Every summer, I ponder how to best make good ice cream without an ice cream machine. While idly flipping through the pages of one of my mother’s Swedish foodie magazines, I recently came upon a recipe which seemed worth building upon. Little did I know that the delicious blackcurrant ice cream would end up as a new personal favourite! And yes – it also turned out to be a truly excellent ice cream to make when the only machinery you have is the kitchen freezer!
Ice cream without a machine? Yes, it is possible … with a ‘firm’ custard!
Attempts to make ice cream without an ice cream machine often end up disappointingly icy, and most freeze unpleasantly rock-hard too.
Why? The main problems are usually caused by inadequate emulsion and stabilisation of the ice cream base, and by the relative slowness of the freezing-process itself.
Traditional ice creams tend to rely on egg yolks, (the fat of) the dairy, and sugar to ensure a scoopable, frozen structure. Many people, yours truly included, also like the way eggs add to the overall flavour of the ice cream. Today’s “firm custard base” combines this general goodness of eggs with a small but significant addition of gelatin: a common, tried and tested household product for gelling (strict vegetarians might replace the gelatin with pectin). As we will see, the eggs and the gelatin together work wonders for the overall consistency of the ice cream [= ensuring proper emulsion and stabilisation, in technical terms].
But most kitchen freezers are quite slow to freeze, and that gives any ‘free-roaming’ water within the ice cream base time to grow into unpleasantly large ice crystals. We don’t want that, so it is important to minimise the freezing time. The easiest way to do it? – Make sure that the ice cream base is chilled already when you first put it into the freezer.
Ice creams also need air. As the freezer won’t do the required churning for us, we will simply have to do it ourselves, by hand. When the ice cream begins to freeze, grab a fork and churn it at regular intervalls during the freezing, and all will be fine!
Blackcurrant – tasty, healthy and perfectly suited for ice cream
Ribes nigrum, or Blackcurrant, grow on shrubs. Like many other berries, they are very healthy, and come filled with C-vitamins and fibre. As the berries also contain pectin, they also add some “gelling” power on their own, which benefits the ice cream.
Blackberries have a strong, tart flavour – in our recipe, however, this tartness will be mitigated by the other ingredients. The well-rounded and sweet end-result should please even those who normally do not care much for blackcurrants.
How to do it
Begin with the berries. There is absolutely no need to hull each and every berry, but you should at least remove any remaining stems. Then mix the berries with half of the sugar and purée them.
Set aside and begin to prepare the “firm” custard base.
Begin by putting half a sheet of gelatin to soak in cold water (for a minumum of about five minutes. No problems to leave it there longer, though). Set aside, as we will add it later, towards the very end of the custard-making.
While there are more traditional/complicated ways of preparing an ice cream custard, we will go for the modern and fast way: Just mix everything for the custard together from the very beginning (except for the blackcurrant purée and the gelatin, which we will add towards the end).
So – mix and whisk the cream, the milk, the remaining sugars, and the egg yolks together in a sauce pan.
Continue to whisk and bring to an almost-boil (about 85º C/185º F). Add the soaked half-sheet of gelatin. Whisk some more and when the gelatin has dissolved (should take less than half a minute or so), add the blackcurrant purée.
Whisk well, then remove the ice cream base from the heat and let cool down.
Once cool, let the ice cream base chill properly in the refrigerator for a few hours before you put it in the freezer. Remember: The ice cream becomes better the shorter time it takes to freeze it! Your household freezer will need all the help it can here.
A happy union of delicious berry goodness and nice consistency
Ah! This recipe has become a new personal favourite. I was enthralled already after I tested the first mouthwatering batch. Everyone else was equally thrilled, and repeated attempts confirm it: this ice cream is a lushious gem! And it is possibly THE best egg-based recipe I know of for making quality ice cream without an ice cream machine.
Thanks to the small but significant inclusion of a little gelatin, the ‘firm custard base’ provides the classic egg-based ice cream feeling, and without going over-board on neither eggs nor cream. The overall consistency and texture of the ice cream is impressive, even after many hours’ storage in the freezer.
Still feeling a bit hesitant because of the typically so tart blackcurrant flavour? Don’t worry – in this ice cream, the core of the delectable blackcurrant flavour remains, but most of the tartness has been mellowed out. The final flavour is pleasantly rounded and sweet, almost candy-like, and should appeal even to those who normally don’t care much for blackcurrants.
- About 200-225 gram blackcurrents
- 50 ml (1/5 cup) + 50 ml (1/5 cup) sugar
- 150 ml (3/5 cup) cream
- 150 ml (3/5 cup) milk
- 3 egg yolks
- 1 tablespoon vanilla sugar
- 2 tablespoons of brown sugar (or raw cane sugar)
- ½ sheet of gelatin
- Rince the berries and purée them with half of the sugar. Set aside for later.
- Put the gelatin to soak in a cup of cold water. Set aside for later.
- Mix the cream, the milk, the egg yolks and the remaining sugar(s) in a saucepan.
- While whisking, bring to an almost-boil (up to a maximum of about 85º C/185º F).
- Add the soaked half-sheet of gelatin and whisk until it has dissolved.
- Add the blackcurrant purée, whisk well and take off from the heat.
- Let the ice cream base cool down, then chill in your refrigerator.
- Pour the chilled ice cream base in a freezer-safe container (with a lid) and put in your freezer.
- Wait for about an hour, take it out and churn thoroughly by hand, using a fork.
- Put back into the freezer and wait about 30-45 more minutes. Grab your fork and repeat the hand-churning, doing so until the ice cream has frozen to a nice, "ice creamy" consistency (count on about four hours or so).
- Enjoy fresh, or leave it in the freezer for later.
- Pour the ice cream base into the machine and churn according to instructions.
- Enjoy fresh or store for later it in your freezer