We All Scream For Ice Cream

Have I got a scoop for you. Ice cream scoop, that is.

The days of endlessly turning a crank over a bucket of custard, ice and rock salt are over. Making frozen desserts has gotten easier than ever, thanks to a spate of new electric ice cream machines for home use which have populated the market. Many recipes can be frozen and ready to eat in less than an hour.

Prices range in price from about $50 for a basic ice cream maker to $600 for a top-of-the line freezing machine, which includes an internal freezing unit. The $50 model is quite simple; the cylinder is kept in the freezer until you're ready to make ice cream; then you add your liquid custard and attach a beater assembly to the top and churn for about 20 minutes. The whole container goes back into the freezer to complete the process. You can even find the really dirt cheap Chinese versions of this for under $20. However, it is always a case of caveat emptor... these cheapies often are not even worth the money you pay for them so you might as well splurge for a little bit more expensive but higher quality model.

While there's no substitute for homemade, some machines come with their own brand of instant, dried custards. The taste and texture can, however, be spruced up with added ingredients like liqueur, nuts or chocolate.

Frozen treats have been around for nearly 3,000 years. The Chinese began making iced drinks and desserts as long ago as 1100 B.C. by running water mixed with saltpeter over containers filled with fruit juice and honey. Not long after, the Arabs made syrups chilled with snow, called sharbets, the forerunners of sorbets and sherbets. Italians developed their love of ices after Marco Polo brought Chinese cooling techniques back from his journeys.

Ice cream developed into what we know today in colonial United States and was a favorite of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Dolly Madison, who served it at White House state dinners.

The key to making smooth-textured desserts in modern electric machines is not to let them freeze too firmly. Instead, the dessert should resemble a soft-serve ice cream when it comes out of the machine and should be slowly firmed or "ripened" in the freezer. Freezing desserts too quickly will cause unpleasant ice crystals to develop.

Ice creams, sorbets, ices and frozen yogurts achieve their best flavor when allowed to warm to about 30 degrees F. Homemade products should be served within 1 or 2 days for best flavor but may be kept for about a week.

So come on I know you really really really want to... dig into that wonderful ice cream that is just waiting for you, cold and delectable in your freezer. Whether your frozen dessert is a true ice cream, an ice milk, a frozen yogurt, a sorbet, a gelato, or whatever other frozen concoction turns you on, go ahead and indulge in the spectacular chilly flavors of this unique dessert treat!

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