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When Homemade Ice Cream Is Too Hard

There's no doubt that the best way to enjoy the ice cream you have made is to eat it fresh, as soon as you've made it - or at least within a short time of it being made. For 2 reasons:

1. if you've used fresh ingredients such as beautifully ripe strawberries straight from your garden, the ice cream will have that 'just picked' flavor which sadly diminishes once the ice cream has been stored.

2. it has a wonderful, luscious texture that only freshly made ice cream possesses and the texture plays a vital part in the enjoyment of ice cream.

Once you store homemade ice cream in the freezer, it can lose its edge in both flavor and texture. Also it can sometimes be a little too hard to serve. This can be for a variety of reasons including:

  • some of your ingredients may not have been cold enough when added to your ice cream recipe mixture (eg. anything you’ve had to heat/cook before adding)

  • the ice crystals (important in all ice cream making) may have been too big after mixing. …
    faster mixing/churning = smaller ice crystals
    smaller ice crystals = smoother ice cream

  • the amount and/or type of sugar used in the recipe. From what I've experienced and also understand from others involved in ice cream making, concentrated sugar depresses the freezing point of ice cream, so too little an amount of sugar in the recipe makes it too hard and too much makes it too soft. I've also found that each recipe can vary in how soft or hard the ice cream is after freezing, even if the same amount of sugar is used in each recipe. This is where other factors in this list can have a bearing.

  • alcohol (such as in a white wine sorbet) is known to lowering the freezing point of anything it’s mixed into.

If when you take your homemade ice cream out of the freezer and it's too hard to scoop easily for serving, just stand it for 2 or 3 minutes at room temperature or 5-10 minutes in the refrigerator to allow to soften a little. Getting the flavor and texture of your homemade ice cream right isn't always easy but the more you make, the more you learn and the more you perfect your favorite ice cream recipes. 

There's more information to help you with your ice cream making here and also this page about storing ice cream. If I have the chance to offer my own homemade ice cream to my family or guests on the day I make it, I'll go for that every time. However, I will be honest and say that I always keep some commercially produced ice cream with soft scoop qualities in the freezer in case I have to serve ice cream at short notice and am not in a position to make it fresh that day. Having said that, any commercially produced ice cream in my freezer has got to be made with lots of cream and really chunky ingredients or I won't even look at it!