I became an ice cream chef about four years ago. I use the term "chef" because my recipes and my technique are my own. And while I would imagine that many of my flavor combinations are unique, it is my technique, in particular, that I have most-closely guarded. Between YouTube videos and blog articles, I have never seen as simple a way to make delicious -- even nutritious -- homemade ice cream.
Although my original intent in making ice cream was for commercial profit, I currently make ice cream only for personal consumption. Therefore, I have decided to share what I have learned with anyone interested. It is truly fun for the whole family, not just in eating it, but also in making it. There is no cutting or cooking involved -- with rare exceptions -- so even young children can get involved. Everyone anticipates eating homemade ice cream, but even moreso when they’ve had a hand in its creation.
We were operating multiple businesses, including selling food and miscellaneous products. Because of the hot climate where we live, my wife suggested we add ice cream to our offerings. However, our businesses were located in a low-income area, and I wasn’t confident that there was a market for such a relatively-expensive treat.
Commercial equipment is expensive, so we ruled that out quickly. We then considered partnering with an ice cream company, but that would’ve required purchasing a large initial inventory and paying large electric bills to keep the special freezer running. So, I thought back to EZ-Bake ovens and how they allowed children to make real cupcakes and so forth, and I wondered if there were ice cream makers for children.
There are! However, the two that I found worked very poorly. They made cold mush instead of frozen ice cream, and cleaning them once was enough to realize that the idea was unsustainable, at least in regards to commercial use.
A friend then informed me about the method that is popular on YouTube. However, the idea of shaking a bag for 20 minutes is unappealing even for family use, let alone commercial use. My finalized method is essentially the product of laziness.
Our first few techniques were awful; we made badly-flavored ice candies. We were also struggling with cheap ingredients in order to keep our sales prices low enough to actually sell in our area.
Eventually, working late at night while my family was sleeping, I made a decent chocolate ice cream. I quickly created a few other flavors, and then we began selling them. Sales were OK, unexpectedly including larger "family size" portions, but it was a lot of labor for far too little profit. Our fancier flavors and products, which I detail later on in this article, were more profitable on the one hand, but more labor intensive on the other hand.
By “labor,” by the way, I mostly mean cleaning up the equipment between flavor changes. It takes time to measure ingredients and serving portions, as well as to prepare freezing containers with special ingredients, but I only have one set of equipment so the constant cleaning is the biggest downside when making multiple products in one sitting.
After a few months, I decided to revamp my recipe. The ingredients were a higher quality, and I added nutrients which made me personally comfortable with eating my own ice cream for breakfast. The result was a more expensive product, but also a tastier product that still sold in our area.
However, it was still too much labor for too little profit. Eventually I began making ice cream only for family. Anyone with an upcoming birthday could make a special flavor request. I was able to focus on quality ingredients with little regard for cost, and I greatly prefer to make a quality product.
The recipe is far less important than the method for two reasons: 1) it’s difficult to make bad ice cream once you know the method, and 2) personal preferences vary wildly, so it is reasonable to assume you’ll want to make adjustments. That stated, I’ll share my base recipe, from which all other recipes have been derived.
* 100 mL of milk. Because of where we live, I’ve had to use canned evaporated milk. Condensed milk pours too slowly, so I abandoned that idea quickly, even used in conjunction with evaporated milk. I would like to try fresh milk, but it’s just not practical where we are.
* 2 tablespoons of powdered flavoring. My first flavor used 2 tablespoons of chocolate powder, but you could use 1 tablespoon of chocolate flavoring and 1 tablespoon of strawberry flavoring, for example. The total amount of powder should remain constant regardless of how many flavors are mixed together.
* 1 teaspoon of sugar. I like to use caster sugar, but I’ve made tasty ice cream with brown sugar and ordinary table sugar, as well. There is a little science here that I won’t go into, but I deliberately switched to caster sugar because of my research.
* a pinch of salt. There is more science here as to why you would want to add salt to your ice cream mixture, but I won’t get into it in this article. One caveat is that there are salty flavors to which you would not want to add additional salt, particularly anything with any kind of cheese; extra-salted cheese flavoring is unpleasantly overwhelming.
That’s it! I’ve experimented with gelatin and other ingredients, but you can make a tasty homemade ice cream with just four base ingredients.
The secret incredient of my "healthy" recipe is nutrient-fortified milk powder. It adds vitamins, minerals, and even dietary fiber to the final product. I’ve had nutrient-fortified ice cream for breakfast on more than one occasion. You can experiment with adding 1 or 2 tbsp of milk powder or protein powder to this batch size; the milk powder that I use works great in 2 tbsp quantities.
The best part of creating new recipes, as you may imagine, is the taste testing. Whether you are making treats for yourself, family and friends, or even to sell, few people would hate a job that demands they eat ice cream to ensure product quality.
Fancier recipes may call for more equipment, but the base list doesn’t require much. You may also want more equipment if you decide to make multiple flavors in one session. Personally, I clean everything between every flavor change to avoid flavor contamination. Having multiple sets of equipment means you could make multiple flavors and clean up once at the end.
The base equipment list is:
* air-tight container (for mixing)
* measuring spoons from 1/4 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon (for powders)
* measuring cups for 100 mL (for liquids)
* reuseable freezer-safe containers
If you would like to make larger batches, you can scale this up mathematically. These sizes are for my original recipe, which made small portions. Our original cups for sale included only 50 mL of liquid.
