Adventures in Sugar Free Ice Cream Part 1

I get asked loads of questions on the blog about sugar free ice cream. And the truth is I've never tried to make it before, because I've never been very interested in eating it!

As long as you eat sensible amounts, there's nothing wrong with ice cream that contains sugar, as far as I can see.

But I am trying to reduce the amount of sugar I eat across my diet in general, and I've become slightly intrigued by these reduced and sugar free ice creams I keep reading about on the web!

Halo Top. Rebel Ice Cream. Enlightened. And loads more. Lots of extravagant flavors. And lots of people raving about how great they are.

Now I've never tried any of these. As far as I know, we can't get them in Europe. So I thought I'd have a go at making them myself.

How hard could it be? Well...

It's always going to be easier to make reduced sugar ice cream than sugar free ice cream, so I started there.

Halo Top Vanilla does contain some sugar. So I tried to reverse engineer it using the ingredients label.

Here's my first recipe attempt. I had to deviate from the Halo Top ingredients slightly as I didn't have some of them in the house...

  • 550g Milk
  • 50g Cream
  • 45g Skimmed Milk Powder
  • 10g Granulated Sugar
  • 40g Erythritol
  • 40g Inulin
  • 0.2g Stevia
  • 2g Stabilizers

I didn't have any "milk protein concentrate" so I used Skimmed Milk Powder which is obviously over 50% sugar (lactose) itself!

Inulin is used as a replacement for "prebiotic fiber", which to be fair may be Inulin in Halo Tops' recipe since it is actually a prebiotic fiber!

And I didn't use any "vegetable glycerin" as I thought it was probably being used to keep the ice cream soft and my calculations indicated I didn't need it in my recipe.

Anyway, it was a complete disaster (see the image at the top of the page). The mixture separated in the fridge before it was spun in the machine. Even worse, it also separated when the ice cream melted.

It had a horrible green tinge, caused by the organic Stevia I was using. And it also tasted really bad. It was icy, thin, watery. Complete rubbish!

The only good thing about it was that it didn't turn into a block of ice when it froze. In fact, it was actually pretty scoopable straight out of the freezer. 

One of the mistakes I made was trying to keep the fat levels down as well as reducing the sugar. This was exacerbated by accidently using Skimmed Milk instead of Full Fat Milk! I'm not even sure why we had Skimmed Milk in the house to be honest, but there you go.

So for my second attempt, I decided to abandon any attempt to keep the fat levels down to the extent that Halo Top do...

  • 400g Milk
  • 200g Cream
  • 45g Skimmed Milk Powder
  • 10g Granulated Sugar
  • 45g Erythritol
  • 40g Inulin
  • 0.2g Stevia
  • 2g Stabilizers
  • 2 Egg Yolks (34g)

What I basically did was significantly increase the butterfat content by using more cream, and add two egg yolks to help with stabilization, emulsification and give the ice cream a richer flavor.

The final ice cream was OK. There was no separation. The texture was good, it didn't turn into an icy block in the freezer and it was sweet enough.

The problem was that the sweetness wasn't particularly nice! There's a flavor that reminds me of candy floss (cotton candy), that I've detected in normal ice cream when I've overheated the Skimmed Milk Powder. And I could taste it strongly in this ice cream.

Except in this version I added the Skimmed Milk Powder once the mixture had cooled down a bit (after also noticing the flavor in the first recipe). 

Further investigation (tasting all the ingredients separately) revealed that that's exactly what Inulin tastes like! I don't know if it's just this brand or all Inulin. And it's not unpleasant in itself. I just don't want to taste it in my ice cream.

So the next step is to get rid of that flavor. And I'll also need to replace the Skimmed Milk Powder with Milk Protein Powder, since there's still over 32g of sugar in this recipe.

All in Part 2 of my Adventures in Sugar Free Ice Cream...

Mint Choc Chip Ice Cream

Sometimes the oldies are the best! I've got to admit I didn't much fancy making mint choc chip ice cream.

I don't know if it's bad experiences making other mint ice creams, the fact I'm always more keen on making flavours that I haven't tied before, or just that I'd forgotten how good it can taste.

But, anyway, it was the kids that pestered me into it. And I'm glad they did because it was a real winner. Everyone loved it. Which is not always the case with my experiments!

