Author Archives: Carl
Author Archives: Carl
Emulsifiers are probably one of the most confusing parts of ice cream science. So let's start right at the beginning with the basics.
An emulsion is a mix of two (or more) liquids that won't usually mix together. Why won't they usually mix? Because the molecules of each respective liquid prefer to stick together.
For example, an oil and vinegar salad dressing is an emulsion. Think about how we make it. When we add the vinegar to the oil, they don't mix properly. In fact, they form two separate puddles!
It's only when we stir them together vigorously, that the oil breaks into smaller and smaller globules and is dispersed throughout the vinegar to make a consistent mixture. This mixture is an emulsion.
Milk is another example of an emulsion. In milk, tiny globules of liquid fat are dispersed in water.
But the thing about emulsions is that because the liquids don't want to mix together, they're unstable. And over time, they'll separate. If you leave an oil and vinegar dressing in the fridge, eventually it will separate into two layers, one of oil and one of vinegar.
And if you leave milk that's come straight from the cow, it will also separate into two layers: on top, fatty cream and underneath watery milk.
However, these days, the milk we buy in the supermarket has been "homogenized" so that it doesn't separate. "Homogenized"? Basically, this means that the milk has been mixed at high pressure until the fat globules are so small, they're unable to separate from the water.
Why are they unable to separate? Well, milk contains protein molecules with two "heads". One head is attracted to water while the other is attracted to fat. So these proteins end up at the interface between the two, with one head stuck in the fat globule and the other in the water.
By attaching to the fat globules and anchoring them in the water in this way, the proteins naturally discourage the globules from clumping together and separating from the water. Under normal conditions, the action of the proteins is not strong enough to stop the fat and the water separating for very long.
But homogenization creates a greater number of smaller fat globules, which in turn means there's a larger surface area for those proteins to attach themselves to.
So after homogenization, there are even more proteins attached to smaller, more widely distributed fat globules. To the extent that even over time, the fat globules are unable to separate from the water.
And that's why modern milk doesn't separate into two layers in our fridges! Homogenization has created a relatively stable emulsion.
Good question. It's all about the air bubbles in ice cream. Ice cream contains lots of tiny air bubbles. And these bubbles are really important because they contribute to the texture and body of the ice cream and how fast it melts.
An ice cream with lots of tiny, stable air bubbles is smoother and melts more slowly than one with less and/or larger bubbles.
So part of the ice cream making process involves getting air into the mixture and making sure the bubbles are as small as possible. And that's the job of the paddle (or dasher) that stirs the mixture in the ice cream machine as it's being frozen.
The motion of the dasher does two things. Firstly, it adds air bubbles to the mixture. And secondly, it causes the fat globules in the mixture to collide and start to clump together to form long strings in a structure that surrounds and supports those air bubbles.
This process, in which the fat globules separate from the water and start to clump together is called "partial coalescence". And the "scaffolding" structure it forms is essential for holding the air bubbles in the ice cream and keeping them small.
Bear with me, this is where it all comes together...
So on one hand, we have milk. The milk is a pretty stable emulsion in which the fat globules are very small and prevented from clumping together by proteins that anchor them in the water.
But on the other hand, we want to make ice cream with that milk. And to do so, we know we need to de-stabilize the milk emulsion so that the fat globules do clump together to form the scaffolding that supports the air bubbles.
Hold on, we also know that the motion of the dasher in the ice cream maker will cause the fat globules to collide and clump together. So what's the problem?
Well, the problem is that in most cases, the motion of the dasher alone is not enough to de-stabilize the emulsion. There's just not enough fat in an average ice cream mixture for it to be de-stabilized by just agitation. (That's why you can whip high fat whipping cream but you can't whip milk).
No, the dasher needs help. And this is where the emulsifiers come in. So bizarrely, we add emulsifiers to the ice cream mixture to de-stabilize (or de-emulsify) the fat emulsion in the milk.
We already know that in homogenized milk, the emulsion is stabilized by protein molecules that attach themselves to the surface of the fat globules and prevent them from clustering together.
So to encourage "partial coalescence" in which the fat globules do clump together, we need to remove those protein molecules. And this is the job of the emulsifiers.
Emulsifiers are similar to milk proteins in that they have two heads, one attracted to fat and another attracted to water. And when we add emulsifiers to an ice cream mix, they behave in the same way as the proteins: they migrate to the interface between the fat and the water where they attach themselves to the surface of the fat globules.
In doing so, they actually displace the protein molecules. And since emulsifiers lower the tension between the fat and the water, they don't interfere with the inclination of the fat globules to cluster together.
So in this way, they de-stabilize the emulsion. And later on, when the motion of the dasher starts to cause those fat globules to collide, they're much more likely to separate from the water and start clumping together.
There are several different types of emulsifiers. Let's have a look at what's available...
Yes, the most traditional ice cream emulsifier is egg yolk! As well as other proteins and fats, egg yolks contain a chemical called Lecithin which has very good emulsifying properties.
In fact, when cooked, egg yolks work as both a stabilizer that thickens the mixture and as an emulsifier which encourages partial coalescence. This is why they're so useful. And for home made ice cream they'll nearly always be the number one choice.
How many egg yolks you use depends on what type of ice cream you're trying to make. To just make use of their emulsifying properties, you'll need 0.5 - 1% of the mixture to be egg yolk. To use their stabilizing (thickening) properties as well, you'll need to increase this proportion to 3 - 4%. But some frozen custard style ice creams might be over 8% egg yolk!
However, just as egg yolks are not the very best stabilizer, neither are they the very best emulsifier. They can also add a distinctive eggy taste to our ice cream which may or may not be desirable.
So while for most home made ice cream, egg yolks will be the best emulsifier choice, there may be times when you want to avoid them.
For example, if you want to make a particularly light and clean tasting ice cream. Or if you're making an ice cream that already has a high fat content from chocolate or nut pastes. In these cases you may want to avoid the flavor dampening richness or extra fat content of egg yolks.
Powdered, eggless emulsifiers are usually one of the ingredients in the generic ice cream stabilizer mixtures of you can now buy. But it's worth looking at them individually...
It's the Lecithin in egg yolks that makes them such good emulsifiers. However, Lecithin can also be extracted from soybeans, sunflowers and rapeseed. And this plant based Lecithin emulsifies just as well as the stuff in egg yolks without any of the eggy flavor and extra fat.
One large egg yolk contains about 1.5 g of Lecithin. So with mixtures that are between 0.2 - 0.5 % Lecithin by weight, you should be able to make an eggless ice cream that's emulsified as well as it would be with egg yolks. Just mix it well with the rest of the dry ingredients.
Soy Lecithin has a pretty neutral taste. So should be undetectable when used in these small quantities. However different brands may vary so it's worth trying a few if you have issues.
Buttermilk, either condensed or dried can be used as a source of Milk Solids Non Fat (MSNF) in ice cream and will provide extra emulsifying properties because the protein-phospholipids that do some of the emulsifying are concentrated during buttermilk churning.
Yes, they're a bit of a mouth full! They're actually two different types of emulsifiers, but since they're complimentary and often used together, I'll cover them both at once.
Polysorbate 80 is a type of sorbitan that's derived from oleic acid. It's most effective at the interface between fat and water. This means it's good at de-stabilizing the emulsion so that the fat globules clump together in partial coalescence.
Mono- and Diglycerides are derived from the partial hydrolysis of animal or vegetable fats. They are most effective at the interface between fat and air, so they're good at stabilizing the air bubbles and keeping them small.
