How to Make Ice Cream Cones From Scratch

Crisp, golden-brown ice cream cones that are sturdy enough to support your favorite scoops.

6/14/2021 7:00:00 PM

Crisp, golden-brown ice cream cones that are sturdy enough to support your favorite scoops.

It takes a special piece of gear to make real-deal ice cream cones, but for ice cream enthusiasts, a waffle cone machine is a more-than-worthy investment. We've tested many models to find the best one, and have the perfect recipe to use in it.

).If you don't have any on hand, roasted walnut, pecan, or pistachio oil will work equally well, as will (surprise!) sesame oil. With sesame oil, the batter will have an alarmingly savory odor, especially as it cooks, but its flavor will mellow to a generic nuttiness in the finished cone (especially after the aroma in the kitchen has dissipated; eating a cone while smelling a strong odor of sesame can somewhat taint one's perception).

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Otherwise, any neutral cooking oil will work well from a technical stand point, although they won't contribute anything to the flavor of the cone.There's also a splash of water (to thin the batter and facilitate gluten development) and rum (to amplify the aromas in the cone), but the latter can be replaced with bourbon, vanilla, or more water if booze isn't an option.

In a recipe like this, the machine does all the work, making the technique almost comically simple: Whisk everything but the flour together in a bowl, then whisk in the flour. That's it. Really.That said, I can't overstate the importance of thorough whisking, first to homogenize the sugars and leavening, then to incorporate the flour (here I recommend bread flour, as it makes the most sturdy cone).

It can take at least a minute of steady whisking at each stage to ensure perfect homogenization, which is a lot longer than most bakers would naturally devote to the process, and certainly longer than newbies would guess. But rushing either of these steps will lead to an unevenly mixed batter, which can produce a wafer with a splotchy and uneven color, as well as a patchy texture, lacy and porous in some places while thick in others.

Under-mixing is a very common problem for homemade ice cream cone batter, and one that bakers often attribute to the waffle cone–maker itself. While cheaply constructed machines do heat unevenly and result in uneven browning, unevenly mixed streaks of sugar and baking soda can wreak havoc as well, producing ring-like areas of discoloration (this relates to how an unevenly mixed patch of batter will spread while being poured onto the machine, displaced in a fairly symmetrical way as new batter is poured into the center).

So whisk well, and more than you think is needed, then scrape and fold the batter with a flexible spatula at the end (an important finishing step for any batter).The exact size of the wafer (and resulting cone or bowl) is highly customizable, but I like using about two tablespoons of batter per cone. A cookie scoop makes portioning the batter fast, easy, and consistent, ensuring each wafer will cook at a similar rate, so there's less guesswork from cone to cone.

The idea is to cook the batter long enough that its water content is driven out slowly, ensuring a crispy wafer and even browning. Cooking too low and slow can prevent the wafer from caramelizing and fully crisping as it cools. Meanwhile, cooking too hot and too fast will give the wafers a brittle, impossible-to-shape texture as well as burned or bitter flavors.

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It can take a few tries to dial in the ideal time and temperature setting for wafers, as machines can vary as much as personal preference, so give yourself time to learn the ropes, and find the time and setting that work best to produce a pliable yet well-caramelized wafer. On the commercial machine I use at home, I've found 85 seconds at 300°F (150°C) to be ideal.

With practice, however, you'll find the right time and temperature for your waffle maker, so that each wafer is well caramelized, easy to roll, and crisp when cool.Shaping the waffle cone is another step that requires a bit of practice, since there's only a short window of opportunity to shape the hot wafers before they cool. I found that it's helpful to place the tip of the waffle cone form (which should come with any machine) at least a quarter of an inch away from the edge of the wafer, rather than on the very edge.

This allows the wafer to curl more tightly at the tip, closing off the cone. It's also important to keep the wafer wrapped tight around the form, so be sure to keep it tucked tightly as you roll. After forming the cone, hold it in place, seam-side-down, until cool enough that it won't uncurl when you releases the form.

When the waffle cone form is placed right on the edge of the wafer, or when it's rolled loosely around the cone, the final shape will be that of a bullhorn, a cone with an opening at one end.It's a difficult process to explain in words and images alone, but seeing it done can help.

0:10As with any physical process, it can take a few tries to get the hang of rolling a waffle cone, so again: give yourself time to practice and learn. Make a test batch or two, using an inexpensive cooking oil in place of hazelnut oil while you find your footing. Scrap pieces and rejects will still be tasty.

Try grinding them up into crumbs to use like graham crackers in your favorite cookie crumb crusts. Or dip the broken wafers inthe chocolate coating of a homemade Klondike bar. Once the coating has set, stir the chocolate coated waffle pieces into your next batch of ice cream.

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It's a lot to learn! Don't hesitate to start out with an easier shape while you get the hang of cooking the wafers. For example, try cutting each with a pizza wheel to make dainty wedges for garnishing scoops of ice cream.Or place a warm wafer over a ramekin, then gently mold it into shape by nesting a second ramekin on top.

The wafer will naturally flare out in a wavy pattern, but if you want a more sculpted look, use your fingers to shape the edges while warm.Whatever the shape, the waffle wafers are quite vulnerable to humidity, so do stash them in an airtight container the moment they cool down to room temperature. I don't like to put all my eggs in one basket, so I'll usually divvy them up between a few zipper-lock sandwich bags rather than one large container.

In a humid kitchen, the cooled wafers can begin to soften in as little as 15 minutes, so don't delay in finding them a home. By that same token, don't rush the cooling process—warm wafers will steam themselves soft in an airtight container. Read more: Serious Eats »

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