Review of Ice-cream makers
Ice cream is one of those deserts that is both a luxury and a necessity to keep in the freezer, just in case you need something yummy for the kids at the weekend or you are getting all weepy over the latest episode of Grey's Anatomy. I have always wanted to try to make my own ice-cream and being a real kitchen gadget Barbie I was thinking of treating myself to a sleek, thrumming machine that would turn me into Supermum. Just the perfect time to test some of the machines on the market!!!
We decided to try each of the ice cream makers on a basic vanilla ice-cream based on an egg custard, as well as a lemon sorbet to also show whether the machines were versatile or not and along the way I discovered a couple of tips for getting the best out of these machines.
Firstly use the best possible ingredients in your home made ice-cream otherwise you might as well buy it from the supermarket- we really pushed the boat out with organic this and Fairtrade that but the results were unquestionably more delicious as a result.
Secondly take the time to chill your mixture well. It will really help the ice cream maker work at its best. Impatience makes for sloppy ice-cream. In fact the whole process needs much more time than you think, even with the self-chilling Gaggia.
Finally don't ever use any thing metal on the bowls. They scratch incredibly easily.
My major concern with all of the machines we tested is that they don't cut out when you lift the lid or take the top off. Although they aren't aimed at kids, and the parts don't revolve very fast, they just don't feel particularly safe, especially since some parts, particularly in the Kenwood don't clip together all that securely.
Kenwood Ice Cream Maker - IM250 (3 out of 5)
This machine was the first ice cream maker I tried and is at the cheaper end of the market because it relies on the user pre-freezing the bowl that the ice-cream will be made in. It looks quite sleek when you take it out of the box but, while it is relatively easy to assemble, it doesn't seem to click together very securely. There is a bowl that the ice cream goes in, a plastic lid that you slot the motor unit on and a spatula that locks the lid and motor together. The lid has a spout that you can pour your mixture through but the angle is such that you can't empty your jug or bowl in without slightly tipping the machine. Also you can remove the lid and the spatula will still rotate. Although it isn't sharp, I felt it wasn't particularly safe and quite easy for little hands to lift off.
The bowl I can only be described as a monolith - I had to clear loads of thing out of the freezer to fit it in and now matter how much you cool your mixture, the material the bowl is made from is quite thin so the minute you pour it in it forms a frozen crust all round the edge which prevents the spatula from turning properly. I got in a right mess by removing the lid and spatula to try to loosen the sides and help the churning along, only to find it had all refrozen before I could get the lid back on. It took about half an hour to churn either the vanilla ice-cream or the sorbet.
Disney ice-cream machine by Ariete 4½ out of 5
Don't be put off by the child-like graphics; this machine is not a toy and it says so in big letters on the box. It may look a little funny with its cutesy feet and its red trim, but for the money this machine was the surprise winner in the 3 tests we did. The Ariete has a blow that you need to freeze, but unlike the Kenwood it is a modest size that fitted quite well into our freezer. The bowl slots into a base, then you put the beater (a cylindrical piece of plastic I nearly mistook for packaging) in and slot it all together with the top.
If you take the lid off during the process the beater stays in the mixture and the only moving part is a small cog inside the lid - not ideal but reasonably safe. The fabric of the bowl is thick enough so that when you pour your ice cream mixture into the machine it only forms a thin crust and, despite the strange looking beater, it was quick, efficient and easy to use. Trouble free vanilla ice-cream in 30 minutes.
Gaggia Gelatiera (4 out of 5)
This is the Rolls Royce of ice cream machines if the price is anything to go by. The beauty of the Gaggia is you don't have a bowl to freeze over night. You can just switch this machine on and churn. I was looking forward to trying out the Gelatiera but I hadn't realised, maybe naively, that the unit is similar to a refrigerator and so you can't move it around too much because it disturbs the refrigerating gases. I'm not sure what buying one of these does to your carbon footprint but I'm pretty sure it's not good. To use, you simply turn on the machine's cooling system 5 minutes before you want to use it and then just pour in the mixture and go. You can lift the lid and check on your ice cream's progress and the churn continues. Frankly for the money I would have expected some kind of safety cut out and for the whole machine to have looked a bit more prestigious and not quite so light weight. The instructions for this machine said the ice cream would be ready in around 30 minutes but actually it was nearer an hour for a sorbet despite the mixture being well chilled. For convenience this is definitely the best machine and it is easy to assemble and use, but it is a bit domineering on your work surface and not a particularly elegant.
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