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chalky ice cream---why?

Several posts about homemade ice cream have referred to a chalky texture in the end product, particularly with chocolate ice cream. I own the $50 Cuisinart ice cream maker and have probably used it 15 or so times now. I am finding that when I make French-style egg custard ice cream, I ALWAYS get a chalky texture, no matter what flavor I make. Most of my attempts have come out of the Williams-Sonoma "Ice Cream" book; the most recent attempt being pumpkin. My boyfriend raved that it was "outstanding" but to me the chalky taste was so offensive I had one spoonful and was done. It's as if I added a bottle of Kaopectate to the mixture---gross. I've ended up throwing out large portions of other batches for the same reason. It's so frustrating to read all the raves about how superb homemade ice cream is when I am using fresh, expensive organic ingredients and have been consistently disappointed! Frankly I like the way Dairy Queen and other commercial soft-serve tastes; that may be blasphemy but compared with my own nasty stuff, it feels like velvet! Is there ANY consensus out there as to why this chalky phenomenon sometimes occurs? Or are other people just not as offended by it?
Right now the only thing I'm making in this Cuisinart model that I truly enjoy is sorbet.

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  1. Are you using heavy cream, medium cream or light cream? Does it taste chalky right out of the machine, still soft....or only after freezing/hardening?

    1 Reply
    1. re: jackattack

      This thread reminded me of an ice cream that I didn't like but that was all the rage in LA in the 50's and 60's - Will Wright's. It was made with heavy cream and,immediately upon taking a bite, a film of butterfat (or congealed cream) formed on the roof of one's mouth. Everybody thought this was just great - proof of the richness of the stuff. Maybe that's what your "chalkiness" is.

    2. A few thoughts (I also own the $50 Cuisinart)

      -half and half works best. Too much heavy cream will make it chalky
      -freezing it overnight in the fridge will make it chalky, usually. Try eating it 5-10 hours after it goes in the freezer
      -try the burnt caramel ice cream I just posted about. Doesn't freeze solid, ever! Amazing, really. http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...
      -churning for too long will make it chalky. Depending on the recipe, 10-20 minutes is enough. It comes out of the canister looking like a milkshake, but ironically freezes softer than if you churn it longer.

      Maybe it's your book that's faulty, since you say most of the ones you've tried are from the W-S book.

      Frustratingly enough, homemade ice cream will never taste like commercial ice cream, and definitely never quite like Dairy Queen soft serve. You can refine your ice cream making skills so it's not chalky, but you either like homemade ice cream or you don't. I love the different flavors and the control over ingredients, and every once in awhile I find a new recipe that I find superior to commercial ice cream, but my friends tell me everything from "no, Haagen Daz is still creamier" to "Man, this is better than anything."

      1. Frankly, I think the William's Sonoma book is not that good. I'm a vetern ice cream maker, but the four recipes I've made from that book came out terrible. Many of those recipes use too much heavy cream. When this type of ice cream is overchurned (very easy to do when you are a beginner), the texture is awful--either chalky or greasy (because the heavy cream basically turns into butter).

        Here are some tips:

        Look over recipes carefully. Look for recipes that use mostly whole milk/half and half combos with no or very little heavy cream (not more than 10 percent of the whole mix). Recipes should also have not more than 2 whole eggs (and no more than 3 egg yolks total) for every pint of dairy specified in the recipe. Too many eggs can cause the custard to set up too thick--which can lead to a strange chaulk like texture when churned.

        Churn the ice cream just until it begins to set. It should be slightly softer than soft serve (does that make sense?) when it comes out of the machine.

        Make sure you pack the fresh ice cream immediately into appropriate freezer containers. The ice cream should sit in the freezer for at least 10-12 hours before consuming. This "aging" improves the texture of the ice cream.

        Hope this all helps!

        1. First, be aware that you will never get soft-serve style ice cream from the Cuisinart unit. Soft serve simply requires a different process.

          I find that the easiest way to ruin custard ice cream texture is to curdle the egg. Most custard style ice cream recipes I have seen call for heating the egg with milk on the stove. If I use too high heat, stop stirring for long, or even allow the mixture to sit once removed from heat, the egg curdles. Even if I strain the curdled egg out, the texture comes out wrong. So I try low heat, lots of stirring, and heat the mixture at a lower temperature for long enough to kill the bacteria.

          Some flavors make getting good texture even harder. I usually find this is true of fruit flavors though, and not chocolate. It's probably related to fruit water content.

          1. Try using rennet or junket for custard/soft serve style ice cream. My grandmother used this when we made hand-cranked vanilla. You should be able to find it at a large grocery store. It's used in cheese making as well.
            Sorry, I can't find her recipes right now but there should be one on the package. Or a little online research...

            1. Thanks, everyone, for all of the great advice, which I intend to try out. Indeed, most of the Williams-Sonoma recipes call for all cream, as opposed to half/half or whole milk. I know that I have probably overcooked the custard a couple of times in the beginning but thought I had that technique ironed out. This latest batch tasted chalky right out of the machine. I tend to churn for longer than the instructions say, so that is also probably contributing to the problem.
              In short, lots of room for improvement.
              Does anybody know if using regular pasteurized cream and milk (vs the ultrapasteurized that is more common) would make a textural difference?

              3 Replies
              1. re: chitownhound

                I actually prefer to use a combo of milk and cream, rather than just half and half. I've found the 2:1 ration of cream to milk to be what I prefer. It gives it great creaminess without coating your mouth with a film. About the pasteurized v. ultra, if you have a choice, definitely go with just pasteurized. There is a noticable difference. If you don't have a choice, then it is a moot point and you'll still get a good result.