Since one acts at the fat-water interface and the other acts at the fat-air interface, these emulsifiers complement each other and used together they're probably the most effective available.
And because of their effectiveness (and cheapness!), this combination is often used in commercial ice cream manufacture.
However, their synthetic nature tends to make them less attractive to home made ice cream enthusiasts. And to be honest, since home made ice cream is consumed much more quickly than commercial ice creams, we don't really need the very best emulsifiers!
If you do want to experiment though, you can try Polysorbate 80 at 0.02 - 0.04 % by weight and Mono- and Diglycerides at 0.1 - 0.2 % by weight.
Whether your using egg yolks, soy lecithin or some of the synthetic emulsifiers, you need to make sure you get the balance right.
Too little emulsifier and there won't be enough partial coalescence while the ice cream is being churned and frozen. This will result in an unstable foam and a wet, coarse ice cream that melts very quickly.
Too much emulsifier and there may be too much partial coalescence. This is where so much of the fat separates from the emulsion and clumps together, that it becomes detectable on the tongue as small, buttery lumps.
The quantities above should give you a rough idea. You don't need much. But as always the best way to get a feel for this is to experiment! My ice cream calculator may help.
I hope that's made the role of emulsifiers in ice cream a little clearer. They are often over shadowed by stabilizers. But emulsifiers have a huge influence on the size and stability of the air bubbles in ice cream.
And since the air bubbles have a huge influence on the texture, body and meltdown characteristics of ice cream we definitely shouldn't ignore them.
For most home made ice cream enthusiasts, egg yolks will be enough. But if you interested in lighter, cleaner tasting, eggless ice creams then the other options are certainly worth investigating.
The Cuisinart ICE-30BC and ICE-21 are two of the most popular ice cream makers available today. And when you're trying to choose between them, it might not be immediately clear which is the best for you.
I've actually read plenty of misleading reviews that suggest that one makes better ice cream than the other. So let's get that out of the way right now: they both make fantastic ice cream!
It's not a case of which one makes the best ice cream, it's a case of which best suits the way you want to make ice cream! And this is all to do with their size and the amount of ice cream they make.
So in this comparison I'll give you a quick recap on how they work (just in case you don't know). Then I'll compare the capacity, size, weight, construction quality, noise levels and finally the quality of the ice cream.
Both the ICE-21 and the ICE-30BC work in exactly the same way, and I'm not going to go into too much detail here as I cover it in my guide to choosing the best ice cream maker and my individual reviews of the ICE-21 and the ICE-30BC.
But essentially, they are both "freezable bowl machines". This means they have a removable bowl that you put in the freezer for at least 6 hours so that a special gel in the walls of the bowl freezes solid.
This gel makes the bowl cold enough, (for long enough) to freeze your ice cream once you remove it from the freezer and place it back in the machine.
However, both the ICE-21 and the ICE-30BC are different from most other freezable bowl machines in that in order to churn the mixture, it's the bowl that's rotated rather than the paddle. This is a big advantage as I'll explain below.
This is the biggest and most important difference between the two machines. The ICE-21 can only make up to 1.5 quarts of ice cream per session, while the ICE-30BC can produce up to 2 quarts. This is because the bowls are different sizes...
Why is this important? Well, don't forget, you need to freeze the bowl for at least 6 hours before you can use it. And once you've used it once, you'll need to re-freeze it before you can use it again.
Depending on which machine you buy, you'll be able to make either 1.5 or 2 quarts per day. Unless you buy an extra bowl of course! So if you make a lot of ice cream, then the bigger bowl of the ICE-30BC might be the best choice.
However since the capacity is related to the size of the bowl, there's something else worth thinking about here. These bowls take up quite a lot of space in your freezer. And if you've got a limited amount of room, the smaller bowl of the ICE-21 might be best.
Just how big is the difference in size? Well, the ICE-21 bowl is 5.5" (14 cm) high and 7" (18 cm) across. While the ICE-30BC bowl is 6.4" high (16.3 cm) and 7.8" (19.7 cm) across. So it's not a big difference. But if you've got limited space it could be significant.
So the ICE-21 has the smaller capacity. And it looks like it's the smaller machine. But if we actually measure them both, there's a couple of surprises...
The base of the ICE-21 measures 9" wide and 9.25" deep. And with the lid on the machine is 11.25" high.
While the base of the ICE-30BC is 8.5" wide and 8.5" deep. And with the lid on, the machine is 11.5" high.
So the footprint of the ICE-21 is actually bigger and it will take up more counter space than the ICE-30BC! Plus it's only slightly shorter.
However, while the ICE-30BC maintains the same dimensions from the base to the top of the lid, the ICE-21 becomes much slimmer above the 4" tall base. So it looks much smaller, even though it isn't.
But the bottom line here is: although the ICE-21 looks smaller than the ICE-30BC and takes up less total cubic space, it will actually occupy slightly more counter space in your kitchen.
The ICE-30BC, weighing 12 pounds, is significantly heavier than 10 pound ICE-21. That's a good 20% heavier. This is because there's much less body to the ICE-21 and the motor is smaller.
While neither are particularly heavy, (especially when compared to the machines with built in freezers), both are heavy enough to convey a feeling of confidence in their construction...
Several people have questioned the construction quality of the ICE-21, suggesting that it's somehow more flimsy than the ICE-30BC.
This isn't the case at all. For sure, the ICE-30BC looks more premium, with its brushed steel effect body. But this is an effect: both machines are actually made from plastic.
In neither machine does the plastic indicate poor or fragile construction. Both seem really well made and durable to me. The buttons feel solid and responsible. And most importantly the motors have always performed very well for me...
The motor of the ICE-21 is smaller and less powerful than the ICE-30BC. So you might expect it to struggle more with thicker mixes. But don't forget, the bowl it's turning is smaller and lighter too!
The bowl of the ICE-21 weighs 1545 g while the bowl of the ICE-30BC weighs 2090 g. Plus it will contain less mixture. So it doesn't need to be as powerful!
And the Cuisinart machines have a further advantage over other freezable bowl machines: the motor turns the bowl from underneath rather than the paddle from above.
This makes them much more efficient. Neither the ICE-30BC nor the ICE-21 struggles with thick mixes in the same way as other freezable bowl machines do.
Both machines come with a 3 year warranty. However, one of the great things about these freezable bowl ice cream makers is that they're so simple, there's very little to go wrong! You're unlikely to ever need the warranty.
So in summary, I think both the ICE-30BC and the ICE-21 are well constructed, durable and powerful enough to do the job for many years to come.
One of the most frequent complaints you'll hear about all ice cream makers is the noise they make. And neither of these machines are quiet!
I measured the decibel level of both machines at the start and end of different batches and found that they were more or less the same. And that was around 80 DB.
Both of these machine produce top quality ice cream, sorbets and frozen yogurt. Have no doubt about that.
In theory, the smaller capacity ICE-21 should produce a smoother end product than the ICE-30BC. Why? Well, since the bowl is smaller and narrower, more of the mixture will be in contact with (or closer to), the freezing sides.
This means the mixture should freeze quicker. And the quicker the mixture freezes, the smoother and less icy the final product.
In my testing, the ICE-21 does indeed seem to reduce the temperature of the mixture in the middle of the bowl to -4 (which is when you should start extracting it) slightly faster than the ICE-30BC.
