More mofo vegan ice cream – and an ice cream machine review!

November 3rd, 2010 11:17 am by Kelly Garbato

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Yesterday, I reviewed Wheeler del Torro’s The Vegan Scoop, otherwise known as MY FAVORITE COOKBOOK OF ALL TIME. (It’s a must buy for all ice cream-loving vegans. In other words, all vegans.) Since most of the recipes contained within require an ice cream maker, I thought a review of my own machine might be fitting.

In Christmas 2008, my lovely mom gifted Shane and I an ice cream maker. Specifically, a Cuisinart Ice-45 Mix-It-In Soft-Serve 1-1/2-Quart Ice-Cream Maker. It retails for $185 on Amazon, but at the time of this writing, you can score your very own for just $87.95 (with free shipping!).

When it comes to purchasing an ice cream machine, you have several styles from which to choose:

Manual vs. Electric:

[Manual] machines usually comprise an outer bowl and a smaller inner bowl with a hand-cranked mechanism which turns a paddle, sometimes called a dasher, to stir the mixture. The outer bowl is filled with a freezing mixture of salt and ice: the addition of salt to the ice causes freezing-point depression; as the salt melts the ice, its heat of fusion allows it to absorb heat from the ice cream mixture, freezing the ice cream.

This type of ice cream maker is inexpensive, but inconvenient and messy as the ice and salt mixture produces a lot of salty water as it melts, which the user must dispose of, and the ice and salt mixture has to be replenished to make a new batch of ice cream. […]

[Electric machines] have an electric motor which drives either the bowl or the paddle to stir the mixture.

Counter-top vs. Self-freezing:

Counter-top machines use a double-walled bowl which contains between the two walls a solution that freezes below the freezing point of water. This is frozen in a domestic freezer for up to 24 hours before the machine is needed. Once frozen, the bowl is put into the machine, the mixture is added and the machine is switched on. The paddles rotate, stirring the mixture as it gradually freezes through contact with the frozen bowl. Twenty to thirty minutes later, the solution between the double walls of the bowl has thawed, and the ice cream has frozen. The advantage of this type of electric machine is low cost, typically under $100. The disadvantage of the pre-frozen bowl approach is that only one batch can be made at a time. To make another batch, the bowl must be frozen again. For this reason, it is usually possible to buy extra bowls for the machine, but of course these take up a lot of freezer space. […]

More expensive, and much larger, machines have a freezing mechanism built in and do not require a bowl to be pre-chilled. The cooling system is switched on, and in a few minutes the mixture can be poured in and the paddle switched on. As with coolant-bowl machines, ice cream is ready in twenty to thirty minutes, depending on the quantity made. These machines can be used immediately with no preparation, and any number of batches of ice cream can be made without a delay between batches.

As you’ve no doubt already surmised, the Ice-45 is an electric counter-top model. Keep this in mind while reading my ratings, since each is in comparison to other electric counter-top models – versus, say, a high-end $1,000 self-freezing machine.

Construction: The Ice-45 (as it shall henceforth be known) is a rather solid kitchen gadget. Many of the removable parts are crafted of heavy plastic, and we have yet to lose or break any. Some are top rack dishwasher-safe, while others (the bowl especially) must be hand washed with mild soap and a soft towel. (The machine base cannot be immersed in water; this you must wipe down with a damp cloth. It will get dirty! And gooey! And messy!) The machine is a little top-heavy, but to compensate, the base’s underside is equipped with nonskid feet. We’ve never had a problem with tippage or slippage.

Durability: This past was our second summer season using the Ice-45, though our ice cream churning hasn’t been limited to the summer months. We’ve made a number of frozen desserts with our trusty Ice-45, and thus far it’s held up well, with no problems to speak of.

Ease of use and care: The Ice-45 is rather easy to operate, though clean-up can get a little…sticky.