                Chalkiness... I don't really know what to offer here. I'm not sure that overchurning or poor custard making would be to blame for it. I've done both, but neither has ever resulted in chalkiness. The only time I've experienced chalkiness is with chocolate ice cream. But, it very well could be that you are describing something as chalky that I would describe otherwise. How about sending me a sample of your ice cream? :)

                My only guess is that it has something to do with the formation of ice crystals. You can manipulate the temperature at which ice crystals form by adjusting the ingredients, changing the milk to cream ratios, or even adjusting the starting temperature of your custard.

                With regard to a post above, I have to disagree and say that I really believe that you can make ice cream at home that is far better than anything you will ever find in your supermarket - haagen daaz included. It takes some practice, but it's definitely possible. I make ice cream at home that has the same creaminess, scoopability (as if that were a word), and texture as great store-bought ice cream. But the flavor is just so much better. And I'm no gourmet chef.

                1. re: adamclyde

                  I have to agree with Adam regarding the strangeness of the adjective 'chalky.' I might use the term to describe an ice cream with too much dried milk, but this recipe has none of that. Are you sure it isn't 'grainy?' 'Gritty' perhaps?

                  Pureed pumpkin has a great deal of water in it, so, in essence, this recipe isn't 100% cream. It's not half and half, but it's definitely closer to Adam's 2:1 ratio. Rather than cream:milk, though, it's cream:water. You do lose some of the emulsifying milk proteins in the equation, but, at the same time, the pumpkin solids should give you some of that back.

                  Overchurning creates greasiness (from the butter) rather than chalkiness. You could try churning it less, but I don't think it'll be the silver bullet for this issue.

                  Textural issues can occur when there is insufficient emulsification (fat globules aren't broken down enough). 5 egg yolks is plenty of emulsification, though.

                  My gut feeling is that it's one of two things.

                  1. Creme anglais (ice cream base) continues to cook after you remove it from the stove. It's always a good idea to continue to stir it until it cools slightly. If you take it off the heat and let it sit, it goes grainy. This will happen even if you strain it.

                  2. The pumpkin may not be pureed enough/may not be perfectly smooth. Taste the pumpkin puree and see if you can detect any graininess/pulpiness. If you do, you might try blending it. If it's too thick to blend (I don't think it will be) try heating it a bit.

                  As I've mentioned in previous threads, I'm a big fan of hydrocolloid gums. If you want to play with the recipe, I wouldn't recommend altering the proportions of ingredients, I'd just try adding a gum. Whole Foods carries both xanthan and guar gums.

                  1. re: adamclyde

                    2 C Cream + 1 C Milk =

                    1 C Cream + 2 Cups half & half

                    You could save quite a bit of money in the long run as half & half is significanly cheaper then cream.

                2. I think the "coated mouth" feel you mentioned is key ... I've been calling it chalkiness, but it definitely also has something to do with the way it lingers in the mouth instead of washing down clean.
                  Who knew that the nuances of ice cream were as varied as those of fine wine??
                  I wish I COULD send around some samples for critique!

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: chitownhound

                    if it coated the mouth, then it could just be too high of a cream content or overchurning. Scott's suggestions above are very good.

                    I do have a recipe that calls for, essentially, all cream. But it is a lemon ice cream and the acid of the lemon cuts the fat which makes it so there isn't a greasy mouthfeel, like it sounds you had.

                    Good luck!

                  2. I haven't experienced the chalky problem but that could be because I can't get past my other problem with the French-style recipe - the extremely eggy, almost sulphurous flavour. I've switched to another recipe that thickens the custard with a flour slurry, then adds an egg or two for body at the final stage before the custard is cooled. It makes a lovely, smooth textured ice cream with no flavour 'pollution' from the eggs. I believe it's called 'Philadelphia style'.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: artgeek

                      when I first started making ice cream 6 years ago, I started with a custard base. I had the same reaction. Eggy flavor that was very, very offputting. I thought that was how all custard bases were.

                      For some reason, about two years ago, I had to make another recipe that called for a custard base. This time, I had a thermometer, so I didn't have to use the "coat the back of a spoon" method. It was a revelation. It didn't have even the slightest of eggy flavor. It was rich, smooth and made the resulting texture of my ice cream better than anything I'd ever tried before. The key is to heat the custard slowly, stir constantly, don't go a degree over 175, strain through a fine mesh sieve and cool quickly. Try it again - it truly is amazing. But make sure you employ a good thermometer.

                      1. re: adamclyde

                        Cool, thanks for the tip - will give it a go this weekend!

                    2. 3/4 quart of half and half with an envelope of vanilla instant pudding mix and a dash of vanilla makes decent soft serve/ DQ style. Shake the stuff up real well to add air and make it lighter.

                      1. My understanding is there are two basic categories of ice cream depending on whether you have eggs or not. Custard style contains egg and Philadelphia style does not.

                        Using an all-cream base seems excessive. I would definitely reduce the butterfat content.

                        1. I bought a Cuisinart at a yardsale for seven bucks. A friend gave me a few pints of cream that his mother had frozen in order to save them past the expiration date. I found that the cream had turned very chalky. The inside of the carton even looked powdery. So this problem must be related to the cream alone. And I would imagine that this indicates that the fats weren't emulsified with the liquids in the cream. I agree with adamclyde about the potential to over cook the custard. Too much heat would break down the custard. Also you might want to try a double boiler. We used Junket (rennet) in ice cream making when I was a kid. I think this is a firming agent. There is a thickening agent in soft-serve, possibly guar gum or some others to give it that velvety texture. Junket ice cream mixes list guar gum, carrageenan, and gum arabic. You can get guar gum and xanthan gum at Whole Foods. I would substitute xantham gum for flour in the Philadelphia style ice cream or ones calling for cornstarch. That slime you see in scary movies is made of gum thickeners. Sorry it this is too much information! But it tastes great in a McDonald's milk shake.