But, it's only by a few minutes, (it changes depending on the recipe). And more importantly, it doesn't seem to make any discernible difference to the quality of the ice cream!
The ICE-21 definitely produces ice cream just a little faster than the ICE-30BC though, so if a those few minutes are important, you might want to go with the smaller machine!
Also, the ICE-21 rotates the bowl much faster than the ICE-30BC (32 vs 21 revolutions per minute). This should mean the ice cream made with the ICE-21 has more air incorporated (overrun).
But in fact the overrun levels seem to be more or less the same for both machines, ranging from 20 to 34 depending on the mixture you're using. And this probably due to the different designs of the paddles (or dashers as they are known).
The ICE-21 is a smaller machine, with a smaller body, a smaller bowl and a less powerful motor. So it's obviously going to be the cheaper of the two. However, the ICE-30BC isn't much more expensive.
And in fact they're both very reasonably priced when you consider the quality of the ice cream they produce and how long they're likely to last. (A long time). Don't forget you can also buy spare bowls for both of these machines too.
The first thing to say is that both these machines are capable of making fantastic ice cream, sorbets, frozen yogurts and any other frozen treat. There really is no discernible difference in the quality of the final product.
So how do you choose between them? For me the most important difference is the capacity. If you want to make big batches then go for the ICE-30BC. If you're into smaller batches then go for the ICE-21BC.
But there are other reasons you might choose one over the other. So lets quickly look at those...
For sure it's only an inch smaller in any direction. But if you've got limited space that might just be the difference between a bowl that fits well and one that doesn't.
Yes, it has the bigger base. But in terms of cubic space it's definitely the smaller of the two machines. So it will feel better in smaller kitchens.
The smaller bowl means it freezes your ice cream faster. While I don't find that makes any difference in the quality of the ice cream, it does mean you can be eating that ice cream a couple of minutes earlier!
You can make 33% more ice cream per batch with the ICE-30BC. If you like to makes lots of ice cream regularly, or even lots of ice cream irregularly, this is the machine for you!
Bizarrely, although it's the bigger machine overall, the ICE-30BC actually has a smaller base than the ICE-21. Less than an inch in either direction. But that could be important on a small counter top!
The ICE-30BC definitely looks more premium than the ICE-21. The brushed steel effect body gives it much higher spec feel.
The most important thing to remember here is that it's not a case of an entry level versus a higher end machine. They're both great quality machines.
It's more a case of which one suits your kitchen and the way you want to make ice cream best...
If you'e got a smaller kitchen, a smaller freezer and you don't need big batches of ice cream, go for the ICE-21. If you've got more space and you like the flexibility of bigger batch size, then go for the ICE-30BC.
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Last Edited on 2017-02-11
Stabilizers are probably the most controversial area of ice cream science. They're denounced by traditionalists who think everything should be “natural”. And lauded by molecular gastronomers that think science solves everything.
They're a complicated subject. But there's nothing to be scared of here. Most of them are natural. When you use them correctly they'll almost certain improve your ice cream. And in fact, if you've made ice cream then you've almost certainly used them in some form already.
Put simply: stabilizers are ingredients that thicken water. This is also called adding “viscosity”. The more viscous a liquid is, the “thicker” it is.
In scientific terms, they're hydrocolloids. When hydrocolloids disperse in a liquid they bind to the water molecules, so reducing their movement. This reduced movement appears to us as increased viscosity or thickening.
The most obvious example of using a stabilizer in cooking is when you thicken gravy with flour.
Most stabilizers are natural in origin. They generally come from plant, animal or bacterial origins. However under European Law they are considered food additives and must be represented by E numbers in ingredient lists.
Stabilizers can improve ice cream in several significant ways:
Let's have a look at each of these contributions in turn...
First of all, why do we want to reduce ice crystal growth in our ice cream? Well, ice crystals are an important part of ice cream. But if the crystals get too big, they are detectable by the tongue and give the ice cream a coarse, grainy texture.
Ice crystals are formed only during the initial freezing and churning stage in the ice cream maker.
When the ice cream is subsequently stored in a freezer, the existing ice crystals may get bigger, but no new ones are formed.
But ice crystals can grow when there are temperature fluctuations that cause existing crystals to melt and then re-freeze. Because when they re-freeze, rather than creating new crystals, the water migrates to join existing crystals, so increasing their size.
Such temperature fluctuations can actually occur both during the batch freezing process (in the ice cream maker) and during storage (in the freezer).
During batch freezing, ice crystals are initially formed against the super cooled sides of the ice cream machine. The rotating dasher then scrapes them from the sides and moves them into the center of the mix where temperatures are warmer and where they may melt and then re-freeze later as the temperature of the whole mix decreases.
During storage there are many situations that could cause these temperature fluctuations. For example when the freezer door is opened and then closed. Or if the ice cream is taken out to soften before serving and then replaced in the freezer.
So the challenge for all ice cream makers, is to try to make the ice crystals as small as possible during the freezing and churning stage and to stop them getting bigger while the ice cream is being stored.
While there's plenty of material that suggests stabilizers only restrict ice crystal growth during storage, there are other studies that show that the initial size of the ice crystals formed during batch freezing are smaller in mixes that use stabilizers.
How do they do this? The science around this is not clear. But it seems likely that by restricting the free movement of water, stabilizers prevent melted ice crystals from finding and joining existing ice crystals when they re-freeze.
Why do we want small air bubbles in ice cream? Because lots of small air bubbles make the ice cream smoother.
How do stabilizers keep the air bubbles in ice cream small? Again, the science is not totally clear here. We know that stabilizers make base mixes more viscous. And more viscous base mixes produce smaller air bubbles.
But why do viscous mixes produce smaller bubbles? One theory is that the greater shear stress that's applied to more viscous liquids when they are being churned in the ice cream maker reduces the size of the bubbles more.
Just like ice crystals, air bubbles can grow in size and reduce in number during storage. This happens in two ways:
The increased viscosity that stabilizers produce also protects against these processes by thickening the films around the air bubbles and keeping neighbouring bubbles away from each other.
Ice cream that melts too quickly is no fun to eat! Stabilizers can help here too by both slowing the rate at which ice cream melts and maintaining it's shape better as it does melt.
This is partly due to the water binding qualities of stabilizers. Viscous mixtures simply melt slower.
But it's also due to the smaller air bubbles. Ice cream with many small air bubbles melts significantly slower and retains it's shape better that ice cream with fewer, larger bubbles. And we already know that stabilizers promote smaller bubbles!
So we've seen that by reducing the size of the ice crystals and the air bubbles in ice cream, stabilizers make smoother ice cream and slow meltdown.
But they also add body, produce a creamy mouth-feel and a silky finish. These qualities are largely a result of the added viscosity that stabilizers produce.
Less free flowing water produces a more solid, ice cream that tastes creamier and silkier because it's less watery.
Despite the benefits of stabilizers, many people are suspicious of or outright hostile to their use in ice cream. I think there are two main reasons for this...
Over stabilized ice creams are horrible. They may have a gummy or excessively chewy texture. They can exhibit extremely unnatural melting (they don't seem to actually melt!). And they often leave a pasty after-taste in your mouth.
But this is stabilizers used badly. When stabilizers are used well, you don't even realize they're being used at all. You're just amazed by how good the ice cream is!
However, the very idea of using stabilizers is too much for some people. This tends to be down to the idea that they are somehow unnatural, that they're chemicals added to reduce costs rather than improve quality, and that they're unhealthy or even unsafe.
