fancy professional-quality ice cream maker, but the truth is, you don't need to spend nearly $300 to make great ice cream at home. While there are advantages and a convenience factor to the compressor-style models, the inexpensive freeze-the-bowl models also do a great job. In fact, this newer model from Cuisinart really surprised me — it has some real improvements!
About Freeze-the-Bowl Ice Cream MakersThese are the most basic, common ice cream makers on the market. They work on a simple principle: stir the ice cream while freezing it, to keep large ice crystals from forming, and create a smooth texture in the final product. Refrigeration units are expensive, so these models all use a special bowl that is frozen ahead of time. Its thick walls contain a substance that freezes below the usual temperatures and will freeze the ice cream as it is stirred by a simple paddle. Usually the frozen bowl sits on top of a simple motor unit and the bowl turns while the lid holds the paddle stationary. The advantages to these machines include the fact that they are easy to use, and they are relatively inexpensive. The drawback is that they have to prepped ahead of time — the bowl should be frozen for at least 24 hours, and the ice cream mix itself ought to be very well chilled. So spontaneous ice cream making isn't very possible here. They also take a long time to churn; my old one took at least 45 minutes to get the ice cream to soft-serve thickness.
Cuisinart ICE-21 Frozen Yogurt, Sorbet & Ice Cream MakerWith this machine, released earlier this year, Cuisinart said that they improved the paddle and the speed of the ice cream-making; apparently this new paddle design would drastically speed up the ice cream-making process. Here's what they said: "It features a unique mixing paddle that makes frozen treats faster than ever before: in 20 minutes or less. ... The new patent-pending paddle design allows the ingredients to incorporate more quickly and consistently. The ingredients will freeze faster and more evenly because of the way the paddle mixes and incorporates the ingredients against the freezer bowl." Well, this sounded exciting, but I was more than a little skeptical. In my experience, ice cream machines often over-promise and under-deliver. This was part of the reason I had switched to a compressor model — quicker ice cream-making, with more flexibility. Well, this little machine turned out to have been genuinely improved. Take a look at the photo below; this was the ice cream after 15 minutes.
Done! Already? I couldn't believe it. I scraped out the ice cream and realized the bowl was still frozen solid. Could it do two batches? Wouldn't hurt to give it a try! I poured in another batch of chilled ice cream mix and turned it on. Sure enough, after about 20 minutes, the second batch was frozen as well. It took a little longer, and it was a little softer, but you can see it here:
This is indeed an improved machine; it is so fast! I was very impressed. Of course you still have to freeze the bowl and chill the mix, but this swiftness means you may be able to do two batches back to back. This quickness is also a drawback; you really have to watch the ice cream; if it churns too long, it will creep up over the sides and out of the machine. The first time I used this, on an initial test a few weeks ago, this happened and it was a mess. I didn't overfill the canister; it just really beats more air into the mix. I also find these bowls hard to scrape out; they are heavy and very cold when full of ice cream, and cleaning them out is a bit of a pain. With those caveats, I do give this two thumbs. It's an excellent little machine for a great price.
• Find it: Cuisinart ICE-21 Frozen Yogurt-Ice Cream & Sorbet Maker, $48.99 at Amazon Have you used this machine at all? What do you think? See our review of a previous Cuisinart model here: Product Review: Cuisinart Automatic Ice Cream Maker Apartment Therapy Media makes every effort to test and review products fairly and transparently. The views expressed in this review are the personal views of the reviewer and this particular product review was not sponsored or paid for in any way by the manufacturer or an agent working on their behalf. However, the manufacturer did give us the product for testing and review purposes. (Images: Faith Durand)