The secret is obviously getting the mint right. Spearmint which is usually the only mint we can find in supermarkets (at least where I live) is just not good enough. It's best suited to savoury dishes and when I've used it in ice cream before it's never gone down well, with the kids at least.

What we need is Peppermint. Luckily I've been growing two types of Peppermint on the terrace. Regular and Chocolate Peppermint.

Either would work well in this recipe, but this time I used the Chocolate variety. If you can't get fresh Peppermint then I think a Peppermint oil would be fine too. Just add a few drops to taste.

As for the chocolate, I used a 70% Cocoa Lindt Dark. And I probably used a bit too much to be honest. It just didn't look that much when it was melted, so I kept adding a bit more!

In the end I think I added 75 g but it would probably be fine with 50 g.  

The great thing about drizzling the chocolate in at the end of the churning (like the Italians do with Stracciatella) is that it gets broken up into such small flakes that it doesn't really get chalky as it would it bigger chips.

It's also a lot of fun, watching the melted chocolate solidify as it hits the cold ice cream!

Mint Choc Chip Ice Cream

A deliciously fresh old favourite
Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 20 mins
Resting Time 3 hrs
Total Time 3 hrs 50 mins
Servings 6

Ingredients
  

  • 300 grams Milk 3.5 - 4% fat, chilled
  • 200 grams Whipping / Heavy Cream 32 - 40% fat, chilled
  • 50 grams Granulated Sugar
  • 60 grams Condensed Milk
  • 40 grams Skimmed Milk Powder
  • 1.5 grams Ice Cream Stabilizer I used Locus Bean Gum
  • 5 grams Chocolate Peppermint Leaves
  • 75 grams Dark Chocolate I used 70% Coca

Instructions
 

  • Thoroughly mix the Stabilizer, the Granulated Sugar and Skimmed Milk Powder together in a bowl. Then add these dry ingredients to the Milk, Cream and Condensed Milk in a saucepan.
  • Place the saucepan over a medium heat, and stirring all the time, bring the mixture to the temperature at which the Stabilizer activates. For Locust Bean Gum that's 80°C (176°F).
  • Take the saucepan off the heat, add the Mint Leaves and give them a good mix. Leave to cool.
  • Once the mixture has cooled to room temperature, pour it into a container with a lid and place it in the fridge.
  • You'll need to leave the mixture in the fridge until the Mint Leaves adequately flavours the mixture. For me this took somewhere between 2 and 3 hours. Keep tasting it until you get the flavour you want.
  • Meanwhile, melt the chocolate in a bowl placed in a pan of gently heated water.
  • Churn the ice cream in your ice cream maker until it has the consistency of whipped cream. This will usually take between 15 and 30 minutes.
  • When it looks ready, dribble the melted chocolate onto the ice cream as it continues to churn in the machine. The spinning dasher will break the chocolate up and mix it into the ice cream.
  • Once all the chocolate is well mixed into the ice cream, you can transfer the ice cream from the machine to a plastic freezer box and freeze for at least an hour.
  • After an hour or two it should firmer but still easy to scoop. If you leave it longer and it's too hard to scoop, leave it in the fridge for a while to soften slightly

Making Ice Cream in Two Coffee Cans

Yes, it's true! If you're really desperate (you don't have a decent ice cream maker), you can make passable ice cream, just using a couple of old coffee cans, ice and some salt!

Exactly what you'll need:

  • Large empty coffee can
  • Smaller empty coffee can (that will fit in the larger can with space to spare)
  • Ice
  • 2 cups of salt
  • Duct tape

Exactly what to do:

  1. Mix all the ingredients for the ice cream into the smaller coffee can
  2. Put the lid on the smaller can and seal with duct tape
  3. Put the smaller can inside the larger coffee can
  4. Pack the space around the smaller can with ice
  5. Pour 1 cup of salt over the ice
  6. Put the lid on the larger can and seal with duct tape
  7. Roll the large can back and forth on its side for 15 minutes
  8. Open the large can, dump the ice and salt
  9. Open the small can, scrape the mixture from the sides into the middle
  10. Add any extras (nuts, dried fruit, candies, cookie crumbs etc) 
  11. Reseal the small can, repack with ice and the second cup of salt
  12. Reseal the large can, roll back and forth for another 10 minutes
  13. Open the large can, dump the salt and ice
  14. Open the small can and tuck into the ice cream (it's best straight of of the can)!

