I love ice cream.
I’ve probably eaten roughly 8 volumetric (1 cup – 240 mL) homemade ounces of ice cream 5 nights a week for the past 5 years. I honestly think it’s a huge piece of what’s allowed me to be successful. Ice cream has always been the excited little exclamation point punctuating the end of any day.
I’m somewhat a creature of habit. I find I do best when my routines settle in and I just drift through them. For me, a perfect day starts with a giant cup of far too strong coffee. Then, I enjoy a small late lunch (usually a piece of fruit, or a bowl of chia pudding, a cup of soup, etc.). Then, I typically have a large dinner. An hour or so after dinner, I enjoy a cup of ice cream. Then, an hour or so later, a sound night’s sleep. This is a perfect day. When I stack together lots of days like this, it’s easy and effortless and I love it.
It’s the ice cream, though. I’m telling you!
On those nights I don’t get the ice cream, it’s a somewhat restless night. It’s these nights where I toss and turn. It’s these nights where my dreams turn to romanticized cravings for pizza crust and toasted chewy bagels. It’s these nights I zombie-waddle to the kitchen with one eye open and poke around for snacks.
The ice cream prevents all of this.
Somehow, the sweet end to the day sends my mind the message that the day is over… put a cork in it. I also suspect that the fat from the ice cream helps satiate me through the night, and even on through the following morning… all the way through until lunch. Ask any keto’er. Fat satisfies. It satiates. It puts a cork in it!
I wish I could remember my first batch of ice cream. I mean, I’ve made ice cream many times in various professional kitchens of my youth, but… I’ve never really made it for myself. Then, one day, it was like this ubiquitous treat in my life. My freezer was full of it and my ice cream machine forever churning.
I DO know that I started making ice cream in a house I owned, but sold quickly after my weight loss. I moved into a tiny condo (tired of homeowner duties) and sought to make this tiny condo my own. I ordered chalk boards online, then had a friend turn them into delightful ice cream menus, as if my home were an old school ice cream parlor. Walk into my kitchen and you’ll see a large stainless-steel ice cream machine, loudly swirling custard base into soft frozen circles. I’m a straight-up ice cream nut!
I really don’t know how many flavors I’ve made over the years, but I’m sure its in the hundreds. Some of my personal favorites are: Cream Cheese, Sweet Plum Yogurt, Rainier Cherry-Toasted Almond, Strawberry-Banana, Orange Sour-Cream, Mint Chocolate Chip, Brown Butter-Maple, Salty Chocolate, Bacon-Orange Rosemary, Brownie Batter, Notella and more!
Back in the earliest days of all of this, my secret evil agenda was to write an ice cream recipe book. It’s been my fantasy for years, but the more I write and read and research and interact with people, the more I realize that it’s a relatively small number of people who will actually go the necessary lengths to make homespun ice cream a priority. EVERYONE wants to eat it, but it’s a small number of passionate people who would pursue a constant substantial selection of homemade flavors in the hopper. As such, I’ve finally decided to share my thoughts and secrets… get them out into the world in the hopes it makes a difference. It’s made a HUGE difference for me!
Seen another way, this is also my way of saying that photographing ice cream is hard. I don’t know that I could do a book justice!
Here’s a bit of an ice cream collage, created from photos shot going back over 6 years. They start at the oldest and head up to the most recent. Two trends emerge: I’ve loved ice cream for years and… I’m getting better with a camera!
Top Secret Ice Cream Recipe Tips Follow. Grab a pen!
Ice cream is a great foodstuff for us, for reasons listed above. However, it’s a slightly different animal than the ice cream you’d buy from the store. The primary difference being, the sugar.
Sugar-free ice cream is a different beast. Sugar is a fascinating ingredient, above and beyond its sweet taste, impact on blood sugars and the size of my belly and behind (bellhind?). Sugar can be melted. It can be caramelized. It can be added to things like jams and jellies where it will not only sweeten, but it will thicken and create a smooth and thick syrup. Also? It freezes within ice cream, but it does it in a way as to allow that sweetened aerated cream to stay scoopable, largely by depressing the freezing point (like salt).
