I've been working with the ice cream maker attachment for my KitchenAid and having some success. My first take, an attempt at strawberry, went horribly wrong, resembling more of an icy, frozen mousse than ice cream. It tasted fine, but the texture was awful.
More recently, I've been working with blackberries. I made this blackberry ice cream recipe prior to leaving for our recent jaunt to the North Woods, and then I made it again, with the addition of sour cream, yesterday.
After the problems I had due to not properly chilling my mixture the first time, I've been letting it sit at least overnight before spinning, with improved results. Overloading the bowl is another pitfall I quickly learned to avoid.
I've been doing some reading about making ice cream and learning. Many people recommend allowing the mix to sit in the fridge for 24 hours before freezing, and say that this 'curing' of the batter ensures a creamier product. I also hit my mixture with a stick blender right before I churned it, per another website's recommendation.
I learned that the term "overrun" refers to the amount of air that's incorporated into an ice cream while it freezes. The longer the freezing process takes, the more air is whipped into the mix. Italian gelato gets it's luxuriously smooth mouth feel from its lack of overrun, and for me, the denser and smoother an ice cream is, the better, so that's what I'm working toward.
Using the KA attachment on the mixer's lowest speed ensures the quickest freeze time, and therefore the lowest amount of overrun, since the ice cream mixture stays in contact with the freezer bowl longer. Turning up the speed helps in avoiding ice crystals, since the mixture freezes more slowly and uniformly, but this also whips more air into the mixture. Also, as I learned with my batch of strawberry, that never fully froze, the KA's freezer bowl thingy only has so much time before it's not cold enough to perform. This is one huge drawback of the "freezer insert" style of home ice cream makers. You can't just add more ice and salt.
Making fresh fruit ice creams really smooth and creamy is even more challenging, due to the additional factors the fruit brings and how they work against smooth creaminess.
If I'm making a fruit ice cream, I want the flavor to really pack a wallop, so I use a LOT of fruit. I'm using stuff that's in season, and is inexpensive, and that's the point is to enjoy it and really concentrate its flavor as much as possible when it's available.
I also want to use the fruit in its *fresh* form. The first strawberry ice cream recipe I tried involved cooking the fruit down and making a jam, essentially, which was then mixed into the ice cream base. To me, that misses the point of using fresh fruit, which brings all sorts of wonderful flavor notes that disappear when cooked. Cooked berries are nice, but they are a distinctly different taste than fresh ones. It's the fresh flavor that I'm after here, so all the recipes that I'm using involve pureeing and straining out lots of seeds.
But these choices about flavor have a trade-off; the finished product will be less smooth and creamy. Raw fruit freezes to ice crystals, and pureed fruit is always going to lend a more sorbet-like quality to a finished ice cream. That being the case, I need to really try and maximize the techniques I use to ensure what I make is as smooth and creamy as it can be.
Making ice-cream is a very technique-heavy process. Each time I do it I'm surprised by the amount of bowls, strainers, and rubber scrapers that I use. Lots of moving things from one place to another.
Blackberry-Sour Cream Ice Cream
1 C half-and-half
12 oz. sour cream
1 C sugar
1 C heavy cream
4 egg yolks
2 quarts blackberries
1/2 a vanilla bean
1. Mix yolks and half the sugar together in a bowl.
2. In a saucepan, heat half and half, cream, the remaining sugar, scraped vanilla bean, and one pint of the berries. Scald cream, allow to simmer for about five minutes. Remove from heat for a couple minutes. Remove vanilla bean. Puree with stick blender. Strain.
3. Temper warm cream into yolk-sugar mixture, whisking quickly while adding a bit of warm cream, then more, to ensure eggs do not curdle. Return mixture to sauce pan, put on medium heat, and cook slowly, stirring with a rubber spatula until the mixture thickens to coat the back of a spoon.
4. Strain the ice cream mixture into a shallow pan or bowl set in ice*.
5. Puree remaining fresh berries with stick blender. Push through a fine mesh strainer to remove seeds. This should yield about 1 1/2 cups of seedless berry puree.
6. Cool mixture thoroughly. Once cool, add berry puree and sour cream, whisking to fully incorporate everything.
7. Allow to chill overnight in the coldest part of the fridge overnight or for 24 hours.
8. Process according to the ice cream maker's directions.
*lots of advice out there about cooling the mixture down as quick as possible. the bowl set in ice appears to be key. Some say to hold back 25% of the cream and pour it in cold to aid in cooling, but then the proteins in the cold milk won't have been denatured during the scalding process, which is also supposed to aid in producing smaller ice crystals and yielding a creamier product. Ice cream is all about trade-offs.
That's a good recipe, adapted from the one I linked to above. I'll keep working on it, but I've also found a few other recipes that look pretty nice.