Here's three quick recipes that work really well in coffee cans:

Vanilla Ice Cream

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup light cream
  • 1 beaten egg (you could use powdered if you're really desperate)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

Chocolate Ice Cream

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup light cream
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 4 tablespoons cocoa
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/8 tsp. salt

Coffee Ice Cream (of course!)

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup light cream
  • 2 tablespoons instant coffee granules
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/8 tsp. salt

These are basic recipes for a pretty basic way of making ice cream. However, this is the way ice cream was made for centuries, and you can still buy ice cream makers that use salt and ice today (and they do a very good job).

However, if you're looking for a tidier and more efficient way to make ice cream at home, there's a lot more choice these days and you really don't need to spend a lot of money.

Check out my guide to the best ice cream makers for more information!

The Most Popular Ice Cream Flavors

A list of the most popular ice cream flavors will depend on who's doing the questioning and who's doing the answering!

Is it a list based on the best selling ice cream flavors or on which flavors people say is their favourite? Because compromises are often made when buying ice cream that everyone likes.

And sometimes people even claim to like things that they don't, or not really!

The International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) produce a yearly list of the best selling ice cream flavors in America.

Here's the one for 2019. It's full of traditional favourites and pretty predictable I suppose...

  1. Vanilla
  2. Chocolate
  3. Cookies N' Cream
  4. Mint Chocolate Chip
  5. Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough
  6. Buttered Pecan
  7. Cookie Dough
  8. Strawberry
  9. Moose Tracks
  10. Neapolitan

I can't imagine this list changes very much from year to year to be honest. I read somewhere that vanilla ice cream is slipping in popularity.

But it's so versatile, complimenting so many different dishes, it's hard to imagine it will ever be knocked off the top spot.

YouGov conducted a survey this year (2020) where they asked 20,000 American which was their favourite flavor. And the results were very similar to the IDFA.

Which is perhaps hardly surprising really...

  1. Chocolate
  2. Vanilla
  3. Strawberry
  4. Mint Chocolate Chip
  5. Butter Pecan
  6. Other
  7. Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough
  8. Cookies N' Cream
  9. Rocky Road
  10. Coffee
  11. Chocolate Chip
  12. Pistachio
  13. Neapolitan
  14. Birthday Cake / Cake Batter

Although maybe the slight difference at the top of the lists backs my original point. Vanilla is the top selling flavor not because it's the favourite of more people but because it's a flexible compromise.

The real favourite of the American public is Chocolate!

What's more interesting is the differences in flavor preferences according to region, gender politics, age and income levels!

If you're from the North East, you skew strongly towards Chocolate. Southerners are more likely to love Butter Pecan.

Women also seem to be much keener on Butter Pecan than men. While they're also less keen on Vanilla than men.

In fact men are more likely to go for the traditional plainer flavors like Vanilla, Chocolate and Strawberry. Maybe Butter Pecan challenges their masculinity?

Republicans love Chocolate ice cream. They're also less keen on Coffee ice cream than the Democrats who seem more likely to go for less known flavors.

It's no surprise that old people tend to be more keen on the traditional flavors of Vanilla and Chocolate. And much less keen on Cookies N' Cream, which the kids love!

Butter Pecan skews massively popular with the oldies too!

Predictably, the traditional Vanilla is more popular with the rich. But strangely the traditional Chocolate is more popular with the poor.

And again Butter Pecan is much more popular with the poor.

So there you go. If you're a old, female, from the American South on a low income, there's one thing we can be sure of: you definitely love Butter Pecan ice cream in 2020.

Roasted Cherry Ice Cream

I had a full punnet of cherries and not too much time. So I searched around for a quick and easy cherry ice cream recipe.

I couldn't find one. In fact the most interesting recipe I saw specifically states "this recipe isn't quick or easy". However it also added "but it's incredible" so I thought I'd give it a go, cutting corners where I could.

In fact it turned out to be very easy and pretty quick too. And I didn't have to cut too many corners to get there!

The idea with this one is to intensify the flavor of the cherries, whilst also reducing unwanted water in the mixture by roasting them.

The cherries are roasted whole and then the pips are steeped in the cream to extract the maximum amount of that subtle almondy flavor you get in cherry stones.

