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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...

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!