Ice cream base is the liquid that becomes ice cream once it is churned in an ice cream maker. If a recipe calls for “chilling your ice cream base,” or other similar terms, it is just referring to the liquid ice cream.
At the core, ice cream base is made of a mixture of milk or cream and sugar. However, that is only the beginning of all the different ingredient possibilities. Many ice cream recipes are made like custards, using eggs or egg yolks. Flavorings such as chocolate, mint, or fruit are also common additions to an ice cream base.
The one thing you want to leave out of your ice cream base are any “mix-ins” such as chocolate chips, nuts, or crumbled cookies. These types of ingredients will either be hard on your ice cream maker or will break up during the churning process, so they should be added right before the ice cream is finished.
Some small ice cream stores purchase ice cream base from a larger company or dairy. This typically includes the milk, cream, pasteurized eggs, and stabilizers. The ice cream shop adds their own flavors and mix-ins to the ice cream base to create custom flavors.
With simple, eggless ice cream recipes, making the base could involve little more than stirring all the ingredients together. However, it important to make sure the sugar is completely dissolved in your ice cream base to help with the creamy texture. So, even if the recipe doesn’t necessarily need to be “cooked,” it may be important to warm the milk or cream so that the sugar will dissolve easily.
A cooked ice cream base recipe typically involves heating the cream or milk until it is just below boiling. The dairy is slowly added to the egg to warm them without cooking them. The entire mixture is then cooked until it reaches a target temperature or begins to thicken. This is the same process as creating a crème anglaise.
Preparing to Freeze
Before ice cream base is frozen, especially in home ice cream freezers, it needs to be as cold as possible.
Refrigerating the base for at least an hour will cool the mixture and allow it to freeze faster. This is good for your ice cream maker, since many home varieties aren’t very powerful, and it will contribute to the finished texture of the ice cream.