But as I mention above, most of stabilizers come from natural sources. And most of them have been used in cooking for hundreds of years.
It's true, they are often used in cheap, commercial ice creams to cut corners and save money. But it's all a matter of intent. If people are using them to save money we should be wary. If they're using them to make better ice cream then we should be curious.
Besides, if you've already made ice cream at home, you've probably already used stabilizers.
Yep, egg yolks act as a stabilizer. So if you're making egg custard bases, you're already stabilizing your ice cream. The stabilizing chemical is egg yolk is called Lecithin and even has it's own E number: E322.
Egg yolks will give your ice cream fantastic texture and body. They'll emulsify your mix. And they'll also reduce the growth of ice crystals and air bubbles.
So why not use egg yolks all the time? Well, they're good, but they're not great. They're certainly not as good at reducing ice crystal growth as other stabilizers. And over time they let water escape, which re-freezes and makes the ice cream icy.
They subdue other flavours (especially lighter flavours like herbs and water based flavours like fruit). And add their own eggy flavour, the strength of which depends on how many eggs you use and how long and how hot you cook the base for.
So yes egg yolks will stabilize your ice cream but they're not the best performing stabilizers available.
If you've ever tried to make a Sciilain Gelato then you may have used corn flour or tapioca flour. In southern Italy they don't use eggs (or much cream) in ice cream. Instead they use these starches to stabilize their milky gelatos.
Corn flour and tapioca flour work quite well as stabilizers. They don't subdue other flavours like eggs and impart much less flavour themselves.
However, I can still detect them, whether it's through a light flavour trace or a slightly pasty texture. And again, there are other stabilizers that perform better.
While you almost certainly have some experience of the thickening properties of egg yolks and corn flour, you're less likely to have used gums before. But when people talk about the stabilizers used in ice cream it's gums that people are usually thinking about.
Gums are the most powerful, flexible and most useful stabilizers that are available to us. They suppress the growth of ice crystals better than any other ingredient. They can be used to alter the texture of ice cream in many different ways. They don't suppress other flavours and are almost flavourless themselves.
What's more, they are so powerful that we only need to use them in tiny amounts. Typically gum stabilizers would only make up 0.1 – 0.5 % of the base mix!
Most gums appear as off white powders. In fact, they're all just complex sugars, also known as polysaccharides. And they're almost all derived from natural products.
Different gums have subtlety different chemical structures that will have very different effects on the texture, body and sensory qualities of ice cream. And even used alone they are very useful.
However, if you combine one or more gums together, the effects of each can be amplified. Or nullified. Or you might get a whole new set of effects! So it is worth experimenting with different combinations of gums to see what effects you find pleasing.
While all gums will thicken a liquid, some of them also form gels. Gel are substances that exhibit the characteristics of both a liquid and a solid. Food technologists define a gel as a high moisture food that more or less retains it's shape when released from it's container. And that definition's good enough for us here!
While some gums always form gels, some will only form gels in dairy based mixtures. And others will form gels only when mixed with other gums!
And different gels have different characteristics. For example they might be strong or weak, brittle or elastic etc.
When we're making ice cream, gels are generally harder to work with than mixes that are simply viscous. They can be difficult to get in the ice cream maker cleanly, so you often have to attack them with a blender them to break up the gel.
However, if you're making low fat ice creams or sorbets they're really useful because they add a creamy texture and substantial body that you wouldn't get otherwise.
Locust bean gum
Soft, elastic gel with dairy
Stiff, brittle gel with dairy
Rigid, brittle gel with dairy
Brittle, slightly sticky gel
Locust bean gum + Xantham gum
Locus bean gum + Kappa Carrageenan
Carboxymethyl cellulose + Guar gum
Carboxymethyl cellulose + All Carrageenans
Most of the gums we use in ice cream are derived from plants. What sorts of plant? Well, generally they're extracted from seeds or seaweeds!
Locust bean gum (LBG), is also known as Carob Bean Flour and is made from the seeds of the Carob Tree. This tree is very common in Mediterranean countries and LBG has been used as a thickener in cooking for thousands of years.
LBG is a very popular stabilizer in ice cream. It has one of the best ice crystal size reducing powers of all the gums. And it produces, a smooth texture, a creamy mouth-feel and a silky finish. It also works well with other gums, especially Guar and Carrageenan.
The great thing about ice creams stabilized with LBG is that usually they don't seem like they've been stabilized at all. It gives ice cream a very natural feel. This is because although it forms a weak gel when frozen, that gel disappears when the ice cream melts.
However, LBG is not without it's disadvantages. It needs to be heated to fully hydrate and different types of LBG hydrate at different temperatures. But it's typically around 185°F (85°C), which is higher than ideal when making ice cream.
Used alone it can also cause wheying off, which is when milk proteins come out of solution to form crystals that are detectable by the tongue and give the ice cream a grainy texture.
Guar gum is also derived from a seed, in this case the seeds of the guar plant which is a legume, like a bean. Guar beans have been eaten in India for thousands of years but guar gum has only been used as a stabilizer since the 1950's.
Guar gum doesn't reduce ice crystal size as well as LBG, but it adds much more viscosity to the mix which gives more body to the final ice cream. Unlike LBG, it also hydrates at low temperatures.
But Guar works well with LBG, with each amplifying the powers of the other. So they are often used in combination.
Used in high quantities, Guar can give ice cream a chewy texture like toffee, which may be desirable or not depending on how you like your ice cream!
Carrageenans are extracted from seaweeds. Originally these were Irish Moss seaweeds and carrageenans have been used as thickeners in Irish cooking for centuries.
However, nowadays they're extracted from other types of red seaweeds that are grown in the Philippines, Tanzania and Indonesia.
Carrageenans perform pretty averagely at reducing the size of ice crystals. But they have a strong effect on texture, producing a rich and creamy mouth-feel that's similar to egg custard ice creams.
They also help prevent wheying-off (see above) so are often used in conjunction with LBG which can cause this defect.
There are three different types of Carrageenans that are used in cooking, each of which varies slightly in their molecular structure:
Iota and Kappa Carrageenans form gels with milk so are more commonly used in sorbets and low fat ice creams. While Lambada is used in ice creams with sufficient fat to stabilize without gelling.
Sodium Alginate is also extracted from seaweed, this time the brown ocean kelp that's found in cold water areas.
It dissolves in cold water but hydrates best at temperatures between 155 and 160°F (68 - 71°C). It's pretty good at keeping ice crystals small. Add contributes a texture and body to ice cream that other gums can't replicate.
Sodium Alginate forms a gel with milk, so it's popular in low fat ice creams. And it's the way in which the rigid gel breaks into a fluid gel when it's being churned that gives the finished ice cream it's unique sensory qualities.
Carboxymethyl cellulose (CMC) is also know as cellulose gum and is synthesized from plant cellulose.
It's probably better at suppressing the growth of ice crystals than LBG. It adds body and chewiness to ice cream to the same degree as Guar. But it forms a gel when combined with LBG, Guar and Carrageenans, which may or may not be desirable.
Since Carboxymethyl cellulose is a synthesised product that is extracted from cotton and wood pulp it pushes the boundaries of what many people would call “natural”. However it's perfectly safe and is commonly used in ice cream production.
Xantham gum is a product of fermentation and is created when the bacteria Xanthomonas campestris feeds on sugar. This might sound weird. But it's just like yeast in beer!
