Item: Cuisinart ICE-100 Ice Cream and Gelato Maker
Overall Impression: An easy and reliable way to make consistently good ice cream at home.
I love making ice cream, but after being spoiled by a glorious industrial ice cream maker I got to play with at the Culinary Institute of America and scarred by a series of misadventures with a "rock salt and ice bucket" model, I was skeptical that I'd ever be able to make it to my satisfaction at home. A compressor model sounded like the ideal solution, so I was curious to try the latest one from Cuisinart, the ICE-100.
Characteristics and Specs: The ICE-100 is a compressor model ice cream maker, which means it has its own internal freezer so there's no ice and salt to deal with, and there's no heavy bowl that needs to be frozen for a year and a day before it can make ice cream. It comes with two paddles, one for gelato and another for ice cream and sorbet, and a clear plastic lid with a door for adding mix-ins at the end. It has a digital display and a built-in timer that beeps when the freezing cycle is finished. It also has a keep-cool cycle to hold the contents for awhile after mixing if for some reason they can't be removed right away. It's bright silver, and the dimensions are 17 x 11 x 9 inches.
Favorite details: It's a piece of cake to use and clean up, so all you have to think about is what kind of flavors you want to play with.
Potential problems: It's big and heavy, and it has to be kept upright when moved or stored. The ice cream improves dramatically when the base is chilled overnight, so it doesn't necessarily save time over a canister model.
Splurge-worthy? Yes, if you love ice cream and plan to make your own regularly.
Good for small kitchens? No, but it can be stored in a closet when not in use.
The first thing I noticed about the Cuisinart ICE-100 was its size. When the box arrived, I told my husband that surely most of the box was full of cardboard and Styrofoam; the actual machine couldn't possibly be that big. I was wrong; it's exactly that big. But the size is due to the machine's best feature: an internal compressor freezer, so it makes its own cold. I could have ice cream without having to sacrifice all my cocktail ice? Sign me up!
For the first try I made up a batch of vanilla custard-style ice cream from a base I'd had good luck with in commercial ice cream machines. I followed the instructions that came with the machine and let it agitate for the recommended 40 minutes while I left the room, because while the ICE-100 is not nearly as loud as the other machines I've used, it's still about as loud as a hairdryer. The first batch shook my optimism. While the flavor was fine, there were definite ice crystals, which are an utter deal-breaker for me.
Before giving up, I figured I had to give the machine another chance or three to redeem itself. After going more thoroughly through the instructions and reading some reviews online, I decided to try a batch where I let the base cool overnight in an ice bath in the refrigerator. The directions say that overnight chilling is recommended but not necessary. I found it necessary.
That second batch was a miracle. It was rich and creamy and there were no offensive ice crystals. That one actually got really hard after 40 minutes and had a texture more like hard ice cream than soft-serve. The hardness made it difficult to remove the paddle from the mixing bowl, but it was also ready to eat right out of the machine. The third try gave me the same richly creamy results, and I remain a stalwart advocate of chilling the base overnight.
Once the ice cream process is straightened out, sorbet is absolutely foolproof. Just mix up the base, throw it in, and come back an hour later to find a delightfully fresh, fine-grained slush. After a bit in the freezer to firm it up, it's perfect.
It took a little trial and error, but the best thing about this machine is that it's so easy to use and clean up. With the logistics out of the way, there's nothing left to do but go crazy with recipes, which is really the best part of all this. A future Whiskey Smash sorbet is chilling in my refrigerator as we speak, and for some reason I find myself contemplating cumin.
Find It! Cuisinart ICE-100 Ice Cream and Gelato Maker, $299.00 at Amazon
(Images: Elizabeth Licata)