Ice cream is among the most cherished desserts for children and adults alike, and homemade ice cream is even more so. Though ice cream machines do make the process easier, it is possible to make soft, creamy ice cream by hand. Certain ingredients will aid in the process, but the trick to creating smooth ice cream by hand is to repetitively agitate the ice cream while it freezes.
Choose your recipe based on ingredients. Some ingredients will allow nonmachine ice cream to be creamier, softer and smoother without using any electricity other than that needed for the freezer.
Use ingredients that don't freeze, such as alcohol, sugar and fat. Adding a liqueur or wine to a recipe not only creates a sophisticated new flavour but also keeps a softer, smoother texture. Sugar doesn't freeze either, so keeping the sugar ratios high and using sugar instead of a chemical sweetener will prevent a harder-textured ice cream from forming.
Opt for milk high in fat, which is perhaps the most assured way of getting a soft, creamy result. Italian gelato is known for its soft creaminess even though it is made with whole milk rather than cream. Whole milk contains enough fat that you can use it instead of cream. The only difference between gelato and ice cream is that gelato uses whole milk, and ice cream uses a combination of cream and milk. In your recipe, you can use any mixture of both whole milk and cream and to obtain a soft result. If you use a low-fat or nonfat milk, you will be left with a gritty ice milk. Recipes that contain egg yolks are also more likely to produce a softer result, as the yolks are emulsifiers.
Mix together the ingredients of your ice cream recipe, regardless of whether the recipe says to mix ingredients using a machine or by hand. Place the mixture in a large bowl set in an ice bath (ice water) and allow it to chill. Once chilled, pour the mixture into a deep baking dish (glass or metal) or into a plastic bowl and then it place in the freezer.
Remove the dish from the freezer and stir the contents vigorously every 30 minutes to keep ice crystals from forming. You want it to freeze at the same rate, so scrape the edges to clear any lumps that may have already started to freeze. Beating and mixing with force is your best bet for a creamy result. You will do this four to six times before the ice cream is ready to serve.
Remove the dish from the freezer when you are satisfied with your results. Do not let the ice cream sit in the freezer too long after it is ready or it will continue to harden. Allow it to soften for 5 minutes before serving if it has hardened.