Sugar plays a pivotal role in the texture, viscosity and mouthfeel of standard ice creams. Cream, frozen without sugar, is a very different animal. Sugar-free ice creams, without tweaks and deliberate shenanigans, are quite rock hard and have a relatively hollow taste and mouthfeel, as the cream goes from ice to a thin liquid. I mean, it’s still good, but it’s harder to eat and somehow, less fulfilling.
Ice cream, at its core, is sweetened dairy… typically something closer to a frozen half and half, than full heavy cream. This is churned, while it is frozen. This does two things: It adds air (the percentage of which is called overrun) and the constant movement prevents large ice crystals from forming, resulting in many millions of tiny ice crystals, giving the tasty goodness a smooth and pleasant texture.
That’s really it!
Standard Ice Cream: Sugar, half and half, maybe a flavor, air and miniature ice crystals. YUM!
DJ’s view of a quality sugar-free ice cream: A sweetener blend, egg yolks, half and half, maybe a flavor, xanthan gum, vegetable glycerin, salt, air and miniature ice crystals. YUM!
So… yeah… it’s a bit of a science experiment. I’ll be the first to look at that list, push my tongue out of my scowling face and blurt, “BLAH!”
But, it’s also quite safe to say that I’ve been making and enjoying this blend for years. The end result is a full-bodied, sweet tasting, fully scoopable, aerated, tasty, scrummy, frozen churned ice cream experience! I’m telling you… it’s divine. SOOOoooOOoOoo worth the experiment.
This is one science experiment which has changed my life!
The really goofy part in all of this is… the need for all these other wonky ingredients is just to mimic the texturizing properties of sugar. Sugar sure is a clever, sneaky animal!
Now, before we get much further down the rabbit hole… Just know that you can take heavy cream, your favorite sweetener and a flavor, put it in an ice cream machine and you’ll get ice cream. It’ll be good, too! NONE of what I’m about to share is required, but each tweak and addition will take your tasty rock-hard ice cream closer and closer to a rich, smooth, scoopable treat.
Firstly, I actually don’t make sugar-free ice cream. In fact, if I had to absolutely pinpoint the title for what I make it’s this: Sugar-Free Frozen Custard Gelato
This tells you 3 things: It’s got no sugar, it’s got cooked egg yolks, and it’s a denser product than standard ice creams. All that last part means is, it’s got less air in it. This is another way of saying… there’s more ice cream in my ice cream. SQWEEE!!!
Egg Yolks: Because I use egg yolks in my ice cream, I make a frozen custard. Frozen custards go back hundreds of years. Most of “the world’s best ice cream recipes” are actually frozen custards. So, sugar-free or not, the richer, thicker more boldier ice creams you’ve enjoyed likely contained egg yolks and were probably… technically… frozen custards.
Imagine a block of frozen water. Now, imagine a block of frozen butter. Now, imagine biting into each of them. One will be rock hard and brittle, while the other will be firm, but will also be far more forgiving and subtle in the mouth. The point being, fat freezes differently (and more softly) than water. What are egg yolks if not big globs of protein and fat? (and water, but that undermines my point)
Egg yolks are also great for emulsions (a creamy combination of oil and water). The lecithin in egg yolks, in particular, does a great job of partially coalescing with dairy fat, helping to combine the waters and fats into a creamier concoction, like a sweet iced mayonnaise (but in a good way!).
These properties also help maintain the shape retention and frozen properties of ice cream, as it rests in a bowl, rather than just melting into a thin liquid puddle. It’s this latter behavior that I tap into when I place my evening’s ice cream in the fridge before dinner. This starts a rough two-hour-long pre-softening phase. By the time I circle around to enjoy my daily exclamation point, it’s soft, supple and even almost comfortingly warm (to the degree that a frozen custard can be). Then, I do a little dance with my spoon over the top and around the sides of my little frozen discs of ice cream. I eat it slowly and savor every lap of the spoon.