It's an extremely versatile stabilizer. It dissolves in (and thickens) hot or cold water. Viscosity doesn't vary with temperature. It's highly resistant to freeze/thaw cyles. It works at a wide range of acidities. And it works well with other gums.
It's not the best gum at suppressing ice crystal growth. But it's really easy to get hold of in health food stores (because vegans use it as an egg substitute). And it's ready availability, it's ease of use and it's versatility make it a great gum to experiment with.
Gelatin is derived from animal collagen, usually pork or beef. And this is what they used to stabilize ice cream in the old days.
It suppresses ice crystal growth really well and gives ice cream a very pleasing smooth texture. It's also very easy to get hold of.
However, it has largely fallen out of favour, because it's expensive and because it's an animal product.
Pectin is extracted form citrus feel and apple pomace. Pectin has been used for many years as the gelling agent in jam.
There are two types: “low methoxy”, which requires calcium to gel and “high methoxy” which will gel at low pH with loads of sugar.
When we heat the ice cream mix, some of the whey proteins in the milk undergo partial unfolding and begin to form a network similar to those formed by hydrocolloids. This process in called “denaturing” and will help stabilize the ice cream in a similar way too.
However, the stabilization is not nearly as powerful as the hydrocolloid's and should be seen as an addition to rather than instead of.
So if you're thinking you might like to experiment with stabilizers (and specifically gums) there are three steps that you need to get right:
Gums are so powerful you only need to use a tiny amount. Typically they make up between 0.1 and 0.5% of the weight of the base mixture. And if you go just slightly above these proportions you'll start to get over stabilized ice cream which can be quite unpleasant.
So in order to get your weight measurements right you'll need some scales that are accurate to 0.01g. You might be able to get away with experimenting with ¼ teaspoon measures, but it'll be hit and miss. And good quality scales aren't expensive.
Once you've accurately measured out your stabilizer, you need to mix it with the rest of the ingredients. Gums tend to clump together and won't disperse properly if you just dump them into a liquid. And if they're not dispersed, they don't work!
The best way to get an even dispersion is to add the stabilizer to all the other dry ingredients and then mix them thoroughly with a fork or a whisk. Spend a good 5 minutes on this to make sure it's properly mixed.
Once it is mixed, add the liquid and give it a proper going over with a hand blender. Again spend a good few minutes on this.
Some people suggest using the blender to form a vortex in the centre of the liquid and then pouring the dry ingredients into the middle of the vortex for the best dispersion. I haven't found this necessary but it might help.
But I can't stress the importance of this step enough. If you don't disperse the stabilizer it will clump together and won't fully hydrate. Which means your mix won't thicken properly. And your ice cream will be poorer.
In order to be effective, a stabilizer must be hydrated: it must absorb water. Some need to be heated, others hydrate in cold water. Some stabilizers hydrate faster than others. You need to know how to get the best hydration from the stabilizer you're using.
For example, Locust Bean Gum needs to be heated to about 185°F (85°C). While Guar and Xantham gum hydrate at room temperature. And Guar needs up to an hour to fully hydrate. But Xantham gum hydrates much quicker.
So remember. Make sure you're working with the right amount of stabilizer by weighing it accurately. Properly disperse it by mixing it thoroughly with the other dry ingredients before you add liquid. And treat it with the appropriate amount of heat and time to fully hydrate it. Get these three steps right and you should have great success!
Stabilizers are often treated with great suspicion and even hostility. Generally, I think this is because people are ignorant of what they are and why we might want to use them.
They're natural and they're safe. Of course some people may be allergic to them. Just as some people are allergic to eggs. If that's the case, they should be avoided.
However, they can help us make much, much better ice cream. And that's the most important point here. We're not using them to save money. We're not using them to cut corners.
When we use them, we use them to deliver better texture, better body, a more creamy, luxurious finish. And more stability!
As home-made ice cream enthusiasts we're already hampered by shitty machines that take ages to freeze our mixtures and inflexible freezers that are never at the right temperature.
Stabilizers can help us overcome these disadvantages to make ice creams that rival the professionals. I urge you to at least experiment!
Ignoring all accepted wisdom, I bought this book on the strength of the cover. Not that it gives much away. I just liked the clean, modern design.
Luckily that stylish feel continues on the inside with plenty of colorful Heinz Edelmann type illustrations, and well lit photos of the Messina gelato shops in Australia.
Because essentially this book is a showcase for those Australian stores and the huge range of gelatos they produce.
And there’s plenty of photos of those gelatos. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen such attractive looking ice creams before. Each recipe features a delicious close up shot and there’s loads of photos of the rounded, mat colored displays in the shops.
It’s all very seductive. But to be honest, I was really disappointed when I made my first gelato from the book.
I started off with their Fior di Latte which is the most basic dairy based gelato you can make and also the base for all other dairy gelatos. It’s essentially a milk flavored ice cream.
The problem was that the final gelato was so sweet that it tasted more like candy than ice cream to me. Nick Palumbo, the author (and founder of Messina) acknowledges that we might prefer more fatty or less sweet gelatos. And encourages us to experiment.
But after that first disappointment I was a bit discouraged from trying the other recipes and didn’t make any more for a while.
That’s not to say I stopped using the book though. Before all the recipes there’s a section where he talks about the ingredients, how to balance them and the equipment and methods they use at Messina.
This is basic ice cream science stuff and there’s not a huge amount of detail here. But I picked up some new tips (like using maltodextrin). And it’s a great insight into the way they do things in a professional gelato shop.
And this is an important aspect of this book. As far as I can tell, the recipes here are not adapted for domestic use. They are exactly the same recipes used in the Messina stores.
This is great because it means you get to make the same gelatos you’d eat from their shops!
But it also means that some of the ingredients won’t be easily available. For example, all the dairy based recipes use dextrose and skimmed milk powder. And most of the sorbet recipes use maltodextrin.
Moreover, all the recipes use an unspecified “stabilizer”. At the start of the book Nick talks a little bit about stabilizers and emulsifiers and recommends that you use pre-blended packs.
But although I found ice cream stabilizer blends relatively easily online, I couldn’t find any sorbet blends. So in the end I tried to make my own from the various individual stabilizers I was able to find online.
For me this wasn’t a problem. I don’t have any issues with using stabilizers, I’m quite interested in blending my own and I’m perfectly happy shopping for them (and other ingredients) online.
But I know some people are totally against stabilizers. And others won’t want to buy ingredients online. In which case, I don’t think this book is for them…
You could make these recipes without stabilizers but the final gelato won’t be a patch on the versions that use them. And there are other books that have recipes that use more widely available ingredients.
Anyway, after a few weeks off I had another go with a simple Raspberry Sorbet. I still found this was too sweet. But it was gorgeous. And it looked and tasted and had the texture of a gelato you’d buy in a shop. A great success!
Since then I’ve tried a couple of the infusions and I will go back to the Fior di Latte using a tip from the book that suggests reduce the sweetness with maltodextrin.
There’s definitely a lot to try here. So if you still think this might be a good book for you, let’s look at the contents in a little bit more detail…
It starts off with a section called “Basics”. This talks about the core ingredients: water, milk, cream, skimmed milk powder, different sugars, eggs (and why they don’t generally use them at Messina) stabilizers and emulsifiers.
The “Basics” also has a bit on balancing and composition in relation to these ingredients that includes a spreadsheet which I’ve used as the basis for my ice cream calculator.
