I tried to make a simple ice cream by mixing heavy cream, sugar, and vanilla into a common ice cream maker. After 30 min of stirring, it produced an acceptable ice cream, but as I used heavy cream only without milk (which is advised in some recipes), I expected a smooth and silky ice cream.

However, the resulting ice cream contained very tiny ice crystals, which were melted quickly when serving.

What makes ice cream smooth and silky? What is essential for a basic recipe of silky ice cream?

I used heavy cream separated from top of raw milk.


1 Answer 1


A number of factors come together to determine the smoothness of ice cream, which is almost exclusively a product of the size of ice crystal within the finished ice cream.

  • How fast the mix is frozen--the faster it is frozen, the smaller the crystals
  • Emulsifiers or stabilizers which interfere with ice crystal growth

The amount of milkfat is actually not that important; it contributes to richness on the tongue and mouthfeel, but does not really reduce the graininess.

The single best thing you can do to ensure a smooth product is to use an ice cream maker which freezes the mix as rapidly as possible, preferably within 20 minutes at the slowest. The slower the freeze, the larger the ice crystals grow, and when they are large enough, they will feel gritty or grainy on the tongue.

One of the best ways to help your mix freeze quickly is to chill it thoroughly in the refrigerator, over night if you can. This will have the side benefit of improving the flavor of your ice cream.

Adding so-called stabilizers or emulsifiers which interfere with crystal formation will also help. While some of these have scary names like xantham gum, guar gum, or agar, many come from natural sources. The most common emulsifier of all is common egg yolks.

Making a French style ice cream, whose base is a (very thin) egg custard or creme anglais will help you get a smoother, richer texture. Of course, it will also contribute a custardy, eggy flavor which may or may not be desirable depending on your preferences.

  • 3
    An important thing which you didn't mention: start with the base as cold as possible—right above freezing. This'll greatly aid in freezing quickly (especially with cheaper ice cream machines).
    – derobert
    Commented Mar 5, 2014 at 15:25
  • @derobert Good point, I will add that.
    – SAJ14SAJ
    Commented Mar 5, 2014 at 23:36
  • 1
    Milk fat does reduce graininess, doesn't it? If you try making philadelphia style ice cream with too little cream and too much milk, it'll be really icy.
    – Cascabel
    Commented Mar 6, 2014 at 1:45
  • @Jefromi I guess is true if there is too little.... as an interference effect, just because there is less of the syrup phase. The sugar will also interfere as well.
    – SAJ14SAJ
    Commented Mar 6, 2014 at 1:49
  • Yup, exactly. That's why I linked to all those previous questions about soft ice cream. The fact that the OP used all milkfat and still got grainy ice cream indicates that the other problems you're pointing out are important, because normally all-cream ice cream indeed comes out pretty soft and smooth.
    – Cascabel
    Commented Mar 6, 2014 at 1:53

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