The original recipe asks us to reduce the cherry mixture further by simmering it on the stove top. But that was the corner I decided to cut...

The pureed roasted cherries already looked intense enough to me, so I just measured out the required amount.

The other reason this recipe is decidedly easy is that there's only 3 ingredients. Just cherries cream and sugar!

Anyway the final ice cream was a big hit. Intensely cherry with a subtle but undoubtedly almondy back bone.

Roasted Cherry Ice Cream

Roasted Cherry Ice Cream

Intensely cherry ice cream with a subtle almond backbone
Prep Time 1 hr
Cook Time 20 mins
Total Time 3 hrs 20 mins
Servings 6

Ingredients
  

  • 790 grams Cherries
  • 73 grams Granulated sugar
  • 200 grams Whipping / Heavy cream
  • 1 pinch Salt
  • 1/2 tablespoon Lemon juice

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 450°F (230°C). Mix the cherries and the sugar in a deep pan. Roast for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. By the end, the cherries should be soft and wilted. Set them aside to cool.
  • Once the cherries are cool enough to handle, separate the stones from the flesh. The stones should pop out easily when you squeeze the cherries.
  • Add the cherry stones and the cream to a saucepan. Bring the cream to a simmer on the stove. Then remove from the heat, cover, and leave to cool down.
  • Blend the cherry flesh in a food processor. Depending on your food processor you may then need to strain the puree through a sieve to get rid of any bits.
  • Remove the cherry stones from the cream. Add 282g of the cherry puree to the cream. Then add the salt and the lemon juice. And give it another go in the food processor until well mixed and smooth.
  • Transfer the mixture to a vessel with a lid and refrigerate until around 42°F (6°C).
  • Add the mixture to your ice cream maker and churn it until it has the consistency of whipped cream. This usually takes between 15 and 30 minutes. Transfer to a plastic freezer box and freeze for at least an hour.
  • After an hour it should just be firm enough to serve without it melting too quickly. If you leave it longer and it's too hard to scoop, leave it in the fridge for a while to soften slightly.

Roasted Strawberry and Kefir Ice Cream

We're coming to the end of strawberry season over here. But you can still get huge boxes in the shops for the equivalent of pennies.

And they still taste great. The darker the berries, the sweeter the juice.

I have some Kefir in the fridge and had heard you can use it interchangeably with buttermilk in recipes. 

So I'd thought I'd try the Roasted Strawberry and Buttermilk recipe from Jenis Splendid Ice Cream at Home.

Jenis book is great and I love her ice creams but her standard base involves a lot of faffing around with corn starch and cream cheese that sometimes I can't be bothered with.

The corn starch and cream cheese are presumably a home cook friendly way of getting some stabilization and extra milk solids in the ice cream.

But you can achieve better results, more easily (which is important, as I'm quite lazy) with a proper ice cream stabilizer blend and skimmed milk powder.

So I used those instead.

The result was much less intense than the Strawberry Ice Cream with Balsamic Vinegar I made a couple of weeks ago.

This is a much subtler, lighter ice cream with the Kefir bringing out a tart perfume in the strawberries.

Lovely...

Roasted Strawberry and Kefir Ice Cream

A bright, subtly tangy strawberry ice cream
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Total Time 1 hr 20 mins
Servings 6 servings

Ingredients
  

Ice Cream Base

  • 484 grams Milk 3.5 - 4% fat, chilled
  • 384 grams Whipping / Heavy cream 32 - 40% fat, chilled
  • 80 grams Kefir or Buttermilk
  • 100 grams Skimmed Milk Powder
  • 150 grams Granulated sugar
  • 1.5 tbsp Karo Light Corn Syrup
  • 6 grams Ice Cream Stabilizer

Roasted Strawberries

  • 340 grams Fresh strawberries
  • 70 grams Granulated sugar
  • 3 tbsp Lemon juice

Instructions
 

Roasted Strawberries

  • Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C). Wash and dry the strawberries. Cut out the green stalks and then cut them into thick slices. Mix them with the sugar and roast in a baking dish for around 8 minutes or until they're soft.
  • Let the strawberries cool slightly. Then puree in a food processor with the lemon juice. Measure out 2/3 of the mixture for the recipe. Keep the other 1/3 for something else!