And at the end Nick talks about the equipment and methods they use at Messina and the problems we have when trying to replicate them at home. This includes a little bit about the disadvantages of domestic ice cream makers.
While the “Basics” isn’t definitive, there’s actually a lot of useful information here. The stuff on the different sugars is particularly useful. And it certainly gives you enough information to start experimenting with the recipes that follow…
There are 50 recipes in all and they’re divided fairly evenly into dairy and non-dairy gelatos. And this means there’s probably far more sorbets than you find in other ice cream books.
Under the dairy section there’s gelatos made with yogurt, with eggs, with nuts, with chocolate and with fruit. However, just as you’d find it Italy, most of the fruit based gelatos are dairy free sorbets. There are even a few non-fruit sorbets.
There’s an interesting selection of dairy and water based infusions and a small number of alcohol based gelatos.
And then at the end there’s a fairly long section called Messina Madness which includes some of the more exotic, signature flavors they serve up at Messina. These include recipes as normal as Pavlova and as crazy as Satay (with crispy chicken skin!)
All in all I think there’s a good mix between simple, traditional recipes like Lemon Sorbet and Hazelnut Gelato and the more complicated, adventurous flavors like Apple Pie and Poached Figs in Marsala.
Each recipe has two sets of instructions one for making the gelato at home and another for making the same gelato in a professional environment, which is great. You could actually use it to start your own gelato shop!
So, despite a rocky start with this book I persevered and in the end I was well rewarded. The ingredients, science and techniques sections are well balanced for a recipe book…
Which means there’s enough information to give you the knowledge you’ll need to start experimenting. But not so much that it’s overwhelming.
Yes, the gelatos taste too sweet for me. But I suspect I’ll have the same problem with most recipe books. And by introducing me to maltodextrin, Nick showed me how to reduce sweetness without reducing solids (and therefore compromising texture and body).
If you don’t want to use stabilizers or you want to avoid buying ingredients online then this is probably not the book for you.
But if you’re prepared to experiment, there’s loads of stuff you’ll want to try and a nice balance of quick and easy recipes and more complicated and time consuming tests of your skills.
And I’m off to make the “Randy Watson and the Sexual Chocolate Band” gelato right now…
The ICE-21 is another ice cream maker with a removable bowl from Cuisinart. And it's the baby of the family. Smaller, lighter and cheaper than the other Cuisinart models, you might consider it an entry level model.
However, as we'll see, it's got a lot to offer in it's own right. It makes fantastically smooth ice cream. And it's usually faster than the other machines.
For sure, it's not perfect. It has the same drawbacks as all freezable bowl machines. And it's got a pretty small 1.5 quart capacity. But it would be a great choice if it suits your lifestyle.
So keep reading to find out how it works, how well it makes different ice creams, gelatos, sorbets and frozen yogurts, the specific advantages and disadvantages of the ICE-21 and the alternatives I recommend if this ice cream maker isn't for you...
The ICE-21 uses a removable, freezable bowl. If you're unsure what this means, then I'll explain. There are three types of domestic ice cream makers. And the difference between them is the way they freeze the mixture:
The ICE-21 has a small bowl that's lined with a special type of liquid gel. When the bowl is placed in a freezer, over some time, the gel freezes solid. And this gel keeps its temperature really well. So when the bowl is removed from the freezer, it stays very cold for a long time.
When you want to make ice cream, you remove the bowl from the freezer, add the mixture and the bowl transfers the coldness to the mixture as it's being churned. Simple!
But let's look at the different parts that make up the ICE-21 and how they work together. As with all these machines from Cuisinart, there are just 4 parts that make up the ICE-21:
Like the rest of the ICE-21, the base is made from white plastic. It has the Cuisinart logo embossed on the front. And a simple on/off switch. There are no other decorations or controls.
On the underside are 4 rubber tipped feet that keep the machine stable while in use. And some ventilation grills to help prevent the motor from overheating.
The power cable come out the back and is just 24" (60 cm) long, which could be a little short for some kitchens.
On the top of the base is a 12 tooth gear which is turned by the motor underneath. This gear slots into a hole in the bottom of the removable bowl. So when the motor turns the gear, the gear turns the bowl.
So as with all these Cuisinart ice cream machines, it's the bowl that rotates rather than the paddle. There are very good reasons for this, as I'll explain later.
There's nothing flimsy about this base. It has a decent weight that prevents it rattling or moving about. And the motor is powerful enough to churn thick mixes without the gears slipping with those horrible clunking noises you get with some machines.
The bowl is thick and heavy, with a 1.5 quart (1.4 liter) capacity. It measures 5.5" (14 cm) high and 7" (18 cm) across.
It's really important to take note of these measurements. Because the bowl has to fit in your freezer. If you can't make room for it in the freezer, you won't be able to make ice cream!
The ICE-21 bowl is actually the smallest available from Cuisinart. And I don't think the other brands have machines with smaller bowls either. So if you can't fit this one in your freezer, you will probably need to look at the other types of ice cream makers.
In fact, I think most people will be able to fit it in their freezers. It's more a case of the food items that the bowl will displace. And whether that's an acceptable situation in the long run.
When the bowl's at room temperature, if you shake it, you can hear the liquid gel that lines the sides sloshing about. Once frozen, it solidifies and you won't be able to hear it. So this is one of the ways you can tell it's cold enough to be used.
Cuisinart recommend that their bowls are left in the freezer for between 6 and 24 hours . But I find that if I leave it in overnight I always get good results.
The bowl is double insulated and maintains it's temperature very well. But don't forget, as soon as you remove it from the freezer it will start to warm up. So it's best to use it straight away!
On the bottom of the bowl is the star shaped hole that the gear in the base slots into. It's important that this fits well to avoid any slipping as the mixture thickens. And luckily, it does fit well!
The dasher is the the thing that actually churns the mixture to turn it into ice cream. It has 2 important jobs:
The dasher that comes with the ICE-21 is a stiff, white plastic insert with two blades...
In most ice cream makers the dasher rotates to mix the ice cream. But with the Cuisinart machines, it's the removable bowl that's rotated while the dasher is anchored still by the lid.
And this is why the Cuisinart machines are so superior. The other machines can struggle to rotate the flimsy dasher from above as the mixture thickens. But in the Cuisinart models, the way the gear connects directly to the underside of the heavy bowl makes a much stronger and efficient system.
So while the gears can slip and clang and even stop altogether in the other machines, the Cuisinart ice cream makers always seem able to power through and finish the job!
However the Cuisinart isn't perfect. The blades of the dasher are meant to scrape frozen mixture from the sides of the bowl and move them into the middle. The faster it does this, the faster the mixture freezes and the smoother the final ice cream.
But in all these machines, there's a 2 mm gap between the blades and the bowl. And this means a thin layer of frozen mixture builds up on the sides and isn't scraped away. This insulates the rest of the mixture from the bowl walls and slows down the freezing process.
Sure it's a fault that could improved. And in fact there is a way around it that I'll describe later on. But as we'll see, it doesn't seem to make a noticeable difference to the quality of the ice cream!
The lid of the ICE21 is a big, transparent, plastic sheath that covers the removable bowl and anchors to the base at the bottom while holding the dasher in place at the top.
There's a hole in the top which allows you to add extra ingredients to the ice cream as it's churning. This is useful as it's generally best to add cookies and sweets towards the end of the process.
The hole also allows you to easily test the temperature, consistency and even the taste of the mixture as it progresses.
