Homemade ice cream can be much better and tastier than store-bought. Our imagination only limits the variations we can create.
However, we don’t always manage to make homemade ice cream with the right consistency. One of the common problems is when it becomes grainy instead of smooth.
I got my first ice cream machine more than twenty years ago, since then I have made many batches of ice cream, and after initial failure and frustration, I finally successfully learned the process.
This blog post aims to answer the frequently asked question, “why is my ice cream grainy?”
Why is my ice cream grainy?
Homemade ice cream can become grainy for several reasons: 1. A common mistake with homemade ice cream is overcooking the egg-milk ice cream base. In this case, the egg coagulates and becomes granular. 2. Another reason homemade ice cream becomes grainy is when large ice crystals form. This can happen for two reasons: the ice cream base is either frozen without continuous mixing, or the fat content is too low. 3. Thirdly, if the ice cream base contains heavy cream, butter lumps may form if overchurned. 4. Ice cream can become grainy if you add too many dry ingredients to the ice cream base and they cannot melt properly. 5. If the ice cream base is not properly emulsified, the fat and the liquid part may separate. This issue can be avoided by using an immersion mixer to homogenize the mixture.
How can we prevent ice cream from becoming grainy?
It is essential to use high-quality ingredients when making ice cream because they affect the quality of the finished product.
1. Prevent the formation of large ice crystals
• Cool the ice cream base well before pouring it into the ice cream machine. For best results, let the ice cream base sit in the refrigerator for 12 hours.
• If you have an ice cream machine with a pre-freeze bowl, cool it properly before use. It is best to keep it in the freezer for 24 hours so that it cools down well.
• After the ice cream machine has finished its work, put the ice cream in the freezer as soon as possible so that it does not start to melt. If the ice cream starts to melt and freezes again, larger ice crystals are formed, which can make it grainy.
• Large ice crystals also form in ice cream if the fat content is too low. The fat content controls the size of the ice crystals.
Ice cream cooled the right way, with constant mixing, creates tiny ice crystals, and has a delicately creamy texture. The best way to achieve the perfect ice cream texture is with an ice cream machine. During mixing, the air is incorporated into the ice cream base, which gives it a lighter texture.
Continuous mixing during freezing is important, as it creates small ice crystals and results in creamy, smooth ice cream. When the mixture comes into contact with the cooling part of the machine, it freezes in a thin layer. The mixer scrapes off this thin frozen layer and mixes it with the liquid portion of the ice cream base. This is how tiny ice crystals form.
The fat content of ice cream is mostly provided by ingredients such as dairy products and eggs. In some cases, however, we can also add vegetable fat, such as coconut oil.
Too little fat will cause larger ice crystals to form in the ice cream, making it grainy.
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2. Do not overcook the ice cream base that contains eggs
Ice cream bases containing eggs must be cooked in advance. This is an important step to achieve a good consistency of the ice cream and to prevent possible salmonella infection.
Cook the milk-egg ice cream base until it thickens so that it covers the spatula dipped in it in a thin layer.
The egg ice cream base should not be heated to the boiling point, because the egg coagulates there and solidifies in the form of granules.
However, the grainy ice cream base does not have to be thrown away. You can improve it by pressing it through a sieve.
For food safety reasons, it is sufficient to heat eggs and milk above 70°C/158°F, as this is sufficient to kill microorganisms. That way, you don’t have to be afraid of possible food poisoning, even in the summer heat.
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3. There is not enough liquid content in the ice cream
Some ice cream recipes contain milk powder, cocoa powder, or ground nuts, which increases the fat content of the ice cream, but also the ratio of dry ingredients. Too much dry matter can cause the ice cream base to become dry, causing the texture to be grainy instead of smooth.
The liquid content of ice cream is determined by the natural water content of the ingredients and the added water. If the liquid content of the ice cream is too low, the dry ingredients cannot dissolve sufficiently and the ice cream will have a lumpy texture.
4. Be careful not to over-churn your ice cream
As I have already mentioned, an important element of ice cream production technology is continuous mixing during freezing, in other words, churning. However, if the ice cream containing heavy cream is overmixed, the fat will separate. The same process takes place when making butter.
The butter formed in this way makes the ice cream grainy and creates a waxy, greasy feel in the mouth.
5. The ice cream base must be properly emulsified
The fat content in the ice cream helps to make it soft and creamy. However, it is important to emulsify the ice cream base properly so that the fat particles do not stick together and create lumps.
You can emulsify the ice cream base with an immersion blender.
Homemade ice cream can be a pleasant, refreshing treat in the warm summer months. The combinations of flavors you can create are almost endless. However, homemade ice cream is not always perfectly smooth, sometimes it turns out grainy.
Ice cream can become grainy for several reasons. Maybe you boiled the ice cream base for too long, it wasn’t emulsified properly, or you just over-churned it. Ice cream can become grainy if it does not contain a good proportion of fat, liquid, and dry ingredients.
Most mistakes in making ice cream at home can be prevented if we use quality ingredients, have a good recipe, and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for using the ice cream machine.
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