Ice Cream

  • Mix all the dry ice cream ingredients (Skimmed Milk Powder, Granulated sugar, Ice Cream Stabilizer) together, thoroughly, in a bowl.
  • Then add all the wet ingredients (Milk, Cream, Corn Syrup) except the Kefir to the bowl and blend thoroughly with a stick blender. Alternatively, you can do this in a liquidizer.
  • Transfer the mixture to a saucepan and stirring continuously over a medium-low heat, bring it to the the temperature at which the stabilizer will hydrate. This varies from one stabilizer brand to another and will be written on the packet. It should never boil.
  • When the mixture reaches the correct temperature it will start to thicken. Take it off the heat. Cool in an ice bath.
  • Then add the strawberry puree and Kefir and blend again. Transfer the mixture to a bowl with a lid and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
  • Pour the mixture into your ice cream maker and churn until it has the consistency of whipped cream. Then transfer it to a plastic freezer box and freeze for around 1 hour.
  • After an hour it should be soft enough to serve directly from the freezer but firm enough to melt slowly. If you've left it in the freezer for longer and it's too hard to serve, simply leave it out until it's softened.
2

Chai Spice Ice Cream

This is a Frankenstein's Monster type of recipe, bolted together clumsily with bits from two other recipes. It turned out great though!

I wanted to try the light ice cream base from the underbelly blog. But I didn't want a plain old milk flavor.

The easiest way to add a bit a flavor to a recipe without having to re-balance the mixture is through infusion. And I'd been fancying a Chai Tea ice cream for a while. 

So I took the spices (unfortunately I didn't have any actual tea) from the Honey Chai Frozen Yogurt recipe in Dana Cree's "Hello, My name is Ice Cream" and mixed them into underbelly base...

And boom, I had a pretty successful Chai Spice Ice Cream.

There were a few other missing ingredients to be honest. All my individual stabilizers had gone off (!), so I used a generic, pre-mixed ice cream stabilizer. No problems there.

But I'd forgotten about the invert syrup and I didn't have time to make any so I substituted it for Karo Light Corn Syrup.

Structurally I think they're more or less the same but the Karo is much less sweet than invert sugar. And since the underbelly recipe isn't very sweet anyway, I was worried the Karo might tip it over into "flatness".

It was fine though. The spices are are gently warming. And the light base carries them well.

The kids obviously didn't like it. But that just meant there was more for me... 

Chai Spice Ice Cream

Chai Spice Ice Cream

A light ice cream subtly spiced with the flavors of India.
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Total Time 1 hr 20 mins
Servings 6 servings

Ingredients
  

Ice Cream Base

  • 480 grams Milk 3.5 - 4% fat, chilled
  • 240 grams Whipping / Heavy cream 32 - 40% fat, chilled
  • 85 grams Skimmed Milk Powder
  • 70 grams Granulated sugar
  • 30 grams Dextrose
  • 15 grams Karo Light Corn Syrup
  • 2 grams Ice Cream Stabilizer

Chai Spice Mix

  • 1 Cinnamon stick 3 inches long
  • 20 Black peppercorns
  • 5 Whole cloves
  • 20 Green cardamom pods cracked

Instructions
 

  • Mix all the dry ice cream ingredients (Skimmed Milk Powder, Granulated sugar, Dextrose, Ice Cream Stabilizer) together thoroughly in a bowl.
  • Then add the wet ingredients (Milk, Cream, Corn Syrup) to the bowl and blend thoroughly with a stick blender. Alternatively, you can do this in a liquidizer.
  • Transfer the mixture to a saucepan, add the chai spices, and stirring continuously over a medium-low heat, bring it to the the temperature at which the stabilizer will hydrate.
  • This temperature varies from stabilizer to stabilizer and will be written on the packet. It should never boil!
  • When the mixture reaches the correct temperature it will start to thicken. Take it off the heat. Cool in an ice bath. And then refrigerate in a bowl with a lid for as long as you can stand.
  • If you leave it overnight in the fridge it will benefit the texture and flavor of the ice cream, giving the spices more time to infuse. But certainly wait until it's down to fridge temperature!
  • Strain the mixture through sieve to remove the spices. Pour the mixture into your ice cream maker
  • Churn until it has the consistency of whipped cream. Then transfer it to a plastic freezer box and freeze for around 1 hour.
  • After an hour it should be soft enough to serve directly from the freezer but firm enough to melt slowly. If you've left it in the freezer for longer and it's too hard to serve, simply leave it out until it's softened.
2

Strawberry Ice Cream with Balsamic Vinegar

Believe me, this tastes a lot better than it looks in my awful photo. My photography skills are still very much lacking. All I can say is: I'm working on it!

