How to Make Ice Cream Without an Ice Cream Maker

Learn how to make ice cream in your freezer and ice cream cones in your oven, including recipes for vanilla, caramel, and cherry ice cream; and crisp, sugar, and whole wheat honey cones.

| June/July 1992

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    You can make homemade ice cream without a special machine or endless cranking—but be warned: everyone will want some!
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    You can even make your own waffle or sugar cones at home, and experiment with different ingredients such as whole-wheat flour or almond extract, and mix-ins such as nuts.

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Ice cream parlors are enjoying renewed popularity. Sales are breaking new records. Community service organizations have become partial to old-fashioned ice cream socials. There's no doubt about it, ice cream is the Great American Dessert—more popular than all other desserts combined.

Many of us have come to regard ice cream as a household staple. Citing the 98 percent who enjoy it on a regular basis, zealots go so far as to name ice cream our nation's number-one resource. On average, each of us spoons down nearly 23 quarts per year, making Americans the world's highest per capita consumers and qualifying the United States as the undisputed Ice Cream Capital of the World.

The Secrets of "Still" Freezing

While almost everyone enjoys ice cream, most people don't know how to make ice cream without an ice cream maker—which means they don't know how simple and inexpensive making it can be. The truth is, you really don't need those costly gadgets to make wonderful homemade ice cream. You can make it right in your own freezer. The process is called "still freezing," because (as the name implies), it just kind of sits still in your freezer. This is different than an ice cream maker, which continously stirs your concoction and keeps ice crystals from forming. While your best still-frozen dessert will never be as smooth as one that is "stir frozen," making ice cream in your freezer provides a fun adventure.

And there are little tricks to help you smooth out your ice cream texture. For a start, corn syrup, cornstarch, gelatin, and eggs all interfere with ice crystal formation and encourage the incorporation of air. When cream or egg whites are used, they're often whipped before being folded in. Otherwise, the finished mix is whipped after it's frozen firm enough to hold tiny bubbles of air.

Also rapid, even freezing keeps ice crystals small. Encourage fast freezing by using shallow containers, such as ice trays with the slats removed, loaf pans, cake tins, or anything else that holds a layer no more than two inches deep. Cover your filled trays with foil to keep additional ice crystals from forming on the surface as the mix freezes. And plan to serve your still-frozen creations within a day or so.

You can speed the freezing along by placing trays either at the bottom of the freezer compartment, or on a shelf with coils. If possible, rest them on already frozen foods rather than directly on the shelf. Make sure you place your freezer down to its coldest setting, usually around 0°F (-18°C). Most chest and upright freezers normally operate at that low a temperature. If you use the freezer compartment of your refrigerator, then adjust the setting an hour in advance, and return it to normal after the mixture has frozen.

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