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Ice Cream: Same Recipe, New Environs, New Problems?

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I just moved to the South Bay area from NYC. While in NYC I made ice cream from scratch (in my kitchen aid ice cream attachment) all the time and never had any problems. This was regardless of the recipe --> custard style, philly (no egg) style, etc.

We just moved to CA about 2 months ago. I've tried making ice cream twice here and both times it's been super crystalline, almost dry in it's texture. I'm not doing anything differently, and these are recipes that have been fool proof in the past.

Could it be the new freezer? The new brand of milk/cream? Humidity in the region? Tried doing a general search online, but can't find anything about my specific problem (good recipe gone bad?).

Again, I'm following the same recipes with the same steps that previously gave me perfect ice cream. It's just so weird... Any suggestions are appreciated!!

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  1. I'm guessing it's the milk/cream. Are you using organic where you didn't before? Organic dairy products are often pasteurized using a high-heat method that can make them unsuitable for cheesemaking and other recipes - ice cream may be one of them.

    7 Replies
    1. re: biondanonima

      I don't think organic milk is the problem with ice cream, all commercially sold milk is pasteurized. The base for the ice cream is cooked and it would not make sense. I'd like to see the recipe that is being used.

      1. re: Candy

        Yes, all commercially sold milk is pasteurized, but there is a big difference between regular pasteurization (where the milk is heated to 165 and held there for 15-20 seconds) and UHT or ultra-high temperature pasteurization, where milk is heated to 280 degrees very briefly. UHT pasteurization totally degrades the proteins in milk/cream and makes them unsuitable for cheese making, etc. I don't doubt that it could affect the texture of ice cream as well.

        1. re: Candy

          Candy, here's the recipe I used this time. It's an eggless recipe. Like I said, I've made this exact recipe maybe a dozen times before and have never once had a problem until now...

          2 cups heavy cream
          1 cup milk
          3 cups cherries (or other fruit*)
          1 Tbsp vanilla extract
          1 tsp almond extract
          1/3 cup sugar
          1/4 tsp. sea salt
          1/4 cup vodka (vodka is relatively flavorless, you can choose another liquor to enhance flavor, like amaretto, kirsch, fruit schnaps etc)
          1/4-1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)

          In medium sauce pan, combine 1 Cup cream, all of the milk, vanilla and almond extract (if using), sugar and salt. Stirring frequently, heat over medium heat just until a bit of steam starts to curl up from the mixture and sugar is incorporated. Set aside to cool.

          Meanwhile, puree 2 1/2 cups cherries and set aside. Reserve the remaining 1/2 cup for later.

          In a large bowl, combine the cream mixture, pureed cherries, the remaining cream, and the vodka/liquor. Set bowl over a larger bowl of ice water and set in fridge to chill for at least 2 hours (longer without the ice bath).

          Process the ice cream according to your ice cream maker directions. Meanwhile, slice the remaining cherries into thin slices or small chunks, and reserve any juice. Just as the ice cream starts to set up (about to milkshake texture/2-3 minutes before finished), stir in the sliced cherries and chopped nuts. Continue processing until the ice cream has thickened/finished.

          Spoon mixture into a container and freeze for 2 hours or longer for a complete cure.

          *If you use frozen fruit, follow the instructions as laid out. If you use fresh fruit, I've seen many recommend that you mix the fruit with 1-2 Tbsp sugar and allow to macerate for 2 hours or overnight to pull out the juices.

          1. re: happygreengirl

            Hmmm. I am not seeing anything that should cause the problem. All of the cream that I can get has been UHT and I make a lot of ice cream. It may indeed be your freezer. Have you tried a different recipe? The only time I have had a texture problem was last week. I was making Marzipan-Cherry IC. I used marzipan and that left a gritty texture. Next time I will use allmond extract.

          2. re: Candy

            There is a vast difference in performance between pasturized and UHT/ultra pasturized dairy, organic or not. UHT/ultra makes horrible everything.

            However, it isn't hard to find regular pasturized organic dairy in California.

