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ISO: help reducing iciness in ice cream recipe

So, in celebration of mother's day, I made banana ice cream this weekend (with RLB's hot fudge sauce recipe--I don't love her (at all), but that recipe makes by far my favorite hot fudge sauce). Anyway, in an effort to develop a reliable base that depends exclusively on ingredients I routinely have in my cupboard (read here: no half and half, no non-ultra-pasteurized cream), I made a custard of:

2 1/2c whole milk
approx. 1/2c sugar
10 egg yolks

I figured all those egg yolks would help with emulsifying the mix, add good 'mouthfeel' and would reduce iciness issues. The base alone was too eggy tasting for me. Fortunately, the egginess was hidden by the flavor of the bananas (3 bananas, heated with roughly 1/4c sugar and mashed, cooled, added to the base essentially at the end of the churning) in the finished product.

In the end, I thought the banana flavor was great, but it was a bit too icy (a fact agreed upon by all two adults eating it). In my mind, this could be due to two things:

1) not enough fat from cream

and/or

2) water added from the bananas.

In the past, I have made the recipe with fewer egg yolks and milk, but some added half and half (or cream, don't recall). That time, I drained the liquid that came from macerating the bananas (and maybe reduced it and added it back into base? not sure, my notes aren't clear), but I didn't have time to do that this time. The time I made it before, it didn't have the icy issue, making me think this is a function of the reduced fat from no cream.

Anybody have any advice on this topic? Please understand, the reduction in fat was in no way an effort to make ice cream healthy or low fat or anything. I'm well aware that cranking up the egg yolks nullifies any benefit from less cream. I'm truly just looking to see if I can develop a standard base that uses ingredients that don't require a special trip anywhere. (Plus, I'll admit, I'm not crazy for the flavor of super high fat ice cream. To me, all that fat can dull the overall flavor.)

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  1. Actually, I speculate the too-icy thing was because of too little sugar. I bet some Harold McGee geek will come here and explain this better, but there's something about the sugar that permits the semi-frozen state of ice cream. Too little sugar, and you just have frozen milky stuff.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Mawrter

      The sugar isn't that far off, I don't think.

    2. Not enough sugar. You could get all geeky and buy a saccharometer which measures the amount of sugar in all your future ice cream mixes but that's probably over the top.
      For a simple ice to be scoopable, you need about 25% to 35% sugar by weight. Less than 25, too hard to scoop. More than 35, mush and puddles. When you start adding milk, eggs and fruit, all the sugars in those have to be accounted for but you can't get by with as little as you tried to use. And no, you can't really cheat with booze, although alcohol is just another form of sugar.
      I'm with you on the high-fat recipes. You can make gelato with milk but you can't mess with the sugar if you want a scoopable, non-icy product.

      3 Replies
      1. re: MakingSense

        i've been trying to make ice cream with splenda - is this the reason why my ice cream is always icy? i've also tried using nonfat half and half (or 1% milk) so i'm not sure which factor is the culprit for the iciness. basically, i would like to come up with a base for ice cream thata is as low-fat/low-sugar as possible... this is why i got into ice cream making in the first place! thx -

        1. re: nyc_cravings

          Fat content (too low), too watery of contents (low-fat milk, too much coffee, whatever ...), and not enough time chilling in the fridge have all caused our ice cream to come out icy.

          We've never played with the sugar amounts - use whatever the recipe calls for. But I'm with you on lower fat ice cream! In fiddling with the fat content we've found a mix of real half-and-half (not the non-fat with the gazillion chemical additives) and skim or 1% milk works perfectly. We've got a few (alcohol based) recipes that need a bit more substantial fat content and in those cases we use cream in place of the half-and-half.

          1. re: odkaty

            I think Cookwise by Corriher has a more substantial explanation of the sugar-iciness relation than McGee's Food and Lore of the Kitchen. I'm not sure how the chemistry of sugar substitutes affects texture.

            I would say both too little sugar and too little fat. I've found both to make a difference, but the significance depends on the ice cream flavor. For fruit flavors, I think sugar has generally been more important than fat content. My favorite chocolate recipe turned out poorly when I substituted whole milk for half and half.

            Trying to find the right mix is hard. A base may work well for one flavor, but not for another. Unless you've tasted the result of a recipe and know how it can come out, I would expect some tweaking to be necessary.

      2. Need more info, especially on technique. Whenever confronted with a recipe that involves egg yolks and sugar- always always always cream the yolks and sugar together. This makes a difference in texture and structure that can make all the difference.

        Also, milk is more watery than cream, so that may have been part of the problem.

