Making ice cream seems daunting and a little crazy. Why try to make it, when you can get very good ice cream in any grocery or convenience store? Making ice cream demands patience and creativity and can be a lot of fun, which makes it the perfect Shavout activity for you and your kids.
There are a number of ways to make ice cream.
1. Use an ice cream maker.
The most straightforward way to make ice cream is to use an ice cream maker. Various models sell for about $50, allowing you to make nearly any kind of ice cream. Your taste buds and imagination are your only limits! (Note that when making ice cream with an ice cream maker, you need to first freeze the bowl for 24 hours.)
Because making the base of ice cream often requires heat and precision, this is not the best job for kids. Instead, my children love creating and adding mix-ins, including crushing Oreos for cookies and cream and creating fun combinations of gummy bears, sprinkles, M&Ms, and other candies to put into the mix during the end of the churning process. Specialty ice cream stores often sell cookbooks, too, and nothing is more exciting to kids than being able to make their favorite ice cream at home.
2. Make ice cream in a bag.
If you don’t want to invest in an ice cream maker, there are two other ways to make ice cream that are both more work, but also more fun for your kids. The first is making ice cream in a bag.
Just combine the ingredients and shake, shake, shake! Kids can watch the ingredients transform into ice cream before their eyes.
- Quart-sized Ziploc bag
- Gallon-sized Ziploc bag
- Ice (about 30 cubes)
- ¾ cup kosher salt
- 1 pint (2 cups) half and half
- 2 tablespoons of sugar
- ¾ tsp vanilla and/or any other flavorings you want to try
- Oven mitts or a towel
- Pour half and half into the smaller bag, and add sugar, vanilla, and any other flavorings.
- Push out extra air and seal carefully.
- Fill larger bag with ice and salt, place smaller bag inside, and seal well. (Be careful to seal the bags well so they don’t leak! The salt melts the ice, and lowers the temperature at which the ice freezes, so it will get messy if there’s any leakage.)
- Using oven mitts or a towel, shake bag gently for 10 minutes, until contents of smaller bag are frozen.
- Open the smaller bag and enjoy your ice cream!
Rachel Landman, assistant director of URJ Six Points Sci-Tech Academy, weighs in on the science of it all.
So, how does this all work? Why can’t we just make ice cream with a bag of ice? What would happen if we just stuck our ice cream mixture in the freezer?
The key to making delicious, creamy ice cream is for the frozen crystals to be a small as possible. This happens when the mixture freezes extremely quickly. If we just put the mixture in the freezer you would come out with a solid block of frozen cream.
By adding salt to the bag of ice, you lower the temperature at which water freezes. Salt and other substances that dissolve in water interfere with the molecular bonding that allows water to freeze and form a solid. This is called freezing point depression – artificially lowering the freezing point of ice causing water to freeze and melt below 0 degrees Celsius. Melting is an endothermic reaction, meaning it requires heat. Therefore, by lowering the freezing point of the ice, it will absorb more heat from its surroundings (mostly the ice cream mixture) in order to melt. This will cause the ice cream mixture to freeze more quickly than if the ice melted at 0 degrees Celsius and therefore produce delicious and creamy ice cream.
This process is the same reason you see salt spread on roads and sidewalks in the winter. It lowers the temperature at which water will freeze and therefore melts the ice even when temperatures are below freezing.
3. Make coffee-can ice cream, or use an ice cream ball.
Check out Jewish food blogger Hannah Riederer’s family recipe for blueberry balsamic ice cream. Just pack up a coffee can (or other appropriate container) with the ingredients, seal it well, and send your kids out to play. After an intense game of soccer or catch, the ball turns the ingredients into ice cream. (Much like the coffee can method, many retailers also sell “ice cream balls” that look like soccer balls. You simply fill the ball with ingredients and ice, then play with it the same way.)
With this method, your family gets to burn off some energy and make ice cream at the same time – though the primary danger here is that your kids will want to make ice cream every day! Riederer writes, “This ice cream is made with 100% kid power! I love this process because it’s fun, interactive, and takes some stamina.”
One of the most special things about making ice cream with your kids is that it helps them create something that seems out of reach. Almost nothing I make with my kids has the wow-effect of ice cream; it seems like one of those things you can only get at a store. They also adore the process of picking the most outrageous flavors: We’re about to try one called Breakfast Trash that involves cereal steeped in milk and tons of sugar cereal as a mix-in. It’s definitely not an everyday food, but it’s certainly a flavor that reflects the specialness of the holiday.
The process of getting the Torah took time, patience, and preparation, but ultimately, we were given a unique gift. Ice cream is much the same. It takes time, patience and preparation, but if you can find a way to do it, you can create special memories and a delicious treat at the same time.