On summer time Sundays again after I was a child, my of us would take me and my sister to Jenni’s Ice Cream in Barrington, New Hampshire, if we might been good that week. I had a crush on one in every of the scoopers, and I’d take it as a superb signal if she remembered my “regular,” a small scoop of strawberry ice cream on a sugar cone.
Nothing ever occurred with the ice cream lady, however I nonetheless have a smooth spot for good ice cream, gelato—and my first favourite, sherbet. Making ice cream at dwelling has at all times felt like an equipment too far, although, one other giant stainless steel block taking over counter area. But a budding trend in dwelling ice cream makers had me questioning if I ought to rethink that stance.
The Ninja Creami [sic] seems to be a bit like a tall, skinny espresso maker. You make what you would possibly name the liquid model of your ice cream, pour it into one in every of the machine’s specialised pint containers, freeze it for twenty-four hours, then course of it for about 90 seconds in the machine. The magic actually occurs in that final half, the place a spinning blade descends into the ice cream like slightly motorized ice auger, turning your strong block right into a candy, scoopable deal with. Some meals trade of us would possibly say, “Heyyy … wait a second. That sounds just like a Pacojet knockoff.” I would say they’re right.
More on that in a bit. But first, ice cream! I made a bunch, starting with the first of 30-plus offerings in the included recipe booklet: vanilla ice cream with chocolate chips. I combined a tablespoon of cream cheese with sugar, vanilla extract, heavy cream, and whole milk. A day of freezing time later, I pressed the Ice Cream button and watched the blades spin and whirl their way down to the bottom of the container. After that, I made a divot in the ice cream, poured in a quarter-cup of mini chocolate chips (Ninja calls these late-stage Blizzard-style additions “mix-ins”), hit the Mix-In button, and when that was done, I grabbed a spoon. It was good stuff. Pleasingly creamy, not icy, and with a bit of pliability visible on top of the pint in the form of swirly tracks from the spinning blade. The sweetness seemed about right, aligning with grocery-store ice cream.
Strawberry ice cream was a different animal, with mushed bits of chopped strawberries, macerated with sugar, corn syrup, and lemon juice before heavy cream was mixed in and the pint went into the freezer for a day. The finished ice cream came out really well. Not Jenni’s, mind you, but not bad. I also saw something I’d see a few times in future batches where the final product had a bit of what the manual calls a “crumbly” texture. This can usually be solved or, at least solved enough, by following Ninja’s suggestion and running the machine one more time by hitting Re-Spin.
Next, I switched styles and tried Ninja’s recipe for one-ingredient mango sorbet, where the one ingredient was canned mango chunks in their own juice, which went in the special pint container and into the freezer for 24 hours. I then spun it up into sorbet. I’ll defer to my notes here which read: “Nope. More like compacted snow than sorbet.” The texture was wrong and a re-spin didn’t save it.
Ninja’s test kitchen team also seemed to forget about getting the finished product’s sweetness level right. Preserved fruit like that is packaged at the ideal sweetness level for eating it straight out of the can, but freezing it dulls its flavor. In retrospect, it wasn’t much of a surprise that the frozen canned-fruit sorbet needed sugar. Plus, different fruits come in different sweetnesses depending on manufacturers. A little hand-holding (or just more than one ingredient) would have kept disappointment at bay. It puzzled me that Ninja left so much to chance.
This additionally obtained me questioning about developing with my very own flavors. Nothing bizarre, thoughts you, however perhaps make the most of one thing seasonal or one thing not essentially discovered at the nook retailer. Ninja actually hedges each in the recipe booklet and the $17 cookbook for learners that’s sold separately, mentioning which you can’t use your favourite ice cream recipes, as a result of the Creami “works differently than traditional ice-cream makers.” Then it actually solely makes a obscure wave at serving to you determine how to DIY issues. If the cookbook, which has a pair dozen recipes, got here in the field as an alternative of being a separate buy, I’d grouse about this much less. (For these like me searching for probably warranty-voiding inspiration, take a look at the Pacojet entries in Modernist Cuisine, together with Pacojet’s cookbook and website.)
Since I’m already complaining, I’ll notice right here that the pint jar lids are stupidly onerous to get on, even creating skinny threads of plastic on the inside the lid that might fall into your dessert, one thing I’d seen flagged in on-line critiques.
I plowed on, making Ninja’s recipe for vanilla-bean gelato utilizing egg yolks, corn syrup, heavy cream, milk, and the ethereal-smelling seeds scraped from a vanilla pod, all heated on the range to 165 levels Fahrenheit, then frozen. Out of the machine the subsequent day, it had knowledgeable look, and the actual vanilla made it sing. But if I have been to go deep nitty-gritty, I’d say it had a little bit of a clay-like texture and a chewiness I do not essentially search for from my frozen treats. A little bit of trial and error would finally get me the place I wanted to go.
Next, I attempted and failed to freestyle. I had a bee in my bonnet to make one thing enjoyable with Campari, utilizing the Creami’s orange sherbet recipe as a template. It known as for a cup of orange juice, so I used half a cup of OJ and half a cup of Campari. My thought was to carry it to a cocktail party, however that did not work out in any respect; the boozy bitterness was overpowering, and the texture was extra like a milkshake.