            Trader Joes and Whole Foods both carry and many supermarkets. Trader Joes organic, Clover, Strauss, and Organic Valley (pasturized only, they also distribute ultra by grocer demand) are all pasturized.

            And only 2% milk is fortiefied in California. Whole milk and cream or not.

          3. re: biondanonima

            I was wondering the same thing... but the weird part is I used organic in NY and I'm not here... Perhaps it's the specific creamery/dairy company, since I've used the same company for both the milk and cream both times. One of my next experiments was going to be trying another brand -- perhaps the one I'm using now uses UHT even though it's not organic?

            1. re: happygreengirl

              Entirely possible. In fact, I feel like I read another similar thread posted by someone from CA, complaining that all of the brands at their grocery store were UHT. I would definitely check the labels carefully to see if that is the culprit. Your recipe looks totally fine, although I would expect a recipe like that (without eggs or another thickener/emulsifier) to have a somewhat icier texture than a recipe that called for a custard base.

          4. CA has "special" milk. It is protein fortified. If NY milk isn't fortified, maybe the increased protein is causing your problem.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Alan408

              Interesting. I'll have to look into this -- both the protein and UHT variables -- and experiment a bit. Will post an update if one of the altered factors seems to make a difference!

              Thanks for all of your suggestions so far, I'm hopeful I'll be able to solve the problem soon.

              1. re: Alan408

                Yes, so I discovered to my horror one day reading the *ingredients* on a milk carton! This was Trader Joe's low fat organic milk. I presume the dried milk powder was there to boost the protein/mouth feel. So, now I buy the Organic Cream Top milk (also low fat) from Trader Joes that does not have any dried milk added.

              2. It's the freezer.

                (And welcome to SoCal!)

                7 Replies
                1. re: ipsedixit

                  Any thoughts on what I should do to help with the freezer issue? Turn up? Down? I could try both but I'm not sure by what degrees I should alter things...

                  1. re: happygreengirl

                    If you don't want to mess with your recipes (i.e., adding some sort of fat or alcohol to make the ice cream smoother in texture), you have to work backwards and fudge around with the temp settings of your freezer.

                    Your new freezer is probably storing the ice cream at a temp too low. Home freezers are generally designed to keep meat and vegetables cold enough that they can be stored almost indefinitely.

                    Ice cream needs time in a freezer to gain more stability (the “dryness” of the ice cream as you describe). Some (most ice cream shops) consider final temperatures between 14 and 10 degrees F (or -10 and -12 degrees C) to be ideal. This ensures the ice cream will be firm enough to scoop well and yet still smooth. By contrast, most manufacturers recommend the ideal freezer temperature to be at -10 degrees F (-23 degrees C).

                    So, I would simply play around with your freezer and bring it down a notch or two.

                    1. re: ipsedixit

                      What about a piece of plastic wrap across the surface of the ice cream before the top of the storage container when you put it in the freezer? This might help too...

                      1. re: jbsiegel

                        Yes, and it's usually wax paper and it's generally used after you've opened (to eat) and then restored the ice cream container in the freezer. This is to prevent additional ice crystals formation on the top layer of the ice cream.

                        1. re: ipsedixit

                          I've seen both wax paper and plastic wrap. I prefer plastic because it molds to the food better.

                          1. re: jbsiegel

                            Would plastic wrap or wax paper help with the entire container??? It's not simply ice crystals (aka freezer burn) on the top layer, it's the texture of the entire quart or pint, etc. Even after I've let it sit for a full 24 hours in an otherwise covered container.

                            I think playing with the temperature sounds like the best bet. Thanks again for the suggestions, and the detailed information about temperatures! That's quite helpful.

                            1. re: happygreengirl

                              I actually don't think the freezer being too cold is a problem. You definitely want your ice cream a little warmer than freezer temp for serving, but after churning, the faster it freezes, the less chance of large ice crystals forming, which is why chefs and ice cream shops use blast chillers to finish their churned product. If anything, I would guess that your freezer isn't cold enough.