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Aug 26, 2006 05:49 PM

Making ice cream.....proportion of eggs, heavy cream, and milk


I've now been enjoying my ice cream maker for a few weeks. I've tried the no-boil Ben & Jerry's method which was nice, quick, and easy. I've also tried the custard boil method inthe William and Sonoma's book. (1 1/2 cups of heavy cream and 1 1/2 cups of whole milk)

I think the no-boil method was much lighter yet the custard method seemed more creamier. I found the custard method a bit heavy though and would prefer a lighter yet creamy ice cream.

My question is if anybody can suggest a good standard ratio of the cream/milk/eggs or perhaps give some tips for me to continue experimenting.
Is it necessary to add the eggs? What do the eggs do for the ice cream?

Many Thanks,


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  1. Eggs act as an emulsifier, thus reducing the ice crystals. Or at least making them smaller and less noticeable. Hence, as you noticed, smoother.

    They are certainly not necessary. Actually, it is egg yolks only, I think you will find. Anyway, to point out the non-necessity, egg yolk is the difference between Vanilla and French Vanilla (FV has eggs).

    Personally, I don't use eggs because I hate having to come up with a use for egg whites, or tossing them. At the same time, I don't exactly follow a recipe...while 50-50 cream/milk is traditional, I stock 2% (never whole), sometimes have half-half, not enough cream, etc. And heavy creams can vary a few percent in fat. So your answer is 1:1, but with sugar and fat it is never going to be awful. And if you creaminess of the custard, you can lighten it by using more milk/less cream.

    Lastly, gelato does require egg yolks.

    6 Replies
    1. re: SteveT

      actually, I've used a combo of whole eggs to egg yolks. I haven't done it enough to notate the difference - but some recipes do call for whole eggs. I'm guessing (totally guessing here) that the egg white might lend some stability? total shot in the dark there.

      Chris Kimball (Cooks Illustrated editor) in a book a decade or so ago made his base ice cream recipe 2 egg yolks, 2 whole eggs.

      Anyhow, as for those discarded whites... you can freeze them if you want, for when you make angel food cake. But, if you are like me, once you have a few dozen whites frozen, you just have to throw them away... no harm done!

      1. re: adamclyde

        Eeek! Don't throw those whites away. Make dacquoise. That's what I'm about to do today. It's to be the base for a marjolaine cake for my husband's birthday next week. You can also just form cookies from the meringue/nut mixture. They're delicious. Or make macarons. I hate to throw food out.

        1. re: cheryl_h

          Me too... hmm, dacquoise. I'll have to look into that--thanks for the suggestion.

          1. re: rootlesscosmo

            Do try it. It's just a fancy name for meringue made with ground nuts in place of some of the sugar. It's dead easy and always impresses guests. My cake will have a filling of ganache flavored with coffee alternating with chocolate, and covered with chocolate ganache. That's because DH loves coffee and chocolate. An easier version is just two layers of dacquoise with a filling of whipped cream and raspberries.

          2. re: cheryl_h

            I know... I shouldn't however, at one point, I had something like 30 plus egg whites in my freezer. So, really, I've always got plenty on hand (and I'm not a huge meringue fan). Though, I do every once in a while get a hankering for pavlova...

            1. re: adamclyde

              As pastry chef-ing is not the most lucrative profession, my retirement plan is to save all my egg whites for the next 30 years, then move to the driest spot on earth (or maybe just Arizona) and build my mansion out of meringue bricks, adobe-style. Sure, I'll have to rebuild after every rain, but a girl's gotta stay active, right?

      2. I haven't found a standard set of ratios which fit all ice creams. There seems to be a fuzzy line from sorbets (usually no milk or cream) to gelati (milk and eggs, usually no cream) to ice cream (milk, cream, sometimes eggs). I've found that I like less cream than milk, sometimes egg yolks or whole eggs depending on the flavor. For fruit flavors, I prefer less fat so I tend to make a gelato-type recipe. I often use a small amount of stabilizer (guar gum, xanthan gum) to keep ice crystallization down. For chocolate, coffee, mint flavors I increase the amount of fat. I think you need to experiment to find what suits you.

        1 Reply
        1. re: cheryl_h

          yeah, I agree - I really don't have a standard, as I adjust it based on the flavor I'm using. Some fruit ones, I use just a little, some fruit ice creams, I like it to be more rich.

          Just think of it this way, the more egg, the more rich the ice cream is. So if you want a richer ice cream, you can boost the eggs. Like Cheryl, I go with a richer base when I do things like chocolate, which I think really benefits from a richer base.

          Now, for the milk-cream ratio, I use basically the same ratio for all my ice creams. It's what I, personally like best as a balance between creaminess and richness, without that filmy mouth-coating fatness.

          Anyhow, as I look at ice cream, this is basically my standard base, to which I will add a couple yolks or subtract a couple depending on my mood:

          four egg yolks
          2 cups heavy cream
          1 cup milk
          3/4 cup sugar
          pinch of salt.

        2. I make a Crême Anglaise using 4 egg yolks--yeah, I toss the whites--with 1 cup whole milk and 1/3 cup sugar. Heat the milk and sugar, stir to dissolve, drizzle into the beaten yolks, return to the pan over medium heat, stir constantly until it reaches 165-170° ("coats the spoon" point.) Then immediately pour this into a bowl that already has 1 3/4 cups of heavy (whipping) cream in it; this stops the custard cooking and cools everything down. Chill overnight and use as the basis for fruit ice creams with about two parts custard base to 1 part fruit puree. (I don't add vanilla--I find it gets in the way of the fruit flavor.)

          This is lifted from Alice Waters' Fruit cookbook recipe for raspberry ice cream.

          1. Here's my recipe for vanilla, makes 2 quarts of base (about 3 qt after spinning, depending on your machine). This is definitely on the richer end of the spectrum.

            4 c. cream
            2-1/2 c. whole milk
            2 vanilla beans, split and scraped
            13 egg yolks
            13 oz. sugar (about 2 c. minus 2 or 3 TB)
            1/2 tsp. kosher salt

            Heat milk, cream, beans & scrapings to a simmer. Whisk yolks, sugar, salt in a large bowl. Whisk in hot liquid, return to pan and cook to 'nape', return to bowl and immediately set in a larger bowl of ice and water. Stir often until cool. Strain, chill overnight in refrigerator, then spin to soft-serve consistency and freeze.

            1 Reply
            1. re: babette feasts

              Yeah, 13 egg yolks. That would be at the richer end of the spectrum!

            2. I also have not found a one-size-fits-all proportion for ice cream. I made gelato from Saveur this week that did not include any eggs at all. It was quite light and refreshing. I also like the cream cheese ice cream recipe from Gourmet. It, too, does not include eggs, but it's rich and about as creamy as you could ever want. I have made ice cream with up to 12 egg yolks and as few as 2, and it always turns out pretty well. I really think it's a matter of personal taste, whether the ice cream is accompanying another dessert, etc. I do find that the fewer eggs you use, the faster the ice cream becomes rock hard, although homemade ice cream is usually gone in a flash, so it's of little consequence.