How to keep homemade ice cream soft
Keeping homemade ice cream soft can be tricky since domestic cooks don’t have access to all the gadgets and appliances that a commercial cook would. However, most home cooks wouldn’t let that stop them, and neither would we!
In this article, we’re going to explain what makes ice cream soft or hard, and then we’re going to talk about how to change the consistency of the ice cream you’re making at home.
The problem with homemade ice cream
The problem with homemade ice cream is a simple one – it can tend to be too solid once it’s frozen in your freezer. There are a number of reasons for this, but the one that’s worth speaking about here is the nature of the freezing process.
When you’re freezing something, what’s happening is that the molecules within the item are arranging themselves into a solid format, and new chemical bonds are being created through energy supplied to the system. Therefore, when you freeze water, chemical bonds are formed, and the molecules for a lattice structure – that’s how we get ice.
Freezing process: how to keep ice cream soft:
Freezing something in this way doesn’t allow for the soft texture that people want for ice cream. Instead, you’d get a thick, heavy ice cream that is essentially solid, rather than having any kind of air or lightness to its texture.
Incorporating air is where physics and chemistry combine…
The chemistry of ice cream is interesting. It needs to be below freezing point, while also being a liquid in order to get the right texture. On top of that, it cannot be allowed to freeze too quickly, or no air bubbles will be trapped, leading to ice cream with a disappointing texture.
Therefore, salt is added to ice cream recipes. This will allow the mixture to get cold while not freezing, as it affects the chemical structure of the ice cream. That’s the chemistry part!
The physics part is a little more simple. An ice cream maker is essentially a very cold bowl. When the ice cream batter comes into contact with the bowl, a small portion of it freezes extremely quickly, before being scraped off the side by the rotating arm of the ice cream maker. This process is repeated hundreds and hundreds of times so that you essentially get a bowl of ice cream crystals, within which little bubbles of air are trapped.
This specific method of freezing is what makes ice cream soft. Over time, though, the ice cream can thaw and refreeze in a different way, leading to ice cream that is disappointingly hard.
Add-ins to change things: how to keep homemade ice cream soft
The best way to alter this process is to use add-ins to alter the chemistry since you can’t re-churn your ice cream every time you get it out of the freezer.
A good option is to add a few tablespoons of alcohol (such as a fruity liqueur) to your mix. This will lower the freezing point of the mix, making it less frozen and, therefore, softer. You can also use sugar, corn syrup, or honey in your mix to the same effect – the chemistry of the ice cream will change such that it will be softer.