Tools and Techniques
With the exception of granita, every ice cream, sorbet, sherbet, gelato, and frozen yogurt found throughout this book requires the use of special equipment. An ice cream machine, whether hand-cranked, self-cooling, or requiring prefreezing of canisters, is a staple in the production of these frozen concoctions. You will also find it handy to have a few other products, from mixers to whisks to baking pans, to make the process a little bit easier.
Ice Cream Machines
There are many ice cream makers on the market today. With a little research, you'll be able to find one that suits your needs and budget. Chain stores, such as Wal-Mart, Target, and Macy's are great places to find a variety of machines at several price points. A multitude of options are available on Amazon.com and other online retailers. It never hurts to shop around!
Most home kitchens will opt for the popular ice cream makers that require prefreezing of the canisters. These machines typically produce 1–2 quarts of ice cream at a time, and can be stored away when not in use, relinquishing valuable countertop space.
The downside? Canisters must be frozen for several hours before using, thereby requiring some advance planning. It's a con that many will gladly accept, however, due to the value and convenience. All recipes in this book were prepared using this type of ice cream machine, and all with great results.
Cuisinart makes several quality machines, including one that will churn two flavors at the same time by using two canisters. If you own a KitchenAid stand mixer, KitchenAid offers a sturdy and well-loved ice cream bowl attachment for its versatile machines. Both Cuisinart and KitchenAid ice cream makers can be purchased for $150 or less and are of very good quality.
If you are serious about your ice cream making and intend to make more than a few batches per week, you may prefer a self-refrigerating model. The cost is substantially higher than the above models, and there's no getting around the extra space it will consume. But no advance planning is needed, and batch after batch of sorbet and gelato can be produced with no wait.
Nonelectric ice cream makers, like those used in the past, are still on the market. These models typically allow a larger batch to be made than the countertop models, but be prepared: Rock salt and ice machines are a labor of love. Ice creams must be cranked for quite some time to produce the end result, and require a large amount of ice and rock salt. Motorized varieties are available, but they tend to be very loud and do not allow for adding ingredients, as they cannot be opened until the end.
A stand mixer is a luxury, but it makes whipping cream, meringue, and batters a breeze. KitchenAid is world-renown for their iconic mixer, which has changed very little since its early days. Beaters, whisks, and dough hooks come standard with these machines. Cuisinart, Sunbeam, Hamilton Beach, and Viking are also popular brands. As a bonus, Cuisinart and KitchenAid mixers both offer freezable canister attachments for ice cream making.
Without at least a hand mixer, whipping meringues to stiff peaks is quite a chore. Hand mixers are readily available, and many are quite inexpensive. The more expensive models tend to be a bit quieter and have more speeds.
Blenders and Food Processors
A blender or food processor is absolutely essential for making many of the recipes in this book. The two can be used interchangeably, since they are being used to combine and purée ingredients into a uniform state. Blenders tend to be less expensive, as well as offer a larger standard capacity. If using a food processor, choose a model with a 6-cup or larger container.
Using a blender can turn into a messy situation if you're not careful. Cover the top of the blender with a dishtowel while using, and never fill a blender more than halfway up the bowl. Always have approximately half liquid in the blender to offset the solids, and remember to leave a crack open at the top. To begin blending, “pulse” a few times to make sure the blades can turn freely.
Many recipes, especially those requiring the creation of custards, must be made in a saucepan. Heavy-bottomed or enameled cast-iron pots and pans are well worth their added expense.
While box graters are okay to use for zesting the peel off citrus fruit, a hand-held microplane zester does the job in less time and with better results.
Baking Sheets, Baking Pans, and Muffin Pans
Baking sheets are used for cookie creations in this book. A good nonstick, shiny pan is a quality investment and leads to better results for both cakes and cookies. Muffin pans are used for ice cream cupcakes and Nutty Buddies.
Silicone mats are becoming more and more popular, and for good reason. These reusable mats prevent burning and sticking of baked goods. They are also a breeze to clean up.
Parchment paper is a great nonstick product used in a variety of applications. Place it on baking sheets to prevent sticking.
Waffle Cone or Pizzelle Maker
There's virtually no way to make a waffle cone without a waffle cone maker. Pizzelles—thin, fanciful cookies that are similar to the waffle cone—are made with a pizzelle maker. Both waffle cones makers and pizzelle makers involve pouring a thin batter into the iron, cooking, and immediately wrapping the warm product around a cone tool, shaping by hand, or placing into a bowl to create an alternate vessel.