So those were the individual parts that make up the ICE-21 ice cream maker. Now lets see how they all work together to make those tasty frozen treats!
Making ice cream with the ICE-21 involves 5 stages:
The ICE-21 comes with a recipe booklet that includes ice creams, frozen yogurts, sorbets and even frozen deserts like ice cream sandwich cookies!
And since these recipes were designed to use with the ICE-21, they're a good place to start. But half the fun of owning your own ice cream maker is inventing your own recipes. Or at least tweaking existing recipes. This is where it gets really exciting!
However, you can't throw any combination of cream, milk and sugar into the ICE-21 (or any other ice cream maker) and expect it to whip up perfect results. You need to follow certain rules. And this is where a basic knowledge of ice cream science can help.
When I read bad reviews of ice cream makers that are not producing the results people expect, most of the time the problem is the recipe rather than the machine. So make sure you get your recipe right!
Whichever recipe you're using, there are certain things that you should always do to get the best results.
Most importantly, you should always pre-chill the mixture. If you're making a Philadelphia style ice cream that doesn't need to be cooked, make sure all the ingredients come straight out of the fridge. If you making an ice cream that involves heating the mixture, you have to chill it thoroughly before it goes anywhere near the ICE-21.
This the same for all machines really, but it's especially important with these removable bowl ice cream makers since they already warming up from the moment they leave the freezer.
All mixes should be chilled to around 4°C before they go in the machine. Ideally they should be cooled and aged in the fridge overnight. If that's not practical because you're in rush, you can put the mix in a zip lock bag and cool it quickly in an ice bath.
The ICE-21 comes with a 1.5 quart bowl. But the machine will add a fair amount of air to the mixture so you can't put a full 1.5 quarts of liquid in there or the ice cream will overflow out of the bowl.
So stick to good recipes that ask for 3 cups (or less than a litre) of liquid, pre-chill the mixture and you should be OK.
Cover the top of the bowl with cling film (secured by an elastic band) to prevent any water vapor that might spoil the ice cream getting in the bowl while it's in the freezer. And put the bowl in a plastic bag to protect it from freezer burn.
The colder the bowl, the faster it will freeze the ice cream and the better the quality of the final product. So if you can, adjust the temperature of your freezer to its lowest setting. I'm quite lucky as mine will go down to -23°C.
Place the bowl at the back of the freezer where it's coldest. You'll get the best results if you leave it overnight when the temperature won't fluctuate with people opening and closing the door. But for at least 6 hours anyway.
Don't take it out until you're ready to add the mixture. And once it's out, move fast as it's only getting warmer...
It's a good idea to give the mixture a good blitz with a hand blender before you put it in the machine. This will get rid of any lumps that may have developed.
Then, take the bowl out of the freezer, remove the plastic bag and the cling film and slot it onto the gear in the base. Add the dasher and the lid to hold it in place. Then turn on the machine. Finally, pour the mixture into the rotating bowl through the hole in the lid.
If you're really serious, you can put your hand in the bowl to press one of the blades against the side of the bowl. This will prevent that thin layer of frozen mixture building up in the gap between the blades and the bowl. So it should speed up the freezing.
You'll need to keep your hand there for the duration of the churning though, otherwise the layer of ice will develop. And it's not like you'll have super icy ice cream if you don't do it.
How long it takes to will depend on your recipe, how much mixture there is, how cold it is, how cold your bowl is and even how cold the room is! But I think the biggest factor is the quantity of the mixture.
I find the ICE-21 one of the fastest machines around. I can sometimes get batches finished in less than 15 min. And it will rarely take longer than 20 min.
While the ICE-21 is certainly not quiet I don't find it especially noisy. I measured the noise at the start and end of a batch and it varied between 82 and 79 decibels. Considering an empty room at night time is 30 decibels, this doesn't seem too high.
Once it has the consistency of soft serve ice cream, it's time to pull it out. Be careful not to over churn it. If you're making a high fat ice cream this can lead to "buttering" where the fat forms lumps that are detectable by the tongue.
You could eat the ice cream straight from the machine. But you'll need to be quick, because it's not properly frozen yet, so it's really soft and will melt very quickly.
It's best to give it at least an hour, (but preferably 2) in the freezer. Once you've turned the machine off, lift out the dasher, scrape the ice cream into an air tight container and transfer it to the freezer.
Never use a metal utensil for this as it will mark the bowl. Best to stick with a wooden spoon of plastic scraper.
You should try to do this as quickly as possible, as if it starts to melt and then re-freezes in the freezer, the small ice crystals that formed in the machine will grow into larger crystals that will be detectable on the tongue and give the ice cream a coarse, icy texture.
So it's a good idea to pre-chill the container in the freezer before you put the ice cream in it. And use a wide, flat container rather than a narrow, deep one as this will encourage the ice cream to freeze quicker.
Because the whole dasher comes out of the bowl, it's really easy to scrape the ice cream off the dasher and then scoop the rest out of the bowl pretty quickly. And this reduces melting.
Once it's in the container if you cover it with a sheet of cling film before you put the lid on, this will discourage the formation of ice crystals on the surface of the ice cream.
Then put the container at the back of the freezer (where it's coldest) for 1-2 hours. While you wait for it to harden you can clean the machine...
Cleaning the ICE-21 is really straightforward. The dasher and the lid just need a quick wipe in warm soapy water.
Leave the bowl until any leftover ice cream left has melted. And then another dip in the sink will clean it very quickly. A soft sponge will do the job. Never use anything abrasive.
The body of the ICE-21 just needs a quick wipe and the white plastic always looks brand new with no smears or stains. Being white, it will show the dust more than the brushed steel look of the other Cuisinart models but an occasional wipe sorts it out.
As this is the cheapest of the Cuisinart ice cream makers, you might expect the ice cream from the ICE-21 to be poorer than from it's more expensive brothers.
But that's not the case at all. As we know, the faster an ice cream maker freezes the mixture, the smoother the final product. And so, the better the ice cream.
And because the ICE-21 makes smaller batches, in a smaller bowl, in which more of the mixture is in contact with the sides, it freezes the ice cream really, really quickly.
In fact, it's the fastest machine I've used. And this means the ice cream it churns out is every bit as good as the bigger, more expensive models.
It's actually so quick that if you're used to slower machines, you can leave the ice cream in there too long and it can get over-churned which can sometimes result in lumpy ice cream.
This happened to me the first time I used it as I wasn't expecting it to finish so quickly. So keep a close eye on it until you get used to how fast it is!
Also, I can't stress how important your recipes are in determining the final quality of your ice creams. If you put good recipes into the ICE-21, you'll get great ice creams and sorbets out.
But if you put unbalanced recipes in, you'll be disappointed with the final results. So if you're planning on experimenting (and you should), make sure you read up on how to balance your recipes!
The ICE-21 is a great ice cream maker. But it won't be the right choice for everyone. To help you make your mind up, I'm going to look at the things I love about the ICE-21 and the things I'm not so keen on...
The ICE-21 is one of the smallest ice cream makers available today. This means it takes up less room in my tiny kitchen. If like me, you have limited space: this is a great choice. Whats more, the smaller bowl is easier to fit in the freezer and displaces less food!
Really, the ICE-21 is just a motor, a dasher, a freezable bowl and an on/off button. This means it's easy to use. But more importantly there's less to go wrong! And if the dasher breaks or the bowl loses it's freezing capabilities, replacements are cheap and easily available.