Xanthan Gum: Xanthan gum, a “natural“* gum produced through fermentation, is used heavily as a gluten-replacer in gluten and grain-free baking. It just looks like a light beige powder. I usually buy Now brand about once a year, as its powers diminish after about a year. I’ve written about xanthan gum quite a bit, including a passage in my new book. It’s a wacky ingredient, but I find I use it quite a bit. It’s probably the single wackiest ingredient that gets used regularly in my various repertoires, but it gets used enough to merit the annual purchase.
Xanthan gum is largely used a stabilizer, thickener and texturizer. Various stabilizers are used in most commercial ice creams. Xanthan gum is a prominent one and is also used in salad dressings, puddings, toothpaste, and more. I’ve been adding it to my ice cream for years, as it gives it a more robust texture and mouthfeel, while also increasing scoopability by decreasing the formation of larger ice crystals as it churns. Because of the thickening capacity, it’s often used in low-fat ice creams to give the treat a fuller mouth feel… replacing the softer and richer texture a higher fat ice cream would provide. While this aspect of it is also nice for a higher fat ice cream, too, it’s mostly the smoother and velvety texture we’re looking for.
Xanthan gum is used in tiny amounts. Standard ice cream recipes suggest roughly 1/16th of a tsp per cup of liquid. I personally use roughly 3 times that amount, which creates a somewhat slimy looking ice cream base, but it freezes and goes down the gullet, just lovely. Realistically, anything over about 3/4 tsp per quart starts getting slimy.
The good news is, because such a small amount is used, there’s no flavor that comes from it. Only its beneficial qualities shine through. Xanthan gum is particularly helpful in non-dairy ice cream recipes, in that it helps hold the fats and waters in place (almond milk, coconut milk, sorbets, etc. for example). Xanthan gum also has no impact on blood sugars.
* Xantham gum is made through fermentation of sugars. It’s about as natural as beer or wine. I consider it a processed food, but it’s not synthetic and it is often marketed as “natural”.
Vegetable Glycerin: Vegetable glycerin (glycerol) is a clear, sweet and odorless liquid which comes from plant oils (usually palm, soy or coconut). It’s a colorless liquid with a viscosity somewhere near maple syrup or warm honey. The texture is slickery like oil, but it’s not oily. It’s typically used in the cosmetics industry (a moisturizer, it’s delightful for the skin!), but is sometimes used in foods as a replacement for alcohol in extracts and various tinctures. With its sweet taste, it complements extracts well.
It’s another ingredient which helps keep the ice cream scoopable. Like the others, it helps maintain the relationship of fat to water. It also lowers the freezing of the liquid (like sugar, salt and alcohol).
Here’s where my D+ in chemistry will become quickly evident. Vegetable glycerin is made through hydrolysis. Through lots of Googling and YouTube videos, the best I’ve been able to discern is this… Hydrolysis means that a molecule is split apart with water. In this case, water is added to oil molecules under pressure and a high temperature.
(I’m picturing something like organic coconut oil and rainforest rainwater being deeply squoozin’ and feeling the pressure in an Instant Pot. I reserve the right to be completely wrong.)
This act splits the vegetable oil molecule into glycerin and fatty acids. The glycerin is absorbed by the water, which is then distilled to increase glycerol purity. I don’t know what happens to the fatty acids. They likely sulk and lament the loss of their glycerin.
Ultimately, my point is this: through some Mr. Wizard-like voodoo-ery, this slippery sweet liquid is extracted from vegetable fats. It’s got a relatively high calorie count (4.3 calories per gram), but is super low-glycemic and has little to no impact on blood sugars. It’s used in quite a few low-carb, keto and sugar-free treats. It’s about 60% as sweet as sugar, but there’s a cutting saccharine vibe to its sweetness, which is difficult to explain. Let’s just say that… in terms of ice cream, it’s good that a little goes a long way. While sweet, it’s not smooth, comforting or pleasant sweet.
I use Now brand. Just be sure yours is Food grade. If it’s got the poison label or a skull and crossbones… move on.
