storing your desserts in multiple smaller containers rather than one large vat, you’ll prevent air exposure, which leads to freezer burn.

This story appeared in Las Vegas Weekly.