"I think it's nice that there are all different kinds of lunches and breakfasts and dinners and snacks. I think eating is nice." – Albert from Bread and Jam for Frances, by Russell C. Hoban
Though perfectly fine frozen deserts can be made without the use of an ice cream maker, most will benefit from being made in one.
(The exception to this rule is the Granita, a shaved ice delicacy that is made in a container, and is to be enjoyed fresh.)
When using an ice cream maker, no matter if it’s a frozen canister model, compressor freezer model, or good ol’ rock salt and ice model, there’s a danger to overchurn. Or underchurn. Or not have the canister frozen enough. Etc, etc…
So how do you know? With my current machine, a Cuisinart 2qt frozen canister, I can tell by the sound it makes after a certain amount of time churning. Of course, it also helps to keep an eye on the base while it’s churning, but many different things can factor into the amount of time it takes, including the season, heat of your kitchen, temperature of the base, and more.
I find the following mostly true:
Ice cream w/egg yolk custard – will churn up fine and is hard to overchurn. Usually takes between 20-30 minutes, depending on the machine.
Ice cream w/melted chocolate – with or without a custard, also churns beautifully. 20-30+ minutes.
Ice cream, Philadelphia style – 15-25 minutes, depending on the machine.
Sorbet w/citrus base – tends to be icey, better to underchurn. 15-20 minutes.
Sorbet w/puree base – churns up much better, but also can overchurn. 15-25 minutes.
Egg white base – churns up very nicely, only 15-20 minutes, usually (or just in a bowl…).
Of course, if your machine has an auto-shut off if the motor is taxed, you have a whole other host of issues.