Cold fact of life: Like love, you can't hurry ice cream


You can fiddle with the rock salt. You can skimp on the sugar. But never, ever dally with the --er.

That is a lesson I learned the other day when I made ice cream at home. The --er is the part of the ice-cream maker that is suspended in the middle of the canister of sweetened cream.

The dasher's mission is to make sure all the liquid mix changes into frozen cream. It does this by scraping the freezing ice-cream mix from the canister walls and pushing it toward the center. This action, in turn, pushes the pieces of unfrozen mix to where the cold is, the canister walls. In my ice-cream maker, the --er remains stationary as the canister, turned by an electric motor, moves through ice cubes and rock salt.

When a dasher is allowed to do its task uninterrupted, the result is a smooth, frozen canister of ice cream. But if you tinker, if you turn off the motor in mid-process, the results are soupy.

Once you stop the motor, the --er considers its workday is over. When you plug the electric motor back in, the dasher feels thick cream around it, and balks. It won't let the canister rotate. And the ice-cream-making process is finished, even though it should, technically, go on for another 10 to 15 minutes.

That is what happened to me. That is how my gallon of homemade mocha ice cream turned into 30 mocha milkshakes.

It happened when I got a hankering for ice cream. Not the store-bought stuff, but homemade. I was happy to discover that I already had most of the essentials -- an ice-cream maker, a sack of rock salt and a recipe.

This was not an ice cream for the timid. It was loaded with cream, sugar, cocoa, coffee, and called for raw eggs. It was a risk-takers' ice cream, and I was ready.

At least I thought I was. Aftering reading the recipe in "Ben & Jerry's Homemade Ice Cream and Dessert Book" (Ben Cohen & Jerry Greenfield, $8, Workman Publishing) I got out 2 cups of whipping cream and 2 eggs. But I soon realized I needed four times as much.

The recipe called for making a petite amount of ice cream, 1 quart. I wanted to make a gallon. I walked to the store and bought more cream, more eggs and more ice. The walk home, in 95-degree heat, toting a 20-pound bag of ice, was an ordeal. The bag of ice kept slipping. The eggs almost fell. The heat was relentless.

But the trip only made me want the ice cream more, and made me want more of it. The quantities were daunting: 8 cups of whipping cream, 4 cups of milk, 16 teaspoons of cocoa powder, 8 tablespoons of freeze-dried coffee. The recipe called for 3 cups of sugar, but I cut that back to a mere 2 1/4 cups. The whisking of the eggs, 8 of them, was more upper body exercise than I usually get in a week.

I mixed these ingredients together and poured them into the metal canister. I pushed on the lid and adjusted the electric motor so it would grip the tip of the --er sticking through the canister lid. I pushed the canister into the bucket filled with layers of ice and rock salt and turned on the motor. The metal cylinder turned around. The ice cubes turned to cold water. I knew that when the ice cream was ready, the rotating would stop.

Principles of science were at work, ice cream was freezing by giving up its warmth to the icy liquid outside the canister. But I never understood principles or trusted them. I wanted to add ice, and I turned the motor off. Big mistake.

The creamy mixture in the canister was thick enough to stop the --er. But it wasn't thick enough to be ice cream. I served it as milkshakes at a neighborhood get-together. Most people who drank them liked them.

Here is the recipe, for 1 quart. To make it correctly you need one ingredient that is not listed: enough sense to avoid dallying with the dasher.

Ben & Jerry's mocha

Makes 1 quart

2 cups heavy or whipping cream

1 cup milk

3/4 cup sugar

4 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder

2 tablespoons freeze-dried coffee

2 large eggs

Mix cream, milk, sugar, cocoa, and coffee in a mixing bowl until blended. Whisk eggs in another bowl until light yellow.

Pour eggs into cream mixture and stir until blended.

Transfer mixture to ice-cream maker and freeze following manufacturer's instructions.

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