For the past few weeks, I've been waiting to try out a new wacky ice cream maker, but northern Utah hasn't had much ice cream weather. Snow on Memorial Day? What's up with that?
When the sun finally came out one afternoon, it seemed a good time to test the Mega Ball Play & Freeze Ice Cream Maker.
Every so often companies send me products to check out. About a month ago, I received a blue plastic basketball-size ball in the mail. It reminded me of a space ship, or a soccer ball on steroids. You put cream, vanilla and sugar in the middle cylinder, and surround it with ice and rock salt. Then you're supposed to "play" with the ball, pass it around, let everyone roll it or shake it, until the cream freezes.
After putting the ice cream mixture and the ice in the ball, I gave it to my family members to move around. My grandson, Anthony, at first tried kicking it. But it's too heavy — about 9 pounds when full of ice and cream. Then (almost too late) I looked at the instructions and saw the warning not to kick or throw it hard, because the ball could break. (So could your toe.)
After about a 20 minutes of rolling, I opened up the canister to peek. The cream was freezing around the walls of the canister, but still soft in the middle. I stirred it up as the directions advised, then resealed the canister. We rolled and shook it around for about 15 more minutes, until it was the consistency of soft-serve ice cream. We could have waited longer to see if it would harden more, but everyone was getting eager to try it. It tasted great; but more like a milkshake than ice cream. That's one drawback with homemade ice cream: it usually needs to set up in the freezer for awhile if you want it firm enough to scoop.
Scientifically, ice cream is a complex structure of ice crystals and fat globules. The shaking process incorporates air into the ice cream as it freezes. Without air, ice cream would be a dense, frozen brick. This is why you don't fill the canister to the brim; it needs space for the ice cream to expand.
The Mega Ball is a fun novelty and a conversation starter for a party. When guests stand around asking, "What can I do to help?" just hand them the ice cream ball and tell them to shake it and pass it on.
It would also be good for camping, since you don't need electricity. But since it only makes a quart (four cups) of ice cream, it doesn't go very far in a group. In fact, this company makes a smaller version of the Mega Ball, which doesn't yield as much ice cream. In the future, I'll use my electric ice cream maker as well as the Mega-Ball so we'll have plenty of ice cream to go around.
The Mega Ball retails for around $20-$25. I would look for it in camping stores or online. You can apply the same concept, though, with a do-it-yourself model. You need a 1-pound can and a 3-pound can, both with sturdy lids.
KICK-THE-CAN ICE CREAM
3/4 cup whole milk
1 cup cream
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Flavoring if desired (chocolate or strawberry syrup)
1 pound can and plastic lid
3-pound can and lid
3/4 cup salt or rock salt
In smaller can, combine milk, cream, sugar, vanilla, egg and flavoring, then stir. Place plastic lid on can and put into the 3-pound can. Pack ice and rock salt in the space between the two cans. Then put the lid on can. Roll can back and forth to a friend for about 10-15 minutes. Take lid off, and with a knife or spatula, scrape the ice cream off sides of can and stir back into the ice cream mixture. If it needs more freezing, drain water out of large can and pack with more ice and rock salt, and roll 5 minutes more. Makes about 2 1/2 cups.
— "Fun at Home" by Dian Thomas www.Dianthomas.com
Valerie Phillips is the former Deseret News food editor. She blogs at www.chewandchat.blogspot.com.