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Mark Bittman's Cornstarch Ice Cream

I was intrigued by Mark Bittman's article in the NYT this past Wednesday about cornstarch based ice cream. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/01/din...

Has anyone tried it? Is the texture noticeably different? I was picturing something awful, but I suspect it must be somewhat reliable or he wouldn't have published the article and recipe.

Thanks all!

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  1. Haven't tried Bittman's recipe, but I did make this pistachio gelato recipe with cornstarch from Saveur, and the flavor and texture are great.


    2 Replies
    1. re: mnosyne

      Thanks for the link to the pistachio gelato; I'm def. going to try it!

      As for Bittman's recipe, it looks pretty good to me but I haven't tried it yet. I think the name "cornstarch ice cream" should be more like "vanilla ice cream w/ cornstarch." I've been wanting to play around w/ cornstarch in ice cream. The lemongrass ice cream in Andrea Nguyen's book, Into the Vietnamese Kitchen, calls for cornstarch.

      1. re: Carb Lover

        Have you tried using confectioner's sugar in mixing the ice cream base? Confectioners sugar works great for uncooked mix and it has a % of corn starch in it. I recently used some when I whipped up a batch of vanilla malt ice cream (philadelphia style). It was delcious and smooth and froze rather well for an eggless batch.

    2. There's also a cornstarch chocolate gelato on epicurious. I prefer cornstarch over eggs because it has no fat/cholesterol and still gives a creamy result. Also, I just hate that eggy taste that you get when you use all 6 yolks in a regular ice cream recipe. When I do use eggs, I only use half of them (3) and 1.5 Tblspn cornstarch. I'll never go back to all eggs.

      8 Replies
      1. re: choctastic

        That's what I hoped. I actually don't like a real eggy, custardy ice cream either so am really interested in alternatives that are still satisfying without being low fat. I'm about to get a new ice cream maker in a couple weeks so will have fun experimenting.

        1. re: farmersdaughter

          I've made two batches already and had wonderful luck. This turns out to be a great use for the familiar Donvier home ice cream maker--you know, the one with the frozen canister, the one you see at every yard sale and thrift store. I was never crazy about that gadget because regular ice cream seemed to crystallize a bit too easily, and I didn't like the texture. The cornstarch recipe, however, stays very smooth, nearly gelato-like, and it's so easy you can't believe it. Definitely worth a try. For my first batch I snipped some lavender and gently infused the milk with it before beginning the actual recipe. For the second I used cinnamon, and today I may try raspberry jam. By the way, Bittman makes it on video at the NYT site.

          1. re: Barry Foy

            Here's the chocolate gelato recipe on epicurious, for your reading pleasure.


            --oops i meant to put it under my other post. my bad

            1. re: Barry Foy

              ooh, this is great info, thanks! I just happen to have one of those dastardly machines in my basement that I picked up at a...garage sale!! and haven't gotten much use from. I have been looking at getting the attachment for my kitchen aid, but if this recipe works well with what I have I might hold off a bit longer.

              1. re: cheetobrain

                I use a Donvier hand cranked machine that I got for $2 at a thrift store. This ice cream comes out great.

          2. re: choctastic

            somewhat unrelated side note to the intention of this post here:

            for what it is worth, I think the key in making custard based ice cream is technique. I've done 8-egg yolk custard bases for vanilla ice cream that didn't have even the slightest hint of an "eggy" flavor, at all. My preference is for between 3-6 eggs depending on what I'm making, but if done right, I don't think anything can replace the richness of eggs in ice cream.

            Now, that said, I think cornstarch is a nice fall back for creaminess. About two years ago I started experimenting with guar gum in ice cream, which basically does the same thing as cornstarch, acting as a stabilizer to improve the creaminess of my ice cream (basicallly, it helps inhibit the formation of ice crystals as you churn, resulting in a creamier texture). The good thing with guar gum is you can get away with using a very small amount - 1/16 to 1/8 tsp - to good results. It definitely gave it a smoother texture. But since then, as I've continued to work to master the ice cream base and other variables and techniques, I can make ice cream now with the same texture without guar at all.

