Have you ever tasted ice cream with small ice crystals in it, so the texture isn’t smooth and creamy? If you’re going to take the time to make your own homemade frozen desserts, you are probably looking for ways to avoid that. There are several things that contribute to a great finished texture.
The faster your ice cream freezes, the better the finished texture will be. There are two ways you can help things along. The first is to make sure your ice cream base is as cold as possible before putting it in the ice cream maker, especially if you cooked it. Refrigerate your ice cream base until it is completely cold. If you are looking for a way to speed it up, use a large metal baking dish so your liquid is in a thinner layer.
The second way to ensure your ice cream freezes fast is to make sure your freezer is as cold as possible before starting. Many home ice cream makers have a bowl that you freeze before starting. Although it varies by brand, most take at least 24 hours in the freezer. I actually store the bowl of my ice cream maker in the freezer, so it has been in there for a few days before I start making ice cream. I even throw the paddle in the freezer for a while before starting.
Air is actually an important ingredient in ice cream. It helps make the finished product softer and smoother. Commercial ice cream makers tend to churn more air into the ice cream than homemakers. However, there are some things you can do to increase the air that is mixed in. Give the ice cream a minute or two longer than you think it needs in the ice cream maker. Those last few minutes are when much of the air is incorporated. If your recipe uses heavy cream, you can also give it a head start with a little whisking before you churn the ice cream.
Don’t fill your ice cream maker all the way to the top. This has to do with both the freezing time and the air. By making less at a time, your ice cream will freeze faster and there will be more room in the ice cream maker for incorporate air.
When you are making frozen custard, especially if you are using egg yolks, you want to make sure the custard gets to the proper temperature before you chill it. Heating the dairy and eggs changes the nature of the protein in them and will help give you a smoother finished texture. If the recipe has a suggested temperature, use a food thermometer to try and hit it accurately.