Also, here’s a fascinating blog post about vegetable glycerin and ice cream, I dub: “Sweet Deep Rabbit Hole“.
Salt: Salt is a flavor enhancer. It also lowers the freezing point of liquids (ever been on the east coast during a snow storm? Ever sprinkle rock salt under your tire?). So, a touch of salt adds and rounds out flavors, while also lowering the freezing point of your ice cream, making it just a wee-twinkle less firm.
Ice Cream Machines
Ok, so… how does one make ice cream?
Again, ice cream, at its core, is just sweetened and flavored cream. Pour this into an ice cream machine, let it do its thing, then enjoy!
Here’s my ice cream machine:
Yeah, it’s like the Alfa Romeo of ice cream machines. It’s a hand-me-down from my folks. I inherited it when they sold their house (and I’ve loved it and abused it, ever since).
If I were in the market for a new one, I’d probably buy this one:
It’s a 2.1 quart, which means it’ll make relatively large batches (especially for a home machine). The price is reasonable, I’ve owned another machine by this brand and enjoyed it. Plus, it has hundreds of 5-star reviews on Amazon. I suspect it’s a fantastic machine.
Would also make a nice gift, if you know anyone who likes ice cream!… just a thought…
All 4 contain loud compressors containing chilly metal bowls that have arm-paddles churning and stirring through the ice cream base. The bowl is cold, the ice cream base freezes in a very thin layer on the side of the bowl, then a paddle comes swooping by, scraping the frozen layer off and swirling it back into the main body of the ice cream base where the ice crystals grow, spread and are broken apart by the churning. Just as the paddle passes any given spot on the bowl wall, a new super thin layer of cream begins to instantly freeze in its wake.
So, just what is ice cream, anyway? Where did this stuff come from?
Ice cream has been around in some form, for as long as people have eaten an accidental berry or twig mixed in with their snow. It’s not terribly elegant, but it’s a start!
Roughly 4000 years ago, there were “ice houses”, or houses that would store mountain snow for the summer. As humans grew and learned, becoming more complex animals, so did our ice cream. About 2500 years ago, Greeks would pull their snow from ice houses in the summer and enjoy it mixed with honey and fruit. Alexander the Great enjoyed his with nectar. Oh, Sweet Drippy-Drippy Snow Cones!
From there, a variety of other forms of frozen treats were created. Persia, about 2400 years ago, had a chilled dish made from rose water and vermicelli. Saffron, fruits and other goodies were added. This sounds lovely, actually! Fruity Pasta Snow Cones!
China, about 2300 years ago, were the first to use dairy (that I can find, anyway). They would combine milk and rice, then pack it in snow. Milky Rice Snow Cone Wads!
While I’m sure all manner of iced slushy goodness was enjoyed wherever ice lived, most advancements in ice cream occurred in China over the next 1000 years. The Chinese also likely invented the ice cream machine, or at least discovered that salt mixed with ice will pull heat from the container placed within it. Mixtures of snow and saltpeter were poured over containers of syrup to freeze the contents. Roughly 1400 years ago, China’s King T’ang of Shang kept 94 “ice men” around so that he could enjoy a frozen mixture of fermented buffalo milk, flour and camphor. MMmmm… Camphory!
In the late 1200’s Marco Polo returned to Venice from China, supposedly bringing with him recipes for pasta and ice cream (a form of sorbet). Now, some believe that Marco Polo never even visited China. Much of this is still up for debate, but most agree that he did go there, even if a lot of the stories were appropriated or embellished. Regardless, in the years leading up to this, there were many other channels bridging east and west. It is said that Chinese taught Arab traders how to combine syrups and snow, the first version of sorbetto. Sicily was actually an Arab Emirate during the years 831 to 1090. It’s very possible that many of these ideas and traditions may have bloomed on European soil in their very own right. They certainly introduced oranges, lemons and pistachio. Granita. They also introduced sugarcane. Mmmmm… Suuuuugar…
As the lore continues… in 1533, Catherine de’ Medici from Florence married the future King Henri II: Electric Boogaloo, from France. She brought with her, her culinary entourage from Italy. In and amongst the month-long wedding celebration, a chicken farmer named Ruggerio made a different flavor of ice every day. He had previously won a contest organized by the Medici called “The most unusual dish you have ever seen.” Ruggerio became famous in the region. In her grand 14 years of wisdom, Cathy of Medici brought this singly named chicken farming/ice cream making fellow to France just so show up the French chefs. This marriage is often considered the birth of modern French haute cuisine.