So please give this one a go. It's really easy and it's really tasty too. Just 4 ingredients. One of which is balsamic vinegar.

In these sophisticated, globe trotting times this probably doesn't seem as strange as it might once have done. Restaurants seem to be dribbling balsamic over all sorts of desserts these days.

The original recipe is of course Italian. Gelato Di Fragole All'Aceto Balsamico originates in a book called Entertaining all'Italiana  with Anna del Conte.

But I found it in my old favorite Ices: The Definitive Guide by Liddell and Weir

Be careful with the balsamic though. It's really intense. At least mine is. And if you add too much it can be overpowering.

So I would recommend starting with a teaspoon and then increasing the dose as you taste the mixture, working up to a tablespoon, max.

Strawberry and balsamic vinegar ice cream

Strawberry Ice Cream with Balsamic Vinegar

A delicate strawberry ice cream cut with a rich, dark balsamic tang.
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Total Time 1 hr 20 mins
Servings 6 servings

Ingredients
  

  • 450 grams Fresh strawberries
  • 150 ml Whipping / Heavy cream 32 - 40% fat, chilled
  • 150 grams Granulated sugar
  • 1 tbsp Balsamic vinegar

Instructions
 

  • Wash, dry and remove the green stalks from the strawberries. Then blend them in a food processor with the sugar.
  • As the food processor is running, pour in the balsamic vinegar. Be careful not to add too much. The recipe calls for 1 Tbsp. You may want to add a little at a time and taste it though.
  • Once you have a smooth puree transfer the mixture to a bowl with a lid and refrigerate for 2 - 3 hours. During this time the sugar and the vinegar should intensify the flavor of the strawberries.
  • Combine the cream with the puree and pour the mixture into your ice cream maker
  • Churn until the mixture has the consistency of whipped cream. Then transfer it to a plastic freezer box and freeze for around 1 hour.
  • After an hour it should be soft enough to serve directly from the freezer but firm enough to melt slowly. If you've left it in the freezer for longer and it's too hard to serve, simply leave it out until it's softened.

Mint and Lemon Balm Ice Cream

We're in lock down in Barcelona. And there's no herbs growing on my terrace. In fact there's nothing growing on my terrace at the moment!

Luckily the boys in the flat above us threw down a bunch of mixed herbs from their terrace, mostly mint and lemon balm (which they recommended we make into soothing teas).

The weather's hotting up now though, so instead I knocked up a quick ice cream based on a recipe in the excellent Ices: The Definitive Guide by Liddell and Weir.

It uses a light French vanilla custard base, infused with the grassy flavors of the herbs using a vigorous muddle and a bit of a steep.

The end result was slightly chewy ice cream with a lovely, herby fresh mint flavor that's lifted by the citrusy lemon balm.

Perfect for eating on our plantless terrace, as we enjoy the last of the days sun and dream about when the garden centers will open again...

Mint and Lemon Balm Ice Cream

Mint and Lemon Balm Ice Cream

A fresh, relatively light ice cream infused with the clean, grassy flavors of mint and lemon balm. Perfect for sitting in the late sun.
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Total Time 1 hr 20 mins
Servings 6 servings

Ingredients
  

  • 300 ml Milk 3.5 - 4% fat, chilled
  • 250 ml Whipping / Heavy cream 32 - 40% fat, chilled
  • 3 whole Egg yolks beaten
  • 100 grams Granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon Vanilla extract
  • 4 10 cm Sprigs mint / lemon balm
  • 1 gram Locust Bean Gum optional

