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Don’t Shoot The Ice Cream Maker – a troubleshooting guide

You just bought your brand new ice cream maker. With super excitement, you head off to make your first ever homemade ice cream. You stick the removable freezer bowl in the freezer, find a recipe and follow the steps to prepare the ice cream mix. When ready, you switch on the machine, pour the ice cream mix into it and wait. Thirty minutes later the ice cream is soupy. You decide to wait a little bit longer. But no matter how long you wait, the ice cream looks pathetic. You decide to turn the machine off, put the ice cream in the freezer and wait. Depending on how long you wait, you either end up with a frozen block of ice; or a liquid mass, the consistency of a Slush Puppy. Tough luck!

Now you are ready to blow it and join the rest of the angry reviewers on the outlet (damn, why didn’t you read the reviews?). But before you do so, give yourself some time and read the most common failures and how to fix them. Chances are that your ice cream machine is performing just fine and you are about to become the super star of all the gatherings to come with your homemade ice creams. Why miss the chance?

Homemade ice cream is the best thing one can make and no store-bought ice cream can compare to it. All you need is someone to point you to the right details and a few reliable recipes.

So here is all you need to know when taking your first steps in ice cream making at home.

credit for cover photo: Hal Gatewood



But, before we start:

GLOSSARY
  • Ice cream Mix: it is the ice cream mixture in its liquid form, before it is churned and turned to ice cream.

For Ice Cream Makers with a Removable Freezer Bowl:

  • Machine: the part of the Ice Cream Maker which connects to the power
  • Paddle: the machine attachment which agitates (churns) the ice cream
  • Removable Freezer Bowl: the bowl which freezes the mixture while it is being churned

get to know the Ice Cream Machine Parts

To assemble, you attach the paddle to the machine and then to the freezer bowl and you turn it on. Then you pour the ice cream base in the freezer bowl and let it churn.

THE MOST COMMON MISTAKES WHEN USING AN ICE CREAM MAKER AND HOW TO AVOID THEM

Important note: This advice is given for ice cream makers with a removable freezer bowl. If you have a compressor ice cream maker, not all advice may work for you, but you may surely benefit by reading the whole article, especially #4 and #5.


#1 – YOU DIDN’T LEAVE THE REMOVABLE BOWL IN THE FREEZER FOR LONG ENOUGH

What you should know: The removable freezer bowl is not auto-freezable. It contains water and salt and you have to freeze it by putting it in the freezer, usually for 24 hours.

Most common mistake: Not leaving the removable freezer bowl in the freezer for long enough. Or not putting it in the freezer at all, thinking that it freezes when connected to power.

How to avoid it: you have to leave the removable freezer bowl in the freezer for.the.whole.time. advised by the manufacturer, no shortcuts allowed. This is usually 24 hours, but you can check the manual.

Hint: keep the removable freezer bowl in your freezer at all times. It is useful to always have it handy. And it is safe, but do check the manufacturers instructions, in case there are additional instructions for long term storing in the freezer .


#2 – THE ICE CREAM MIX WAS NOT COLD ENOUGH BEFORE CHURNING

What you should know: The ice cream mix should be COLD, at the moment you pour it in the freezer bowl. When we say cold, we mean fridge temperature, which is around 4º C ( about 39º F ).

If your ice cream mix is tepid, or not cool enough, your ice cream machine will not be able to churn it. The removable freezer bowl will get warm before it has the chance to churn the ice cream, resulting in a sloppy liquid, instead of a fluffy ice cream.

Before going through the churning process, all ice cream mixes should:

  • go through an overnight stay in the fridge till cold, which is 4º C ( about 39º F ) temperature, should you have a thermometer

or

  • go through a thorough ice bath, by putting the ice cream mix in a sealable bag and submerging it in ice, till cold, which is 4º C ( about 39º F ). This may take 3 hours at least.

Important: before chilling in the fridge or ice, make sure that your ice cream mix has come to room temperature. If it is still warm, neither of those two methods may be sufficient to chill it.


#3 – YOU DIDN’T WAIT LONG ENOUGH FOR THE ICE CREAM TO CHURN 

What you should know: It may take longer for the ice cream to come to its maximum volume possible than the manual or the recipe suggests.

Most common mistake: Unplugging the ice cream maker too early.

How to avoid it: Watch over your ice cream while it is being churned. Check it every 10 minutes; you will see that the ice cream’s texture changes during churning. When it reaches the stage that the texture doesn’t appear to change anymore and its volume does not increase, wait for a full 5 minutes and then unplug the machine.