I store all ingredients in a refrigerator. Skipping the science, the goal is to shorten freezing time. I honestly don’t know if powder temperature affects freezing time, but I nonetheless keep all liquids and powders together at the same cool temperature.
double chocolate cookie chunks
On occasion, I have pre-measured all ingredients and kept them refrigerated in a ready-to-mix state. However, I can measure and mix so quickly these days that the difference in time is insignificant.
If I am adding something beyond the base recipe, I prepare the freezing container first. For example, I might add chocolate fudge or peanut butter or even cooked squash (true story) as a bottom layer. One birthday preparation included big chunks of double-chocolate cookies.
fruit salad for vanila ice cream, coconut sherbet, or your preference
After preparing the freezing container, if needed, I first measure the liquid component and add it to my mixer. I then measure the flavoring and add it to the mixer, followed by the sugar. Finally, I add a pinch of salt to no-cheese recipes, which are most of my recipes.
You may have noticed some vague terms in that paragraph, and that is because of the recipe variations later in this article. The technique remains the same, but the liquid base changes and the source of flavoring may also change.
I alternate two mixing techniques. One technique is a vigorous shaking to thoroughly mix the ingredients. The other technique is a slower shake that seems to trap air and add volume to the mix. That’s simply from experience, by the way, that the serving containers seem to fill to higher levels with the second technique than when you skip it.
crushed graham, bottom layer
Anyway, I alternate between the two techniques for about a minute. This is quite a savings over the techniques that require 20 minutes of shaking with bags of ice and salt. Once the mixture looks thoroughly mixed, I add a few more volume-increasing shakes and then quickly pour the mixture into the freezing container. I add any final touches -- perhaps marshmallows or crushed graham -- and then whisk the freezing container into the freezer.
ready to freeze
I’ve never timed how long the freezing process takes, but ice cream made in the evening is definitely frozen before the morning. I’ve made same-day batches as well, so all I can state definitively is that it takes more than a few minutes but not all day either.
My very first batch of ice cream was chocolate. I soon added strawberry, mango, and ube (it’s popular in the Philippines). I then began to ask family and friends in-person and on social media for flavor ideas. I told them that if I could make their favorite flavor -- which was limited only by the availability of ingredients -- that I would name that flavor after them.
peanut butter & jelly test batch; sometimes you eat your test products first and then realize you should’ve photographed it
Beyond all of my various chocolate combinations, one of my favorite flavors was peanut butter and jelly. It had a layer of peanut butter at the bottom, then a layer of strawberry jam in the middle, and then strawberry ice cream on top. The jam had real strawberry chunks in it.
Without commercial equipment to mix all components together, the general eating technique is to dig your spoon through to the bottom to grab at least a little of each layer with each bite.
chocolates and marshmallows
I’ve made ice cream with guava jelly, seaweed, raisins, and the aforementioned cooked squash. I’ve even taken caramel macchiato powder out of a coffee machine and made ice cream out of it. The important take away is that you can make almost any flavor if you can find the ingredients. It’s almost impossible to make bad ice cream, even when it has coconut and avocado in it.
fresh calamansi juice for sherbet
My request on social media for ice cream flavor ideas led to one very interesting response: orange sherbet. Now, sherbet isn’t actually ice cream, but the idea intrigued me.
The recipe variation is subtle. Remove half the milk and replace it with juice. For example, let’s say you want to make orange sherbet. Your liquid base would be half milk product and half orange juice. However, the flavor becomes very mild during freezing. I add 1/4 teaspoon of orange Tang, which greatly improves the final flavor and adds a few nutrients, as well.
As long as you can find a juice and a powdered flavor enhancer, you can make almost any flavor of sherbet. I’ve made watermelon, grape, four seasons, pineapple, calamansi, and others.
After making sherbet, frozen yogurt was a logical next choice. Flavorless drinking yogurt is common where we live, so I took my sherbet recipe and substituted frozen yogurt for the juice. The liquid content, therefore, is half milk product and half drinking yogurt. The flavoring strategy can be either 2 tbsp powder, like making ice cream, of 1/4 tsp Tang-like flavoring, like making sherbet.
Frozen Cream Pie
This was inspired by one of my favorite childhood treats. Unfortunately, the original recipe didn’t work well with the substitute ingredients available in our area. Therefore, I wondered how the key ingredient would work as part of my ice cream recipe. Instead of replacing half the milk content with juice to make sherbet or drinking yogurt to make frozen yogurt, I replaced half the milk content with cream cheese. This means, by the way, do not add salt!
chocolate fudge, bottom layer
The first flavor, or course, had to be chocolate. I put chocolate fudge at the bottom of the container, chocolate chunks within the mixture, and both chocolate syrup and chocolate sprinkles on top. This was the flavor that I named after myself and charged the most money for before we discontinued sales.
As you can see, I only mention the technique briefly. It really is quick and simple. You can complicate it a bit by adding ingredients to the freezing container and mixing flavors together, but it’s still fast and easy overall.
In total, I’ve made dozens of flavors of ice cream, sherbet, frozen yogurt, and frozen cream pie in servings ranging from small sauce cups to portions large enough for a children’s home (donated, by the way).
I hope you try my recipe and techique and enjoy the results. Make a batch together with family and/or friends, even with young children. The process of making ice cream together and enjoying it together can be in every way better than buying something ready-made from a store.
Homemade ice cream tastes better with chocolate products made from ethically-sourced cocoa. It also tastes better when far away from single-use plastics.