To obtain smaller ice crystals using home equipment, you need a colder base for starters.
The usual approach is to chill the custard to 40 degrees before churning, but we froze a portion of it and then stirred it into the refrigerated portion, to bring the base down to 30 degrees.
Once in the ice cream maker, this base more quickly reached soft-serve consistency (about 21 degrees, the temperature at which roughly 50 percent of the water has frozen).
An added bonus of this shortened churning time was that less air was beaten into the mix, making for a denser, more velvety texture. Then, instead of freezing the churned ice cream in a tall container, we spread it into a thin layer in a chilled square metal baking pan.
After just an hour, the ice cream was ready to be transferred to an airtight storage container.