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stabilizers in homemade ice cream

I did a couple tests yesterday to see the effect of stabilizers in homemade ice cream. I've pasted the results below, in case anyone is interested.

I've wondered why it's so hard to make ice cream at home that has the same creaminess & texture as store-bought premium ice cream, and whether it's possible to counteract this inexpensively. The fact is that commercial ice cream manufacturing uses better equipment to prevent ice crystals from forming and as a result homemade ice cream tastes good right when it's made but it can be brittle and icy after it's hardened in the freezer.

Stabilizers can help deal with this issue. People call egg yolks a natural stabilizer but I've never found it to be sufficient to counteract this effect. I've also tried gelatin which I've found to be disgusting in the final product.

The test below looked at the effect of guar gum and carrageenan. Both are natural stabilizers -- carrageenan is an extract of seaweed, and guar gum is the ground seed of a guar bean. I added purposely high amounts of each ingredient more to see how each ingredient affects the product rather than to try to find the exact right amount on the first attempt.

The results showed that guar gum (in excess) makes the ice cream very elastic, almost taffy-like. Carrageenan makes the ice cream more like a suspension. Either one in large doses make ice cream unpleasant, but both tests led to a hardened ice cream that was more scoopable and less icy than when just using egg yolks or no stabilizer at all. Using both in combination and in small doses could be helpful for home ice cream.

At some point I'll try another combination which uses egg yolks & a custard, and a smaller combination of these stabilizers. I also may try xanthan gum & locust bean gum to see if their effects are any different.

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Ice Cream Stabilizer Taste Test

To test
Sample 1:
2 cups whole milk
¾ cup heavy cream
¾ cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
¾ tsp guar gum

Sample 2:
2 cups whole milk
¾ cup heavy cream
¾ cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
3/8 tsp guar gum
3/8 tsp carrageenan (iota)

Preparation method:
Heat milk and cream to near boiling, then add sugar and vanilla.
Let cool. While cooling, add stabilizer & whisk to thoroughly incorporate.
Continue cooling overnight in refrigerator, then prepare as per machine instructions

Test Results:
A. Inspection of mix right after adding stabilizer:
Sample 1 (guar gum only): taffy-like
Sample 2 (guar gum and carrageenan): gelatinous- similar to the effect of adding gelatin

B. Inspection after ice cream machine preparation is complete but before hardening in freezer:
Sample 1 (guar gum only):
- visual: very smooth, consistency almost taffy-like. Similar to some Italian gelatos, but not as dense
- taste / mouthfeel: very chewy, & elastic.

Sample 2 (guar gum and carrageenan):
- visual: smooth, consistency marshmallow-like. Reminds me of cheap supermarket ice milk
- taste / mouthfeel: soft and pliant.

C. Inspection after hardening in freezer:
Sample 1 (guar gum only):
- visual: easy to scoop. Ice cream very pliant (can push into mix & it will push back). Feels similar to plaster – ice cream crystals are held together as if by glue
- taste: Good feel on palate. some loss of taste (e.g. sugar less pronounced, ice may be more pronounced on palate)

Sample 2 (guar gum and carrageenan):
- visual: easy to scoop. Similar to store-bought hardened ice cream (although more strongly bound)
- taste: gummy. Flavor is more pronounced than with Sample 1 (can taste more milk / sugar / flavoring.)

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  1. ATK, or maybe it was Cooks Country, dealt with the texture issue by using light corn syrup. I can't recall the amount.

    1. I highly suggest you look into Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream book.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Becca Porter

        I have her book but have never made anything yet (just haven't had time, no other reason).

        But in the book she adds something like 1 Tbs of Phili cream cheese to each batch of ice cream. I have to wonder if it is a short cut to incorporating some stabilizers to the mix.

      2. Using a recipe in my molecular gastronomy kit I just made a chocolate pudding with carrageenan. The consistency was basically the same as with a cornstarch thickened pudding. The recipe also called for making a 'noodles' with a carrageenan thickened liquor. That part didn't work out, making me suspect the recipe's weight to volume equivalences.

        5 Replies
        1. re: paulj

          cold stone creamery uses pudding in their ice cream. i hear pudding makes ice cream bullet proof. like it won't melt.

          1. re: eLizard

            The base for many of their flavors is:
            SWEET CREAM ICE CREAM (Cream, Nonfat Milk, Milk, Whey, Sugar, Corn Syrup, Guar Gum, Cellulose Gum, Carrageenan, Mono & Diglycerides, Polysorbate 80, and Annatto Extract)

            Most do not have eggs. Even in 'French vanilla', egg yolks are part of the flavoring, not the base.

            http://www.coldstonecreamery.com/asse...

            Whether that base is a pudding or not is a matter of semantics. Even the Crème anglaise that some regard as the proper base for ice cream is a pudding, or an egg custard sauce to be more precise.

            But they do also sell a 'JELL-O Pudding Ice Cream' that does not melt
            http://www.coldstonecreamery.com/pres...

            1. re: paulj

              When Coldstone opened near me, I went in and asked to have a dish of two flavors of their ice cream, plain. It took five minutes of wrangling and a full-on Jack Nicholson "side of toast" before they would let me try their ice cream, plain.

              Ultimately I tasted it, and it literally (not figuratively) had no flavor except "sweet." I'm not surprised to see it's such a "product."

              1. re: paulj

                i saw it on unwrapped, so it must be true... ;o)

                1. re: eLizard

                  Where's my "Like" button??? ;-)

          2. Guar gum! When I've had Mitchell's ice cream in San Francisco, I've tried to describe it as chewy and people thought I was nuts. They must use a ton of guar gum in their ice creams. Well, at least the flavors I tried, anyway.

            1. Why not make a cooked base using eggs?