Like many electric models, you simply flip a switch to turn the machine on, pour your chilled ice cream mix into a hole in the top of the machine, and wait 20 to 30 minutes, after which time you’ll have a yummy new batch of ice cream (up to 1.5 quarts, to be precise):

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As with all counter-top models, the Ice-45 requires some advance planning: the bowl must be frozen at least 24 hours prior to use, and the ice cream mix should be chilled for two to four hours or more. The bowl takes up about 3/4 of a shelf in my side-by-side fridge/freezer, which I can spare, so it basically lives in the freezer. Thus, one batch of ice cream usually demands six hours of planning: a half hour to make the “batter,” four hours+ to freeze it (for good measure), and another hour to let the ice cream machine do its thing and clean up the resulting mess. While this can hamper spontaneity, for this rural Missourian, it’s still less trouble than making a Whole Foods run (the nearest store being an hour and a half away – three hours round trip!).

The Ice-45 is also a soft-serve model. Unlike “regular” ice cream machines, in which the bowl basically rests in its base on the counter, the Ice-45’s bowl and housing is suspended about 10 inches off the counter, allowing for a dispenser on the bowl’s underside. Pull the plastic handle up and watch the ice cream flow!

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But beware: if your dessert is on the chunky side – let’s say the batter includes frozen brownie chunks or chocolate chips, for example – this hard material will clog up the dispenser! This isn’t a major obstacle, though, as you can also scoop the finished ice cream from the top of the bowl, as you would with any other model.

Whether you’re a top or bottom gal, there will be a mess. Oh yes! The dispenser can get a little drippy, resulting in a sticky mess on the tray, ice cream dispenser and even your kitchen counter. Meanwhile, try to scoop the ice cream out of the bowl, end up trailing ice cream drops all over the top of the machine (and your tabletop and person, to boot). Really, there’s no getting around this; ice cream is sticky and messy. (That’s what makes it so delicious, no?) Luckily, the Ice-45 is relatively easy to clean off – just do it right away, mkay?

Ice cream quality: To be frank, it’s difficult to duplicate the creamy, rich texture of the high-end, store-bought soy ice creams I’ve come to know and love (Purely Decadent, anyone?). Difficult, but not impossible. Case in point: the Chocolate Coffee Marshmallow I mentioned yesterday, which is almost too rich. Ditto the Green Tea ice cream, which has the name brand stuff beat. The secret is in the batter, methinks – which means that the Ice-45 is doing its job, and well.

Granted, even after 30 minutes, the ice cream does come out a little soft. At first I thought this was because I opted for a soft serve machine – sounds reasonable enough, right? – but in the introductory “how to” section of The Vegan Scoop, del Torro mentions that the ice cream produced by most counter-top models does require a little extra time in the freezer. (Perhaps soft serve ice cream needs a little more than most?) So there you go.

Extras: Cuisinart boasts that this model includes a three compartment condiment dispenser and a cone holder, but to be honest, I’ve yet to use them. Neither feature seems very practical – unless you make a new batch of ice cream every day or are serving a party and/or out to impress.

Value: At $87.95 to $185, the Ice-45 is at the mid- to high-end price range for counter-top models (at least judging by what’s currently available on Amazon). To this ice cream nom-ing vegan, it’s money (or rather, a gift wish) well spent.

That said, an ice cream maker won’t necessarily save you any money – even if it’s “specialty” vegan ice cream you’re making. If you factor in the cost of the ingredients – especially those for “unusual” flavors – as well as the price of the machine, I think homemade ice cream is roughly comparable in price to the store-bought stuff. On the upside, you aren’t limited to what’s on the shelf; whatever wacky (or mundane) flavor you crave can be yours. You’re only limited by your imagination.

When choosing an ice cream machine, you’ll also want to keep counter and freezer space in mind. Each of these is a trade-off for convenience: lose a shelf in the freezer, gain nearly-unlimited access to your fantasy flavor. For me, this compromise was a no-brainer. But not everyone has the extra storage space to spare.

Conclusion: Overall, I’m happy with my Cuisinart Ice-45 Soft-Serve Ice-Cream Maker. If I had to do it again, I might wishlist a “regular” ice cream maker vs. a soft serve model – but otherwise, I love my little magic maker! Happiness in a bowl.

Yesterday I shared some food (not-)porn of the many yummy desserts I made using the Ice-45 – and the recipes in The Vegan Scoop. Here are some flavors I made with recipes found ’round the internets.