Instructions
 

  • Mix the milk, beaten eggs,vanilla extract, sugar (and optional locust bean gum) together. If you are using locust bean gum, it's a good idea to mix it into the sugar before you add it to the wet ingredients to avoid clumping.
  • Add the mixture to a saucepan and heat gently, stirring vigorously all the time until it starts to thicken. This will take 8 - 10 minutes. Do not overheat or the mixture will curdle...
  • If you have a kitchen thermometer heat to 85°C / 185°F. If you don't have a thermometer heat until the mixture coats the back of a spoon and holds a line drawn through it with your finger.
  • As soon as the mixture hits 85°C / 185°F, remove it from the heat, and continue to stir while you submerge the bottom of the pan in cold water. This will prevent any residual heat from curdling the custard.
  • Rip up the springs of mint and lemon balm and add them to the cooling custard. Give them a good muddle.
  • Let the mixture cool to room temperature and then transfer it to the fridge. Leave for a least an hour, preferably two. Even better overnight. Taste the mixture to make sure you're happy.
  • Stir in the cream and then pour the mixture into your ice cream machine through a sieve, pressing the mint and lemon balm to make sure you get all the flavor out.
  • Churn the mixture until it starts to come away from the sides of the bowl and looks like whipped cream.
  • You can eat it directly from the machine (but it will melt quickly). Or transfer it to a plastic freezer container, cover with cling film or grease-proof paper (to prevent ice crystals forming on the surface) and then a lid and leave for a least a couple of hours.
  • Remove from the freezer and if it's frozen solid, let it soften for 15 or 20 minutes before serving.

Notes

The Locust Bean Gum is entirely optional. It will improve the texture slightly. But the eggs will do a reasonable job on their own.
15

The Perfect No-Cook Vanilla Ice Cream Base

I love ice cream. But I'm also very lazy. So obviously, a no-cook ice cream base will always be the holy grail for me!

With a no-cook ice cream, you just mix all the cold ingredients together and then pop the mixture straight into your ice cream maker. Easy. And you win so many times...

  • less time and effort preparing the recipe
  • less time and effort spent washing up
  • no time at all wasted waiting for the mixture to cool down!

So, you work less and get to eat ice cream sooner. What's not to love? Well, the problem is that most no-cook ice creams are horrible.

The most common recipe you'll find on the web is a Philadelphia base that goes something like this:

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup milk
  • ¾ cup sugar

Bleugghh. Too fatty and sweet for me. And it gets really icy, really quickly in the freezer.

Most no-cook ice creams are too fatty and too sweet

And this is the problem with most no-cook ice creams. In order to work without cooking, they're often loaded up with fat and sugar. And because they don't use eggs or anything else to stabilize the ice cream, they quickly deteriorate in the freezer.

There's loads of ways round this using fancy sugars and stabilizers. But most people don't have easy access to these ingredients.

What I'm looking for...

I wanted to make a no-cook ice cream that didn't compromise either taste or texture and could be made with ingredients that are easy to find in most supermarkets. So it should:

  1. taste great (of clean dairy cream rather than of over sweetened fat)
  2. not become icy straight away in the freezer
  3. be made from easily available ingredients.

Not easy, it's true. Almost every recipe on the internet (and to be honest, there aren't many that don't use the aforementioned Philadelphia base), uses far more cream than milk and I know that means they're going to be too fatty for me.

However I did find a different Philadelphia base recipe in the book Ices: The Definitive Guide by Liddell and Weir which actually uses more milk than cream:

  • 1.5 cups of milk
  • 1 cup of cream
  • ¼ cup of sugar
  • ½ cup of sweetened condensed milk

So I tried this and it was pretty good. Clean and milky with a nice firm body. The condensed milk gave the ice cream a slightly chewy texture and a very subtle cooked flavor that was in fact, quite nice.

Condensed Milk

The liquid sugar in the condensed milk no doubt helped control the ice crystals. However it was still a little bit icy. And it did get more icy, quite quickly in the freezer. And in the end, I decided the condensed milk gave the ice cream slightly too much chew. It was a bit toffee like.

Condensed milk

My condensed milk is 8% fat 55% sugar and 7% proteins 

But this recipe was good starting point. All I had to do was reduce the condensed milk and control the iciness. The thing is, removing some of the condensed milk was actually likely to increase the iciness. I had to replace it with something else.

Skimmed Milk Powder

Enter skimmed milk powder (SMP). It's easily available in the supermarket, it will replace the milk solids from the condensed milk and by soaking up the water in the milk, it should also help control the iciness.

Skimmed milk powder

SMP will add body and control iciness

But by replacing some of the condensed milk with SMP, we're also reducing the sugar level. On one hand, this is great as it allows us to taste more of the dairy flavors. But on the other hand, less sugar means the ice cream will freeze much harder in the freezer.