        Technique wise- preferred method- cream egg yolks and sugar. Heat milk. Temper and then mix yolks and sugar over ice bath, add other flavorings.

        3 Replies
        1. re: cheesemonger

          Cheesemonger, do you know why creaming the yolks w/ the sugar makes a difference? Based on my ice cream making, I have come to believe that it does too but I'd like to understand WHY. I just got David Lebovitz's new book, "Perfect Scoop", and his general custard-making method consists of heating the sugar w/ the dairy and then tempering the yolks. Hmmm...

          To Smokey: 3/4 c. of total sugar in your recipe sounds ok to me, especially given that bananas also have some natural sugar. I think the iciness is more related to your technique, but I'm not exactly sure where things went awry. For fruit-based ice creams, I don't like many eggs (if at all) or too much cream.

          So, I'll offer two banana recipes that you can try out. Let us know if you try them!

          My banana coconut ice cream:
          http://www.chowhound.com/topics/28001...

          Roasted Banana Ice Cream
          From "Perfect Scoop" by David Lebovitz
          makes about 1 qt.

          3 ripe medium-sized ripe bananas, peeled
          1/3 c. (70 g) packed light brown sugar
          1 TB butter, salted or unsalted, cut into small pieces
          1.5 c. (375 ml) whole milk
          2 TB granulated sugar
          1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
          1.5 tsp. fresh lemon juice
          1/4 tsp. coarse salt

          Preheat oven to 400F. Slice bananas into 1/2 in. pieces and toss w/ brown sugar and butter. Place into baking dish and roast for 40 min., stirring once midway, until the bananas are browned and softened. Scrape everything from dish (including syrup) into blender or food processor. Add remaining ingredients and puree until smooth. Chill well and freeze accordingly. (I think hot fudge sauce would be great w/ this!)

          1. re: Carb Lover

            CarbLover, Your response (and those of others) made me realize that I should have addressed technique in my initial post. I didn't just because I didn't have a lot of time in posting, and I decided I was going to have to let folks take a lot for granted about what I knew how to do. Oh, well, assumptions and all.

            Anyway, the basic technique was to heat milk with some of the sugar while creaming egg yolks and sugar until ribbon formed, tempering yolks, dumping mix back into saucepan and stirring until mixture reached some temp (not sure what without my notes, I think 180 or 175). Remove from heat, strain into pan nestled in ice bath to cool rapidly. Then cool mixture in fridge for 24hours or so before putting into ice cream maker (one of those krups/braun/cuisinart $50 jobs) for roughly 20-30 minutes, adding banana mix near the end of mixing, put in freezer for roughly 4 hours before serving.

            That roasted banana ice cream sounds fabulous, though I'll admit a bias against philadelphia style. I may need to get over that.

            Strawberries have been SOO good this season, I've been thinking about trying again, cutting back on egg yolks (probably 4 or so), increasing the fat by using some half and half (thereby giving up on the dream of a custard base based entirely on ingredients routinely in my larder) and making a strawberry ice cream.

            I am intrigued by the responses I've received about different flavors requiring different custards. It's probably true, I had just hoped it wasn't! Sigh.

            Thanks for all the responses.

            1. re: Carb Lover

              Hi - did this Roasted Banana one just now - just great! I only got (maybe) a pint out of it though (my bananas were medium - would that account for such a reduction?). I had only 1% milk so I added a few tbs cream (maybe 3). I used sucanat for the brown sugar (less refined sugar).

              I am ready to go buy more bananas and make more!
              I think bananas act as a stabilizer (if that is the right term) - they never freeze solid and are always creamy. This makes this low fat recipe work, I think. I am going to experiment with variations based on the banana / milk idea. Thanks very much!

          2. I just started learning how to make ice cream and my custard was watery and turning into icy ice cream. I cheated by adding 2 teaspoons of cornstarch dissolved in a teaspoon of water to the watery custard and then cooking the mess over low heat until custard thickened. This was used to thicken about 2 cups of failed custard which is slightly less than your recipe. While doing this made me feel dirty, it did the job and my ice cream was not as icy. If I find a better solution, I will report it here.

            1 Reply
            1. re: choctastic

              Choctastic, you don't need to feel dirty. Just call it pudding instead of ice cream.

            2. Use a stabilizer. I mentioned this in another thread on buttermilk ice cream, but to repeat myself, Cook's Illustrated tested commercial vanilla ice creams. Their top picks had (1) stabilizer but no custard base and (2) stabilizer and egg-based custard.