Yes, there are (slightly) cheaper ice cream makers available. But they're not very good. This is the cheapest Cuisinart machine. And it's the cheapest machine that consistently makes good ice cream and is built to last many years.
The ICE-21 is the fastest machine I've used so far. It regularly knocks out batches in less than 15 min. This means super smooth ice cream. And super quick satisfaction!
Yes, it's a bit of a double edged sword this. You can make a maximum of 1.5 quarts (1.4 litres) of ice cream with the ICE-21.
Usually this isn't a big issue for me as I like to make small batches and eat them quickly! But if you want to make bigger batches, a bigger ice cream machine will be better choice.
This is an issue with all the removable bowl machines. Before you can make ice cream, you need to put the bowl in the freezer for at least 6 hours but preferably overnight.
Now of course you can just leave the bowl in the freezer all the time. That's what I do. But maybe space is an issue. Maybe you forget. In which case you need to plan your ice cream a day ahead.
So just in case the ICE-21 isn't the right machine for you, here's two alternatives that might suit you better.
If 1.5 quarts of ice cream just isn't enough, you're going to need a bigger bowl! And that means the Cusinart ICE-30BC. Like the ICE-21, it's simple, robust and reliable. But it has a 2 quart (1.9 litre) bowl.
I don't think there's any significant difference in the quality of the ice cream they make. This is all about how much ice cream you want to make.
The ICE-30BC makes bigger batches, but it will also take up more space in your kitchen and more importantly, more space in your freezer. Make sure you check that the 7.8" (19.7 cm) across and 6.4" high (16.3 cm) bowl will fit in your freezer before you buy it!
For more details about the differences between the two machines check out my hands on ICE-30BC vs ICE-21 comparison.
If you can't fit the bowl in your freezer or planning your ice cream in advance just isn't convenient, then you should probably look at an ice cream maker with a built in freezer.
Bear in mind that these machines are always going to be significantly bigger than a machine with a removable bowl.
The smallest is probably the Gourmia GSI280, which measures 7.3" x 9.4" x 10.4" (18.5 x 23.8 x 26.5 cm). But I'm not convinced by the quality of this ice cream maker.
So I would recommend looking at the ICE-100, again from Cuisinart. At 16" x 12" x 9" (40.5 x 30.5 x 23 cm), it's significantly bigger than the ICE-21. But it's got a built in freezer so that's to be expected!
There are many advantages with these machines. There's no bowl taking up valuable space in your freezer. You can start making ice cream as soon as you decide you want to eat ice cream. No pre-freezing required. And as soon as one batch is finished you can start another one!
Cuisinart is a reliable brand. So if you're looking for the extra level of convenience the ICE-100 is definitely a good choice.
I think the ICE-21 is a fantastic little machine. Don't be put off by the lower price or lighter build. It's a quality appliance. And it makes ice cream, sorbets and other frozen treats as well as the more expensive machines.
There's no doubt that if you're looking for an ice cream maker with a removable bowl, then the Cuisinart machines that rotate the bowl from below are far better than any other brand.
But whether the ICE-21 is the best of these Cuisinart machines for you depends largely on how much ice cream you need to make in one go.
If you make small batches that are eaten quickly the ICE-21 is a good choice. If you need to feed a lot of people from one batch or like to store batches to be eaten over a longer period of time, then a Cuisinart with a bigger bowl or an machine with a built in freezer might be a better option.
And if you're not sure which type of machine is most suitable check out my guide to the best ice cream maker.
Have no doubt though, the ICE-21 may be small and cheap, but from my experience I can confidently say that it's robust, dependable and makes great ice cream!
This was actually the first book I bought on ice cream. Before any recipe books even! Why? Well, there’s loads of ice cream recipes on the internet. But not so much in depth stuff about how it works scientifically.
And if you want to get serious about making ice cream. If you want to tweak your recipes with confidence. If you want to be able to fix problems. Then you need to understand at least a little bit about the science of ice cream.
Chris Clarkes book is certainly not the only book on the science of ice cream. And it’s probably not the best. But it’s definitely the cheapest!
Because for some reason the other books are really expensive. “Ice Cream” by Goff and Hartel is usually around $100. And “Tharp and Young on Ice Cream”, by (you guessed it) Tharp and Young is often over $200.
I wasn’t prepared to pay that much when I was starting out, so as Chris Clarkes book was around $30, he got my money!
I wanted something that was going to explain in pretty simple terms how all the ingredients came together to make ice cream.
And this book does that pretty well. There’s no colour on the pages. And there are more diagrams than photos. So it’s not an especially visually stimulating read.
But Clarke is a genuine “ice cream scientist” and does a pretty good job of making a complicated subject “readable by 16-18 year olds”.
It’s primarily aimed at undergraduate food science students and people that work in the ice cream industry. But Clarke has tried to make it accessible to anyone that has studied science to A level (which I think are the same as APs in the United States?).
As someone who hasn’t studied science for a long, long time and knew nothing about ice cream science before picking the book up, I found some of it a bit hard going. There is some complicated stuff here.
But it also explains the basics well. And you can always come back to the more detailed bits as your knowledge and experience increases.
As you’d expect from someone who works in the industry there is a quite a lot about the industrial production of ice cream that won’t be of interest to people making ice cream at home or even small scale artisan producers.
But I found found enough here to interest me, I found large parts of it easy enough to understand and I’ve come back to use it as a reference several times as I’ve questioned stuff I’ve been reading elsewhere.
In fact a large part of my ice cream science page was based around the information I learned in this book.
So what exactly is in the book?
In Chapter 1 he briefly covers the history of ice cream and the current state of the global market. But this is very brief.
In Chapter 2 he explains what colloidal dispersions are (small particles of one thing in another thing), how liquids freeze, and what rheology is (the study of the way liquids flow). All in relation to ice cream.
In Chapter 3 he introduces the basic ice cream ingredients including proteins, different types of sugars, oils and fats, water, emulsifiers, stabilizers and a few common flavors. But this is very much an introduction…
Those looking for an in-depth analysis of which stabilizers work best together will be disappointed.
Chapter 4 is about making ice cream in the factory. And it’s very much from a commercial angle. So there’s nothing about the sort of ice cream makers we use at home. But the science and the processes are the same. So it covers mix preparation, homogenization and pasteurization, ageing, freezing and hardening.
Chapter 5 is about different ice cream products like cones, bars and sandwiches and how they are assembled in an ice cream factory. Not much of interest here. For me at least!
In Chapter 6 Clarke explains how the structure of ice cream is measured. There’s some pretty heavy stuff here involving microscopic measurements and complicated equations which was well over my head. But at the end there’s some interesting bits on how me measure the sensory qualities of ice cream.
Chapter 7 is all about how ice cream is a complex composite material, with all the different elements in perfect balance. There’s some great stuff here about the four components (ice crystals, liquid matrix, fat and air), how they work together and what each contributes to ice cream.
And then in Chapter 8 there’s a a load of experiments for the students to do with ice cream. Presumably to prove the scientific principles explained in the rest of the book.
So, there’s no recipes for salted caramel gelato in this book! It’s pure science. It has a quite commercial, industrial perspective. And there could be more on the sort of science that a home enthusiast will find useful.
But I think it’s a good, cheap introduction to the concepts. And while it won’t fill in all the gaps, if you pick it up knowing very little about how ice cream comes together scientifically, you’ll come out the other side with a much firmer grasp of whats going on beyond the scoop!