On hot summer days, cool refreshing ice cream sounds divine. Breville's the Smart Scoop claims to let you create your own custom taste sensations – we put it to the test.
Breville’s the Smart Scoop is an automatic benchtop ice cream maker that takes the stress out of whipping up your own iced desserts.
By Erin Bennett
If you’ve ever made homemade ice cream, you’ll know it can be a tedious experience. Many store-bought machines require you to first freeze the bowl for many hours, generally the day before, then mix. We trialled some of these machines in 2014 and were disappointed – we couldn’t even give them away once we were done. The Breville Smart Scoop promises to do away with all this hassle.
The Smart Scoop has a compressor (similar to your freezer), which means it chills while it churns. This also means you can make a litre of ice cream in less than an hour from scratch: just pour your ingredients into the bucket, press start and get a spoon ready.
I found the Smart Scoop easy to use – all I had to do was select my desired dessert, using the dial (each dessert type has three hardness options), insert the bucket I’d filled with my ice cream mix into the machine, close the lid and press start. The machine alerted me when it was time to add any mix-in ingredients, such as chocolate chips or fruit pieces, through a hinged section in the lid (which meant I didn’t have to pause churning). Then, it alerted me again when my dessert was ready.
It has 12 hardness settings, starting at sorbet and moving through frozen yoghurt and gelato up to ice cream. Breville claims the machine can automatically detect the hardness of the mixture, adjusting the churn time and temperature to achieve the desired consistency. I found it generally did this well and the progress indicator accurately showed the dessert’s current firmness. For expert ice cream makers, it also has a manual timer.
Sorbet – produced light and fluffy sorbets, but took a long time (about 45 to 60 minutes). I found recipes both with and without egg whites worked well in this machine, though I did need to churn mixtures without eggs for longer.
Frozen yoghurt – took a bit of trial and error, and results depended on how thick my yoghurt mixture was and which hardness setting I selected. My yoghurt without fruit pieces produced a consistently smooth frozen treat in about 40 minutes.
Gelato – slightly softer and smoother than ice cream, it’s best to use a mixture with a higher milk-than-cream ratio, as a true Italian gelato would. This treat took about 45 minutes to make.
Ice cream – best described as a soft-serve consistency, my ice creams took between 40 and 50 minutes to make. To achieve the perfect consistency for cones, I needed to put the ice cream in the freezer for a few hours to harden. I made the classics such as vanilla and mint chocolate chip before experimenting and making custom flavours, such as espresso. Consumer staff loved the texture of the ice creams, often comparing them to premium store-bought brands. With the Smart Scoop, I simply couldn’t make a bad dessert.
While it’s easy to use, I had to be careful not to over- or under-fill the bucket. It can hold a litre of frozen dessert, but the manual recommends adding no more than 700ml of mixture, as churning can add up to 30 percent air. On the flipside the manual didn’t state a minimum, but I found mixtures below 500ml would become “stuck” on the paddle. This led to the machine sensing and displaying the hardness as lower than it actually was.
The manual has 20 recipes to get you started, but I quickly moved on to creating my own. I found the ideal mixture amount was about 650 to 750ml, which made 1L (after aeration).
It has other features such as pre-cool, which cools down the machine before churning, speeding up the dessert making. Its “keep cool” feature keeps the compressor running and periodically churns the mixture to keep your treat at the selected hardness for up to three hours.
I’m a fan of the Smart Scoop ice cream maker – it’s easy to use and quickly made several types of frozen desserts. It could easily produce three or more batches in a single day – ideal if you’ve got a big family. If you love your iced desserts or dream of being the next Heston Blumenthal (and aren’t put off by its $450 price), this ice cream maker is a great choice.
By Paul Smith
We kept hold of the Smart Scoop to make ice cream in the office. This year, when everyone signed off for the Christmas holiday, the machine came home with me. Over three weeks I made seven litres of gelato, sorbet and frozen yogurt – it was a trial my kids really got behind!
A few years ago, I was given Gelato, Ice Creams and Sorbets, a recipe book full of traditional Italian ices. However, I’ve only used it once as I found the repetitive process of freezing and manually stirring a time-consuming pain that didn’t produce a great result. But, with the Breville at my disposal (which churns continuously while freezing the mix) I dusted it off to pick out a few basic recipes, then got experimental with flavours.
My holiday haul consisted of a litre each of:
The ease of making gelato surprised me. All but the custard-based recipes needed very little prep – just warming in a pan to dissolve castor sugar into water or milk. Each recipe from my book was about 700ml unfrozen, which made about a litre when frozen and fit perfectly in the machine’s bowl. The Breville beeps at the best time to add any “stir-ins” through a flap on the top (about halfway through the churn).
All of the the gelato and sorbet came out a bit too soft for a cone and needed an hour or two in the freezer. Overall, I was pleased with the smooth and scoopable creations I’d made, especially as I had very little previous experience making ice cream. Only the frozen yogurt was a little disappointing – while the flavour was spot-on, it had an icy and crystalline texture (more like a frozen slushie). In our previous trial, we found it worked better with high-fat Greek-style yogurt.
Downsides to making your own gelato, surely not? Well, there’s the considerable counter space the Smart Scoop requires. At 41x18cm and 27cm tall, we mulled converting our laundry to a “gelato room”. It’s not cheap either ($450). Using quality ingredients, I reckon my efforts were on par with premium ice creams and came in about $4 per litre less. If your household downed a litre a week, it’d take roughly two years to pay off the machine.
But, I got to make my own flavours. I’ve never seen sake gelato outside Japan, I got the speculaas gelato idea from Kaffee Eis in Wellington (which is $5.50 a scoop). I also really enjoyed being able to create non-dairy gelato. At most stores this costs a packet with limited flavours available. You can’t put a price on flexibility and the opportunity to try something new.
Yes, and no. Yes, because I can’t fault the machine, I love gelato, and who wouldn’t want to play “Willy Wonka” trying all sorts of wacky flavours you can’t find in the frozen aisle? No, because I’m not sure where The Smart Scoop would fit in my kitchen (and the gelato room idea got quashed by my wife), I baulk at the price and I shudder to think about the impact owning one would have on my waistline.
My kids were disappointed when I returned the Breville to the office, but it’s always available to borrow when our freezer needs restocking. Now, the pine nut gelato recipe in my book sounds interesting …
Dimensions: 41.2x18.2x27.3 cm
Sound alert (3 volume options): At pre-cool ready, add mix in ingredients stage and finished.
Manual timer: 5-180 minutes
Capacity: 1L bucket