              After reading this, I amended the ice cream recipe I had planned and instead of 12 egg yolks per quart, I used 4 and 1 rounded teaspoon of stabilizer, a mixture of locust bean gum and guar gum. I also added more buttermilk to make it more tangy. I ended up with almost 2 quarts of ice cream, very rich-tasting and as smooth as any ice cream I've ever tasted. It's over a week since I made it and last night DH commented that this was smoother and silkier than the best premium ice creams. I should add that the ingredients (eggs, cream, buttermilk) come from small farms and are the best I can find.

              I know people cringe at the thought of adding guar gum to their homemade mixes. All I can say is that it works. I plan more experiments this summer. Last year I found that the addition of stabilizer smoothed out sorbets and reduced ice crystals very nicely. The great advantage in ice cream is that you can lower fat without any loss of texture or flavor.

              7 Replies
              1. re: cheryl_h

                Cheryl--Did you mix your own stabilizer? If so, what were the proportions? Or, if you bought it ready made, would you share details like brand, store, price etc. Would a smaller amount work like say 1/4 tsp. Does this work for sorbet creaminess too?

                1. re: Ora

                  Carb Lover found it for me. It's from Icaffe, is a ready-mixed powder and comes by the kilo (!). Here's the link:
                  https://estore.icaffe.com/e_store.tpl...

                  Icaffe sells a whole range of gelato supplies which are normally sold to gelateria. I've tried some of their other products and find them generally good.

                  If the link doesn't work, you can do a google search on neutral stabilizer and icaffe. I got it last year after seeing an episode on Food Network in which Tyler Florence visited an Italian gelato maker. The recipe called for pureed fruit (figs, I think), sugar and neutral stabilizer. I got this product and so far I've used it to make sorbet (plum, lemon, blood orange) and ice cream. I'm still experimenting with it, trying to get the proportions right. The Food Network recipe called for about a tablespoon per quart of gelato which turned out to be all wrong. You get a slimy consistency which never freezes. I've found that about a teaspoon per quart works for me, but it probably depends on how watery your other ingredients are. You can reduce the amount but obviously the effects are reduced too. I added about 1/4 - 1/2 tsp to ice cream last summer and didn't find it made any difference. But the buttermilk ice cream which combined egg yolks with the stabilizer was simply fabulous, and is still smooth and creamy today.

                  I think you can make up your own stabilizer. The icaffe powder is just dextrose, locust bean gum and guar gum. Other stabilizers include xanthan gum. I think you can buy these from cake-decorating stores, but I've never tried to find them elsewhere.

                  1. re: cheryl_h

                    xanthan gum is readily available at many grocery stores, especially ones that carry Bob's Red mill flours. It is used regularly in gluten-free baking for one, so it is fairly easy to fine. A little goes a long way.

                    1. re: jsaimd

                      Thanks to both of you--I will try this stabilizer addition. I get great flavor, and the yolks and high fat in cream helps--but in a home freezer iciness is the enemy of a great own-made product.

                      1. re: Ora

                        I agree, I was frustrated by the iciness in my homemade ice creams in spite of tons of fat. The stabilizer works like a charm. You have to get over any squeamishness about the notion of chemicals in your food - the stabilizers I mentioned are all derived from natural products which makes them seem less offensive. A big plus for me is that you can lower the fat content of your ice cream without sacrificing texture.

                        1. re: cheryl_h

                          I've been making ice cream like crazy since buying a Cuisinart commercial maker a couple weeks ago. After researching guar and xanthan gums, to thicken and reduce ice crystals, I found both products in the bulk section of my local food coop (Rainbow in San Francisco). Unfortunately, I used 1 tsp for 1.5 quarts of liquid (base) as was recommended in other Chow postings. The results were not satisfactory. I doubt the stuff I made would melt even if I placed it in a 400 oven for an hour. Very slimy, like bad, store-bought salad dressing (loaded with gums). The recipe I experimented with was a creme fraiche ice cream, no eggs. What a waste of expensive ingredients. I will try again with a simple vanilla recipe tomorrow and reduce the guar to 1/4 tsp to see the results. By the way, for vanilla ice cream lovers, I've found that by reducung the sugar a bit (I've been using 1/2 c when 3/4 c is called for) and halving the vanilla you get an incredibly creamy and sublime vanilla ice cream.

                          1. re: tcat

                            This is why I don't like supermarket ice creams, Cook's Illustrated be damned. I can tell when they have stabilizers, due to the gummy texture. One thing I read is that subbing part of the sugar with corn syrup reduces iciness, although I tried it and it does alter the flavor a bit, and not favorably in my opinion. I agree with other posters that cooling properly before freezing is critical.