Ingredients for homemade ice cream include milk, heavy cream, sugar, salt and optional ingredients such as egg yolks and flavors. Homemade ice cream will taste better if it is made with high-quality ingredients. Care should always be taken to ensure that ingredients are fresh and that the ice cream is frozen in a timely manner.
Milk and Heavy Cream
Milk and heavy cream are blended in a 1:1 ratio (e.g. 2 cups milk to 2 cups heavy cream) and form the emulsion portion of the ice cream. Most of the natural flavor of homemade ice cream comes from these two ingredients. Lighter creams do not contain a high enough fat content to easily form ice cream and will not generally work in homemade recipes.
Sugar is added to homemade ice cream as a sweetening ingredient. Sugar also aids the mixing process between the milk and the heavy cream. Sugar is normally used in a 1:4 ratio to the milk and heavy cream ingredients (e.g. 1/2 cup sugar in a recipe that calls for 2 cups heavy cream and 2 cups milk).
Salt is a necessary ingredient in homemade ice cream because of its ability to lower the temperature of the ice cream; without the addition of salt, it is difficult to freeze ice cream. A small pinch of salt is usually recommended, as larger amounts will overwhelm the natural taste of the ice cream.
Egg Yolk (Optional)
Adding egg yolks to homemade ice cream creates softer custard-like ice cream that freezes well and is easy to spoon out into dishes. Egg yolks serve as natural emulsifiers in the ice cream and help to mix the fats and water in the ingredients and reduce any fat/water separations.
The addition of egg yolks will also produce a richer taste, which many people enjoy; most homemade ice cream recipes call for four or more egg yolks depending on the amount of ice cream being made.
Flavor ingredients for homemade ice cream may include flavor extracts (e.g. vanilla or almond), chocolate chips, fruit pieces, nuts or flavoring syrups. Flavor extracts are normally added to the milk and cream at the start of the recipe, while most other flavors are added at the end.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has reported several hundred cases of salmonella infection from eggs used in homemade ice cream recipes. The FDA recommends using ice cream recipes that call for you to heat the eggs before they are added to the other ingredients, or those that use egg substitutes or do not call for eggs at all.