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Jun 3, 2012 03:45 AM

Homemade Ice Cream - Thickeners and Stabilizers

Desire to make ice cream with alternative ingredients to traditional ice cream sold in supermarkets with the ice cream maker I have (small appliance with bowl that needs to be prefrozen). I seek to use nondairy liquids, such as coconut, almond, rice, and soy (maybe hemp and flaxseed at a later time). With my research, I learned that a thickener and stabilizer is required, such as corn starch, guar gum, arrowroot, carrageenan, etc. For creaminess, an additional ingredient fat ingredient is recommended, such as a creamer (I'd use a coconut creamer or flaxseed oil). Since I would be using the nondairy liquid which comes in the aseptic boxes, do I need to add additional guar gum or carrageenan? I noticed that the coconut milk I have already has, along with many other ingredients (including organic evaporated cane juice), guar gum. The almond milk contains carrageenan. (The rice milk aseptically packaged version contains no guar gum or carageenan.) I do have a CAN of coconut milk which is a different creature than the aseptically packaged milk - it contains coconut milk, water, and crystaline cellulose (listed as a "stabilizer"). Do I need to add guar gum or arrowroot if I use this version of coconut milk? I'd prefer to do the simplest thing here - ideally, just pouring the cold liquid into the frozen ice cream container and turning it on - not having to make a thickenr slurry, then pouring that into the heated ice cream milk liquid mix (which already contains an additional stabilizer and conditioner). With posted reports of overly hardened and crystallized ice cream made from homemade ice cream makers, I understand the need for a stabilizer, conditioner, and adequate fat content. The coconut and almond liquids I have contain 5 and 2.5 grams of fat per cup, respectively. If needed, I could always add 1/4 cup of flaxseed or canola oil, or a little healthy nondairy creamer. (Is additional fat needed for these kinds of nondairy liquids for the listed fat content?) From what I have read, the healthier additive and stabilizer choices would be the arrowroot, arrowroot, or carrageenan. Due to the chemicals used to make corn starch, if I were to use starch, I might consider rice flour (assuming this would work?). Due to the rice milk not listing as an ingredient a stabilizer or thickener, I assume I would have to add one of these. I am not sure I would need to add a sweetener since these aseptically packaged nondairy liquids already contain sweeteners. I was considering adding either agave, honey, brown rice syrup, or raw sugar (or a less refined version such as Florida sugar crystals). My goal is to make an ice cream that still tastes good while using "healthier" ingredients. (I already make a version of ice cream using only frozen bananas and a small amount of fruit with no additional sweeteners. I wanted to now make a version that uses a nondairy liquid.) I am aware of the nondairy versions of ice cream sold in stores using rice, soy, and coconut milk. Would appreciate feedback on whether I need to use these thickeners, stabilizers, and which ones are recommended.

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  1. That's a lot of questions. Did you try a google search for recipes? It seems to be the easiest thing, rather than over thinking it all.

    1 Reply
    1. re: wyogal

      +1. Also, you might want to look for vegan ice "cream" recipes, sine that is essentially what you want to make. The problem of ver hard ice cream is tough-- commercial brands have more air whipped in(overrun), something home ice cream makers can't approximate very well. Adding some alcohol (that complements the flavor) might help somewhat. I just made a raspberry-creme fraiche ice cream, to which I added some Himbeergeist ( a raspberry eau-de-vie) and it did help a little. But I still let it sit for a while to soften it up. But if you are avoiding alcohol, that won't work for you.

    2. Not a fan of uncooked, unsoaked rice flour -- I've never tried it in ice cream, and I wouldn't, either. Personally, I'd skip the rice milk version, too.

      I never used any thickeners, but I recently started to like arrowroot. I just made a variation of this recipe and it was really successful (especially in texture, which IMO is the trickiest part of making ice cream): For years I always made ice cream with just cream, egg yolk, honey and maybe: pureed fruit, raw cocoa powder, booze, milk, coconut milk.

      Your mention of sugar alternatives: "agave, honey, brown rice syrup, or raw sugar (or a less refined version such as Florida sugar crystals)" -- all of these are fine. Stevia and other faux sweeteners (that won't raise your GI index at all) will not get you to the semi-solid ice creamy texture that we seek in a frozen dairy confection. You can use them, sure, but they send you down a road to more and more chemical trickery, and soon it's just an unappetizing science experiment. Harold McGee talks at length about the exact ratio of sugar (in whatever form) to other liquids to get the right degree of appealingly soft frozenness. Fat and booze also contribute to hitting the sweet spot w/r/t texture. The more of those you use, the less sugar you can use.

      That's the problem with coconut milk, I think -- it's hard to get the right amount of fat. Go for full fat; if you want to make a non-dairy ice cream, I suggest getting a big tub of coconut oil so you can amp up your coconut fat content. Tropical Traditions and Wilderness Family Naturals both have lots of coconut products; it might be good to try their coconut butter and/or coconut cream products. HTH.

      1. And always remember, if you aren' using dairy cream, it's not an ice cream, it's effectively an ice or sorbet.

        1. I am trying to read this, but the the lack of paragraphs is stressing me out. ;)