            1. re: adamclyde

              what is the technique? I followed the directions in "Desserts by Pierre Herme" by Dorie Greenspan and it tasted like egg. I do use those bright orange organic eggs. I wonder if this is the problem.
              thx in advance for any advice.

              1. re: adamclyde

                What is your technique for getting rid of that eggy flavor in custard ice cream. I would love to know how to do that.

            2. Made it this weekend with one half skim milk and one half fat free yogurt. I was astonished at how creamy it was, considering I was using such low fat products. This recipe is a real find for making low cal ice cream!

              1. I tried making the base for the cornstarch ice cream yesterday and left it in the fridge to chill since i plan on freezing it in the ice cream maker tonight. This morning it looked a little jello-like. Is that normal? Most of the ice creams I've made have not involved custard, so I'm a little out of my element here.

                9 Replies
                1. re: caphill2320

                  The recipe does say to let it sit just until cool, so overnight may be too long. I haven't made it enough times to know exactly what "normal" is yet. God knows what it may be on the way to becoming right now--at best it'll still end up as good ice cream, at worst I suppose it could climb out of the fridge on its own, steal your wallet and car, and go on a nationwide crime spree. Regardless, seems like you've got nothing to lose by revving up the old Donvier and trying it out. When you do, please post the results, for future reference.

                  1. re: Barry Foy

                    Yeah, I think I'll try for a backup as well. I wonder if I could eek out two batches from my insert...

                  2. re: caphill2320

                    Yes this is normal. I always chill overnight and that is what it looks like. I usually stir to break it up before pouring into the thingy

                    1. re: choctastic

                      It turned out ok in the end...although I did notice that it was very crumbly in texture, even when I let it thaw in the fridge for 30 minutes. Have you had that problem? It tasted perfect right out of the machine though....

                      1. re: caphill2320

                        i've gotten that too. i think it correlates to mixes i've made that were lower in fat. Since i am hand-churning the stuff, I am guessing I can't pump in enough air to keep i creamy after it's fully frozen. But that's just a guess.

                        1. re: choctastic

                          That interesting that you mention the lower fat aspect. I've been using all whole milk to keep calories down. Maybe that is the culprit.

                          1. re: caphill2320

                            Just found out about the cornstarch ice cream - do you think i could substitute lactose free milk for all the dairy in the recipe? Or would that be too low in fat (if that's even an issue)? Been trying to find a way to make lactose-free ice cream for a while now ...

                            1. re: designermonkey

                              Can you not get lactose-free whole milk in your area? Here in La-La Land it comes in all three standard fat grades everywhere.

                    2. re: caphill2320

                      I've let it sit that long, no problem. Just cover it with plastic wrap so that it touches the surface (don't want skin here).

                    3. Hi everyone - I was looking to see if anyone had posted about this yet and found this thread. I just made the Bittman recipe, slightly modified, for mint chocolate chip ice cream and it was DIVINE! I used slightly less cornstarch than he recommended (2 tbsp for 2 3/4 cups of cream / milk), and, before adding it, steeped the cream/milk with a bunch of fresh mint for about an hour, and then added in fresh chopped mint while it was freezing and followed some other posts' suggestions of drizzling in melted chocolate with the ice cream machine running. It was SO delicious, I don't know if I'll ever go back to store bought for this particular flavor. I haven't tried it with lower fat milk, but the cornstarch base was so custardy, I think it could work (it definitely solved my prior problems with icy/rock hard ice cream).

                      1. I just received the new Kitchen Aid ice cream maker attachment and think I might break it in with this recipe. However, I just noticed that Bittman said this recipe makes a generous pint, rather than the traditional quart that most ice cream recipes I've seen will produce. Has anyone tried doubling the recipe? What were the results? Thanks!

                        1. I think it depends on what you want in an ice cream, personally I prefer it to the cream based ice creams (homemade versions). However, it really seems to be something you should eat fresh from the machine rather than stored, it gets a little icy. Alternately for those who aren't to particular, jello pudding both instant and cook and serve are primarily cornstarch. You can use any flavor, and the instant stops that cooked milk taste which I associate with warm foods not ice cream.

