Google ice cream recipes and you'll get somewhere in the neighborhood of 10s if not 100s of millions of hits. And if you start clicking through those hits, they all have one thing in common (well, all of the URLs I clicked through, which is somewhat short of the 40 million hits Google claimed on that given day).
The commonality: the ingredients list almost invariably calls for a cup of this, a half cup of that, a tablespoon of something else and...well, the common thread is that ingredients are specified in standard English volumetric measurements—cups and tablespoons and fractions thereof.Contrast that with the measurements specified by the, for want of a better term*, the Underbelly class of recipes**.
Ingredients are specified in grams, tenths of a gram, hundredths of a gram, and cooking times and temperatures are more precisely defined.
Correctly measuring and preparing these ingredients calls for a couple of items of specialized equipment not always readily available at the corner food utensil store. Among the consequences of imprecision: a thick, gummy clump instead of smooth creamy ice cream base.
ScalesAt least one, preferrably two, digital scales are needed:
- A commonly available kitchen scale that measures in ounces and grams up to 11 pounds (4.5 kilograms) for measuring bulky ingredients like milk, cream, and granulated sugar
- A more precise scale that measures in at least tenths of a gram (0.1) and preferably hundredths (0.01 g) for measuring emulsifiers and stablizers, like soy lecithin and locust bean gum
Fortunately, scales of the both types are readily available at a reasonable cost.
Kitchen supply outlets like Bed, Bath and Beyond or Sur le Table only seem to carry the common kitchen scales that measure in whole grams.
I was unable to find a more precise scale at a local brick and mortar outlet, but with a little Googling I quickly found what I needed online. With shipping, the total cost was a bit over $30.
Another divergence between the conventional and the Underbelly class of recipes is the precision required in warming the ice cream base prior to freezing it. If the recipe uses egg yolk, the base has to be heated to form a custard. Traditional recipes say something like "cook on low heat until the mixture coats the back of a spoon."
When the recipe specifies one or another or a mix of gums as stabilizers (with or without egg yolk), the type of gum used determines how hot the mixture must be in order for the gum to properly hydrate. With locust bean gum, as specified in the Underbelly standard bases, the mixture has to be kept at 170 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes.
The best way to ensure the correct temperature is held for the specified time appears to be a sous vide immersion circulator device. These are also available on-line, though I found one at a local Target brick and mortar store.
Ice Cream Machine
Well, yes, of course, there's the ice cream machine, a definite requirement.
There are several options, all of them researched, tested, and reviewed on another batch of a gazillion websites, with legions of fans for each of the various choices.
My choice: Cuisinart's relatively low-cost, highly rated entry-level machine.
Making ice cream of the Underbelly kind requires some specialty ingredients not found in most home kitchens (at least not in mine), nor in most grocery stores (at least not in my neighborhood). But none of them are difficult to obtain.
Xanthan gum, guar gum, and soy lecithin are available locally from Harvest House health/organic/bulk foods store. For locust bean gum, carrageena, and dextrose, I had to go further afield, to the internet.
And Now...The Test Kitchen