Strawberry Ice Cream from A Vegan Ice Cream Paradise, with one minor modification – we only used 1/2 cup sugar instead of 3/4 cup:

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Cookies and Cream ice cream, also from A Vegan Ice Cream Paradise. This was made with regular Oreos, which may or may not be vegan; but you can just as easily use your own favorite vegan variety!:

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VegWeb’s Strawberry Very Chocolate Soy Ice Cream, minus the berries. You know it’s healthy cuz it’s got silken tofu, yo!:

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Finally, a few of my own, borne-of-necessity creations. (Pay attention, as these might come in handy in a month or two!)

Vegan Pumpkin Spice Ice Cream:

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and Vegan Soy Nog Ice Cream:

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Updated to add: I posted an adaptation of this review on Amazon; if you enjoyed it and are so inclined, please click through and give it a helpful vote, mkay?

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12 Responses to “More mofo vegan ice cream – and an ice cream machine review!”

  1. The mofo scoop on Wheeler del Torro’s The Vegan Scoop. (Cue: gratuitous ice cream not-porn.) » V for Vegan: Says:

    […] The book, which – have I not already mentioned? – itself looks yummy enough to eat, features 150 recipes for vegan, dairy-free ice cream and ice-cream related foodstuffs. (Disclaimer: all of the ice cream recipes require an ice cream maker. I’ll be reviewing my own model tomorrow, so stay tuned! Updated to add: link.) […]

  2. Sarah S. Says:

    Happy MoFo!

    This post is incredibly helpful. I’ve been wanting to invest in an ice cream machine for a while now, and I think Santa might have one in store for me. I am confident now which type is the right for me, what a relief! Will have to check out that book to get me started for sure.

  3. Kelly Garbato Says:

    Awesome! Also check out A Vegan Ice Cream Paradise – the blogger isn’t active anymore, but there’s a huge archive of ice cream recipes available:

  4. Vegan Mofo Roundup 3 – Hey there, Sweet Stuff! | Vegan MoFo Headquarters International Says:

    […] Easy Vegan shares a ton of info about ice cream makers and shows us a delicious assortment of vegan ice cream. Not a Rabbit lays down the law about proper brownies. […]

  5. Kip Says:

    Thanks for going through all the effort to make such an informative post about ice cream equipment! My crappy old one just cracked so all the salty solution leaked out and I’m in the market for a new one…

    P.S. I highly recomend using monin syrups for flavouring (I made a bubble gum coconut based ice cream recently and it was soooo good)!

  6. omgoshimvegan Says:

    The ice creams look fantastic. Thanks for sharing them and reviewing the ice cream machine. I’m thinking one should go on my Christmas wish list.

    Happy MoFo.

  7. Em Says:

    Another appliance to add to my wish list. It’s worth it for the vegan cookies’n’cream. Mmmm.

  8. Taymer Says:

    now i will put up my icecream maker up for sale and get a nicer model. I make a batch of icecream sometimes every week or every month and my maker it ok but I hate the freezing disk. My friend also asked me abt Wheeler’s book so I sent her the link. I own a copy as well and it it a good book for ice cream addicts.

  9. amey Says:

    i have an old ice cream maker where you freeze the container, and then crank it by hand. It’s funky, but it does the trick. Making homemade ice cream is so fun!

  10. Kelly Garbato Says:

    @ Kip – Thanks for the tip, I’ll have to try that out! del Torro includes a bubble gum recipe in The Vegan Scoop, but it calls for chunks of actual gum! Cue: childhood admonitions against swallowing gum, lest it stick to the insides of your stomach. What can I say, urban legends die hard :)

    @ Amey – Fun! Growing up, we had a meat grinder you operated with a crank. We mostly used it to grind potatoes for potato pancakes though. I love retro kitchen gadgets!

    Happy mofo all!

  11. Peanut Butter & Jelly & Banana Ice Cream » V for Vegan: Says:

    […] it with a food processor or blender – no expensive ice cream machine required! (Though I do love mine something awful. Don’t worry baby, I ain’t ever gonna quit […]

  12. When life gives frugal vegans spoiled bananas, they make banana ice cream! » V for Vegan: Says:

    […] treat can be made in a blender or food processor, no ice cream machine required! (Though I do love my ice cream maker like a member of the […]

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