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Jul 29, 2006 10:58 PM

ice cream didn't freeze

I tried to make some honey ice cream. The recipe is pretty standard and goes like this: make a custard with whole milk, honey, and egg yolks; stir in heavy cream; refrigerate until cold; freeze in ice cream maker.

Here's the problem: my ice cream never really froze. It got somewhat thicker, but then it just stopped (definitely still too liquidy to serve). I ended up putting it on a tray until it became more firm, then I scraped it all into a container. It tastes pretty good (very much like honey), and the texture is ok (no ice crystals), but it still is very soft. Much softer than any of the other ice cream in my freezer.

My question to any ice cream experts out there: is this lack of freezing due to a technique issue or due to the honey? I'm wondering if I didn't cook my custard enough (I was going by past experience of using the cook until the custard coats the back of a spoon method), would that make it not freeze properly? If that is the case, is it possible to overcook the custard? Any other ideas on what went wrong?


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  1. Do you swear on a stack of cookbooks that your ice cream maker canister was fully and completely frozen? I ask because whenever I've had the same problem it's because I got impatient and ignored the slight sloshy sound I heard coming from the not-totally-frozen canister.

    Hope you get some good advice!

    1 Reply
    1. My guess, too much honey. Was the recipe specifically for honey ice cream, or did you just substitute honey for the sugar? Honey has about twice as much "sugar" per volume as granulated sugar, so for ice cream you would use one cup of honey if the recipe calls for two cups of sugar.

      1. Hmmm. Ok. The recipe was specifically for honey ice cream, but I can try reducing the amount of honey next time and see if that solves the problem. Thanks!

        1. If you could give us the recipe, we might be able to help with the problem. I don't think overcooking the custard is the problem. If you did, you would get a curdled mixture with some egg yolk scrambled. And even then, your ice cream still should of froze.

          3 Replies
          1. re: PBSF

            Right. Should have posted the recipe in the first place. The recipe is from Local Flavors by Deborah Madison.

            1.5 cups whole milk
            2/3 cup honey, your favorite
            4 egg yolks
            pinch sea salt
            1 cup cream

            Heat the milk w/ the honey until nearly boiling, then turn off the heat. Stir to make sure the honey has dissolved.
            Beat the egg yolks with the sea salt vigorously for 30 seconds, then slowly whisk in the hot milk and honey.
            Cook the eggs and milk over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. As soon as it has thickened, pour the custard through the strainer.
            Stir in the cream and refrigerate until cold.
            Freeze according to the intructions of your ice cream maker.

            1. re: grubn

              Your recipe is standard, similar to one that I've used. Honey ice cream doesn't freeze as hard as vanilla but you still should get a thick firm mixture if you churned it long enough. This a mystery. Hope others can help

              1. re: grubn

                Yeah, my basic recipe is 2c. cream, 1c. milk, 7 yolks, 1c. sugar, so if honey is functionally about twice as sweet, Deborah's recipe has 1-1/3c. sugar to only 2-1/2c. liquid, a much higher proportion (ignoring egg yolks and milkfat for the moment). Try it with a shy half cup honey. Good luck.

            2. From the National Honey Board:


              "Research on honey ice cream and frozen desserts and honey has shown the following:
              • The initial freezing point was 27.1 °F for control (cane or beet sugar) ice cream, and 25.8 °F for honey sweetened ice cream (only 1.3 °F difference).
              • After 60 days of storage at 10 °F there were no differences between products.
              • The honey ice cream was similar to a product containing 5% fructose as a carbohydrate, among other sweeteners present."

              Bottom line, that unless you freeze it for a long time, honey sweetened ice cream will be slightly softer than sugar based ice cream.

              The other major player in the honey scenario is Mother Nature. Honeys vary widely in composition from region to region, crop to crop. Each type of honey has a different proportion of sugars. This indefinite ratio can alter the chemistry of ice cream. Although the same type of honey varies from season to season and prevents completely consistent results, for the sake of partial consistency, a honey ice cream should always list the type of honey used.

              Because of the freezing time factor, I'd make honey ice cream well in advance. If freezing it in advance gives you insufficiently firm ice cream, I'd play around with a honey/sugar combo, using a very dark full flavored honey.

              3 Replies
              1. re: scott123

                60 days of storage!!!!! Ooh, even in my biggest will power fantasies, I don't think I could wait 60 days to eat my ice cream :D. Can you please explain to me how the color of the honey affects the chemistry of freezing? How would dark honey be different? Or is that thinking that dark honey would have more "honey flavor" so I could use less and thus get a firmer ice cream?

                1. re: grubn

                  Yes, dark honey = more honey flavor. If, say, the dark honey you use has twice the intensity of flavor as light honey, you can use half and make up for the missing sweetness with sugar.

                  Dark honeys have sightly different flavor compounds than light, so the taste will vary. It might be nice though, and, more importantly, it'll freeze firmer. Not as hard as regular ice cream but not as soft as 100% honey ice cream either.

                  Another idea that just came to me is to adjust the thermostat on your freezer a little lower a day before serving the ice cream to company.

                  1. re: scott123

                    Thanks for the explanation! I will look for some dark honey and reduce the amount. I will report back on my progress!