Crank it up

John I. Carney
Jun 12 · 4 min read

Look at this photo …

This is not my Donvier one-quart ice cream maker. Mine is black. I picked it up at a yard sale for a song. I would have taken a photo of my machine, but the inner liner is currently in the freezer, chilling, so that I can make ice cream with it whenever I get home from work tomorrow night. This is a photo of pretty much the same machine, in white, at Amazon. Amazon is charging a lot more for theirs than I paid for mine, but it’s probably still worth it.

Many, many years ago, I had a one-pint Donvier, and loved it. Then, at some point, I got a weird one-quart machine, from some other manufacturer, with a two-piece freezer insert. It was a strange design, I didn’t see the purpose of it, and I didn’t like it. Then, I happened across the one-quart Donvier machine a few years ago when the T-G hosted a community yard sale to benefit Relay For Life. I was thrilled, and I really ought to use it more often than I do.

Most people, by now, are familiar with these countertop ice cream makers, but just in case you’re not, they do not require ice or salt. The inner canister is made out of metal, but filled with some sort of ice-pack fluid that you can hear sloshing around inside. You put the canister into your kitchen freezer a day or so before you want to make ice cream (or just leave it there full-time, if you like). For best results, your freezer should be set at its coldest setting, so that it chills the canister thoroughly.

When you get ready to make ice cream, you pull the canister out of your freezer and drop it into its plastic outer shell. Then you add the dasher and your ice cream mix, the dome lid, and the crank.

Do not be alarmed by the crank. This is not like one of those old-time ice cream makers that had to be cranked constantly, a task that Dad or Grandpa would routinely assign to the children. You give the crank a good couple of spins every few minutes, as explained in the directions, but you do not crank it constantly — in fact, that would be a bad thing.

At first, nothing seems to be happening, but eventually ice cream begins to form along the inside surface of the cylinder. Turning the dasher scrapes it off (and eventually works in just a little air, as the mixture thickens).

When the mixture reaches soft-serve consistency, you could enjoy it right away, or transfer it into an air-tight container and pop it into the freezer to harden it up into a more-scoopable texture.

It’s a simple, elegant little machine that does what it’s supposed to do, as long as you follow the directions.

You do have to plan to have the cylinder in the freezer ahead of time — but then again, many of the best homemade ice cream bases also have to be prepared the day before. A custardy, egg-enriched recipe is heated on the stovetop just enough so that those egg proteins can cook and start to thicken the mixture. But even a lot of dairy-only recipes call for scalding the mixture. As I know from yogurt-making, when you heat milk to about 178 or 180 degrees, you alter a few of its proteins, which helps give your finished product (yogurt or ice cream) a creamier texture. The heat also helps make sure that any sugar is completely dissolved.

When you’re using a countertop ice cream maker like the Donvier, it’s especially important that the mixture be thoroughly refrigerated. So if the recipe calls for scalding, you need to make the mixture a day in advance and let it chill thoroughly in the fridge. That’s a good idea even with traditional ice-and-salt ice cream makers.

I have made ice cream sporadically over the years, so I have no claim to expertise whatsoever. The vast majority of my homemade ice cream has been dairy-only, because many of my favorite commercial ice creams are dairy-only. But really, with the inexact science of home ice cream making, I think a little bit of custardy egg richness helps with the texture, and so the mixture I have chilling in the fridge right now is made from half-and-half, eggs, sugar, vanilla and a pinch of salt.

Now I have to wait. Tomorrow will be a long day at work, so it will be nice to make myself some homemade ice cream tomorrow night.

John I. Carney

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Small-town journalist; United Methodist layspeaker; lover of old movies and new comedy.