#4 – THE RECIPE YOU USED IS “OFF”

What you should know: Not all ice cream recipes work. Ice cream recipe development requires deep knowledge of ice cream making. Each ingredient plays a vital role and all details matter.

If the ice cream recipe you used does not contain the right ingredients in the right quantities, the result will be a disaster.

Most common mistake: Choosing random recipes on-line

How to avoid it: When choosing a recipe, play it safe and stick to websites which are specialised in ice cream recipes or which you know you can rely on.

All ice cream recipes in Biterkin are carefully calculated to give you the best ice cream possible. There are also resources included at the bottom of the post, should you like to buy a book or find reliable websites online.


#5 – THE RECIPE YOU USED IS OK, BUT YOU STARTED PLAYING AROUND WITH THE INGREDIENTS 

What you should know: in a perfectly balanced ice cream formula, all ingredients are essential.

Most common mistakes:

  • increasing or decreasing the quantity of an ingredient in a recipe
  • using other ingredients than those the recipe asks for
  • using calorie-reduced ingredients, like low-fat dairy products or sugar substitutes

For example:

Too much sugar or alcohol and your ice cream will not churn or set.

Less sugar than needed and your ice cream will be icy. Same goes with fat, so do not use low-fat products.

Using sugar substitutes in place of sugar. This is a big no-no. Sugar plays a vital role and is not interchangeable with sweeteners.

How to avoid it: just stick to the recipe and do not attempt to “improve” it to your liking.


#6 – YOU ARE TRYING TO MAKE ICE CREAM DURING A HEAT WAVE 

What you should know: external heat can seriously affect the outcome of the recipe. When making ice cream during a heat wave, all things are off: from the temperature of the fridge, which affects the temperature of the ice cream mix, to the temperature of your kitchen, which may make the ice cream maker’s task impossible.

Most common mistake: making ice cream during a heat wave, without taking into consideration the high temperatures.

How to avoid it: The rule of thumb is that you should take extra care that:

    1. the ice cream mix temperature is at 4º C ( about 39º F ) before pouring in the ice cream machine ( yes, we have said it before. But now it is more important to check if the ice cream mix is actually cool after staying in the fridge overnight, as the fridge’s contents may suffer from the heat )
    2. the ice cream maker is in a cool environment when your ice cream is churned. If your house is air-conditioned, put it in the coolest spot.

Important: for the same reasons, avoid placing your ice cream machine near a hot spot, like a hot oven, or under direct sunlight, during churning.


#7 – THE QUANTITY OF THE ICE CREAM MIX IS NOT SUITABLE FOR YOUR ICE CREAM MAKER

What you should know: When the ice cream is churned, the whole point is that air is incorporated into the mixture. This is what will make your ice cream nice and fluffy.

To do so, we need to take advantage of all the paddle’s dynamics. But, what does that mean?

To determine the minimum volume of the ice cream mix, when your ice cream maker has a paddle like this:

to show the optimal level of the ice cream mix

if the level of the ice cream mix is below the •Optimal Level•, you are losing part of its dynamics, as the paddle will incorporate air only with the •middle spoke•, leaving the •upper spoke• unused. The result is that not enough air is incorporated into the mix and it does not become nice and fluffy.

For this reason, we aim for the level of the ice cream mix to be above the optimal level.

Technically perfect paddles have sideway spokes vs. horizontal ones, in which case you will not need to worry about the optimal level.

As for the maximum volume of the ice cream mix you can churn, this should be no more than the 4/5 of the ice cream bowl. This in a 1.5 litre/quart ice cream maker, is around 1,200 ml.

Do not go nuts, though, over finding the perfect maximum quantity for your ice cream maker. The only problem you may encounter will be that as the ice cream expands in volume, it may escape from the canister and land onto the floor. This can be easily prevented if you stay around with a spoon and an eager mouth.

If you have a question, do not hesitate to contact me or leave a comment below. Questions are food for thought and I love food in all forms.

And, as promised, here are some useful links:

Favourite websites for ice cream recipes:

David Lebovitz : second to none.

Stella Parks from Serious Eats  : I do not know about the other recipe developers over at Serious Eats; but Stella Parks is claimed to be a Pastry Wizard for a reason. Same goes for her ice cream recipes.

Favourite ice cream books:

The Perfect Scoop , by David Lebovitz. If you need to buy just one book for ice cream making, this will be it.

Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at home . Although I prefer custard based ice creams, this is a really good book for egg-less recipes.

And if you are a pastry chef and you want something professional, this is the book to go: Frozen Desserts.

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