Since I returned from Australia I've been longing for good home made ice cream. In Melbourne I worked as an ice cream salesperson under Ottorino Pace's command in his family-run-business Casa Del Gelato selling real home made Italian gelato. While Ottorino was being a crazy lil' fuck having immigrated from Sicily and now, at the age of 70, still flirting to female customers, he made pretty much the best ice cream I have ever tasted. It was truly inspiring. 48 flavours on display and some bonus stuff in the huge freezer you could stash one small sized mafia family into..
An ice cream machine of your own is great not just to produce your own superior-quality chocolate dreams but also to make light, smooth sorbets or ice creams containing, say, coconut milk instead of cream. People on low carb diet seem to find home made ice cream a good addition to their silly diet.
This summer I bought Philips' HR2304 for producing my own ice cream. It seems that all the easily-available (read: at Stockmann or Gigantti) machines fall in the same price range, 60-80 EUR. HR 2304 costed like 65 EUR at Stockmann. I would've wanted to get one with a big, removable bucket you could actually put into a freezer, but those kind of machines seem to cost at least a couple of hundred euros (on the internet).
The basic idea of ice cream machine is to chill out the mixture while churning it at the same time. Churning the stuff while it freezes breaks up the ice crystals thus producing the fine texture of ice cream. The machines at this price range don't actually use electricity to cool off the mixture, but just to churn it. The freezing effect is achieved by ice bricks (kylmäkalle). In HR2304 there is a round-shaped ice brick which you freeze in your freezer and then place it on the bottom of the bowl/machine. Then you put on the lid, which has the motor and the turning spatulas in it, turn the machine on (before applying the ice cream mixture, since you don't want it to freeze stuck in the bowl) and apply the mixture from a hole in the lid. Simple and effective. The machine needs to operate 40-60 minutes depending on the mixture.
When purchasing the ice cream machine, my biggest question was if this machine could really chill the mixture enough with just an ice brick. The answer is, sadly, no. But wait! There's a solution! While you can only achieve the texture of soft ice (pehmis) with the machine, it is enough for further treatment in your actual freezer. You simply pour out the porridge-looking ice cream mixture into a container and freeze that. No more churning is needed during the freezing, contrary to not using a machine at all (when you have to churn the mixture manually every 1h of freezing or so to break the crystals). This after-freezing takes a couple of hours, but I usually enjoy my gelato the next day.
HR2304's bucket size is about one liter and the bowl is pretty tough and looks durable. The spatulas are probably the weakest part being only plastic, but following the instructions and not abusing the machine will probably ensure their long life as well.
I find Philips HR2304 good value for money. The package also includes a quite comprehensive recipe booklet.
Coming up next: make your own Bacio Gelato!