We could add a tablespoon of vodka to help keep the ice cream softer in our freezers. But I just leave it out a good five minutes before I serve it, to soften up. And this works fine!

Extra Stabilization?

Any ice crystals that melt while left out, will re-freeze as bigger crystals back in the freezer. I wanted to control this by adding extra stabilization. And with luck, this should also improve the general smoothness and creaminess of the ice cream. But what to use?

Eggs are what we'd usually use. And while there are recipes that use raw eggs in un-cooked ice cream, I didn't think it would appeal to many people! The thing is, most other stabilizers require heating to trigger them. For example, cornstarch, tapioca starch, locust bean gum all need to be heated or they won't work.

Xanthan Gum

The only ones I can think of that don't are Guar Gum and Xanthan Gum. While Guar Gum can still be pretty difficult to get hold of, Xanthan Gum is often used by vegans as an egg replacement in baking. So it should be in the health section of most big supermarkets. Or if not, your local health food shop.

Xanthan gum

Xanthan gum works at cold temperatures

With Xanthan Gum a little goes a long way. We don't need much and in fact, if you do use too much it can give the ice cream a slightly slimy texture. So be careful! Your measurement need to be exact.

You don't have to use any Xanthan Gum, but it will definitely make this ice cream better. It will be smoother coming out of the ice cream maker and will take longer to go icy once it's stored in your freezer.

Vanilla

I actually prefer this base without any vanilla. But if you want that flavor don't add too much or it will overpower those dairy flavors. And always use either vanilla beans or proper vanilla extract. The vanilla essence stuff is artificial and nasty! 

Anyway, the recipe...

Perfect no-cook ice cream base

The Perfect No-Cook Ice Cream Base

This is the perfect no-cook vanilla ice cream for the lazy ice creamer! Just mix everything together and add to your ice cream maker. More milk than cream gives it a nice clean taste. The skimmed milk powder, sweetened condensed milk and Xanthan Gum give it a smooth texture, a firm, slightly chewy body and a creamy mouth-feel. Just like all the best ice cream, but with none of the faff!
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 30 mins
Total Time 35 mins
Servings 8 servings

Ingredients
  

  • 375 ml Milk 3.5 - 4% fat, chilled
  • 250 ml Whipping/heavy cream 32 - 40% fat, chilled
  • 100 ml Sweetened condensed milk chilled
  • 25 grams Skimmed Milk Powder
  • 50 grams Sugar
  • 2.5 grams Xanthan gum (½ teaspoon)
  • ¼ teaspoon Salt
  • ¼ teaspoon Vanilla extract (optional) or 1 Vanilla bean

Instructions
 

  • Add the skimmed milk powder, sugar, xanthan gum and salt to a bowl and mix thoroughly. If the xanthan gum is not completely mixed into the sugar before we add the liquids, it won't work properly.
  • Add the milk, cream and sweetened condensed milk to the bowl. They should all have been thoroughly pre-chilled in the fridge.
  • If you're using a vanilla bean, cut it open and scrape the beans into the mixture. If you're using vanilla extract, just mix it in.
  • Blend the mixture for 1 minute. It should start to thicken up to reach the consistency of a thin custard.
  • Place the mixture in your fridge or freezer. This is an optional step. But the colder you can get it before you put in the ice cream maker, the better the final texture.
  • Place the container that you're going to store the ice cream in in the freezer to pre-chill. This will reduce melting while you're transferring the ice cream to the freezer.
  • Prepare your ice cream maker. If you're using a compressor machine, turn it on for 15 minutes to pre-chill before you add the mixture.
  • If you've left the mixture in the freezer for too long and it's started to freeze slightly, give it another quick blend.
  • Add the mixture to the ice cream maker and turn it on. The ice cream will be ready after 20 to 30 minutes, when it starts to come away from the sides of the bowl and has the consistency of soft serve or whipped cream.
    Knox Gear ice cream after 30 minutes
  • Stop the machine and quickly transfer the ice cream to your pre-cooled container. Place a layer of cling film or baking paper over the surface of the ice cream, to discourage ice crystals developing. Then add the lid and place the container in the back of your freezer for 2 to 4 hours to harden up.
  • Remove the ice cream from the freezer and allow to soften for 5 minutes before serving.
    Softened ice cream