                          1. I followed Bittman's recipe and was happy with the consistency, however, the flavor was distinctly corny. I used high quality, very fresh, skim milk. Perhaps the lack of fat let the corn flavor shine. I

                            1. I used fat free milk and Splenda.Once I put the mixture in the freezer, it got rock hard. After thawing, the texture was grainy and almost chewy. The flavor wasn't bad, although, not as good as when it first came out of the ice cream maker.

                              Do the choice of these ingredients make a difference? Or does this recipe just not freeze well?

                              1. WOW. Just made this for the first time, using his variation with jam -- made black raspberry ice cream with chocolate chunks. So good its blowing my mind! And this was using 2 cups whole milk and just 1/2 cup of cream -- it was still so creamy and flavorful! Note that his jam variation calls for honey -- I stuck with sugar, and just added a generous 1/2 cup jam once the mixture had cooled.

                                1. I don't think mine was a Bittman recipe, but it was one for gelato made with cornstarch. I actually found it here, on another thread. Anyway, consistancy was fine, but mine had a floury taste. Perhaps not cooked long enough, but I did the trail through the back of the spoon thing.

                                  1. Just made this. I followed the recipe, with the addition of about 1 cup of blackberry/peach/sugar puree (used the immersion blender and then put through a sieve). I mixed everything together, chilled it for about 3 hours, and popped it into my Cuisinart ice cream maker. At soft serve consistency, the ice cream was delicious. A bit of a chalky aftertaste - perhaps from the cornstarch? I froze the leftovers, but when I ate the ice cream later, it had formed ice crystals that were too dominant for my taste. Overall, supereasy, and yummy. Can't wait to try more variations - the coffee one looks good!

                                    1. Yes, yes, yes! I love this recipe. It's the only ice cream "base" recipe I'll use. I make additions/modifications to this recipe. I've had the best luck with mostly (2 C) half-and-half, with 1/2 C whole milk, though I just did one with mostly whole milk, some half-and-half, and it was a success. I make sure I cook it to a very thin "pudding" consistency. At that point, I know I'm good...

                                      1. Tried this recipe last year as well, and the taste was awful. I think the proportions of cornstarch to liquid was a bit high. I think guar gum may be the way to go for me.

                                        1. I've only made them three times, but so far, I've loved the cornstarch-based ice creams. I recently had to go dairy-free and I've found that a great substitute (to a traditional cream-and-eggs base) is 2 cups full-fat coconut milk (the brand I use is 18% fat, but if you can find one higher than that, go with the highest possible) and 1 cup rice milk (4% fat), to 1/4 cup cornstarch (plus whatever sugar and other ingredients are called for in your recipe).

                                          I don't know if the cornstarch taste might be noticeable in a subtly-flavored ice cream, but the flavors I've made (mint chocolate, banana strawberry, and peach) haven't had any problem masking the taste. The texture is quite creamy; I find it comparable to a store-bought ice cream. It's so much easier to do than working with eggs (and no risk of salmonella, or having to remember to buy pasteurized egg product).

                                          So yeah, I'm a fan. And for any curious vegans or dairy-free people, yes, it works well with coconut milk bases. :)

                                          1. Bittman realy didnt invent this, its just not as well knows in America as it is in Italy. If my sources are correct, just like a lot of other things there, food in the north is prepared very differently from the south. One uses eggs, one uses a base similar to cornstarch.

                                            1. i make cornflour ice cream all the time as i am allergic to eggs and its lovely:
                                              put 2 cups milk into saucepan with 1 cup sugar 3 tablespoons vanilla essence and 2 vanilla pods and stir in 2 tablespoons corn flour heat up slowly stirring all the time till it boils take off the heat and it should be a thin porridge consistency......allow to cool to room temperature completely then whisk up 500 ml of whipping cream till thick and forms peaks...fold in slowly and thoroughly according to taste some like it sweeter than others ..when folded in spoon into tubs and put in freezer till frozen..if you want to add fruit or any other flavoring as the ice cream is setting carefully fold it in just before it sets completely.