Again, like Marco Polo before, a lot of this is just story handed down over the generations. As the story goes, the French cooks all hated Ruggerio. The stress took its toll and he later returned to chicken farming.
200 years later, in 1754, the first mention of Catherine’s influence over French cuisine is published in Encyclopédie. Haute cuisine is described as decadent and effeminate and explains that fussy sauces and fancy fricassees arrived in France via “that crowd of corrupt Italians who served at the court of Catherine de’ Medici.” She also brought forks.
In the late 1500’s Bernardo Buontalenti, an architect, sculptor, painter, designer and all-around ice expert, was tasked by the Medici family to create elaborate constructions, events, fireworks, stages and banquets as a jaw dropping welcome to Spanish guests. He whipped up a kind of frozen bergamot, lemon, and orange zabaglione (a kind of whipped frothy custard) made with sweetened milk, eggs, and wine. It was churned over salted ice. It is said that he even designed his own whisk, to make the froth. This, my friends, is the world’s first gelato… frozen custard.
At this point, though… the secret is out. Ice cream is making the rounds. Granted, it’s just the rich and fancy that have staff and access to ice (modern refrigeration didn’t exist, yet), but frozen desserts of cream, flavorings, eggs, sugar and/or ice are being made from China to India, through the Middle East and now in Europe.
The first mention of Ice Cream being served in the USA is in 1744 (served with strawberries). Ice cream was introduced to the USA by Quakers. In 1777, confectioner Philip Lenzi announced in the New York Gazette that ice cream was available “almost every day”. Ben Franklin, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were all big fans of ice cream.
From there, ice cream shops opened. Recipes started to get out of professional’s hands. Whole books were being written about it. In the 1840’s, a small hand-cranked ice cream machine was invented. Ice cream was going mainstream. HUZZAH!!
Can you make ice cream without a machine?
Mix While Freezing: Granita, a Sicilian treat, is actually more like a chunky sorbet. It has no dairy, but it’s a really simple and low-key place to start. Take any kind of sweet water (something like lemonade or sweetened coffee) and pour it in something flat and wide like a metal baking pan (with a rim) or a casserole dish. Then, place in the freezer. After about 30 to 45 minutes, look at it. Chances are, it’s starting to freeze around the edges. Take a fork and separate the frozen portion from the edge, break it up and swirl it back into the center, somewhat lifting it above and dropping it, as you go, aerating it. After about 30 minutes, do this again. Eventually the idea is to freeze the entire body of liquid, while also working in some air as you fold the freezing granita in on its less solid portions. In the end, you’ll have something that tastes lovely and looks a bit like a colorful coarse snowy ice.
Note: this would work with dairy, it just won’t be a traditional granita. If you start with an ice cream or frozen custard base, it’ll still taste awesome, but it will also have a rough texture (Gelati Ruvido).
Start Frozen: There are blender and food processor recipes, which seem incredibly simple (but they also seem hard on the equipment). Something like a Vitamix would be great for these, where frozen berries, fruit or ice cream base (frozen as ice cubes) are blended while a liquid is added. The act of blending the frozen part with the liquid QUICKLY creates an instant rough soft-serve-like ice cream. Niiiiiiice cream!
Whip it Good: If you look up at my mélange of ice cream photos, you’ll see a square-y looking one, near the bottom, sitting atop a squiggle of chocolate sauce. That’s a Semifreddo (Italian for ‘kinda melty’). It’s actually like a fun-loving ice cream loaf. Basically, it’s a mixture of goodies folded into whipped custard chantilly. So, in the photo above, I made a custard base, but omitted a good portion of the cream. This creates a thicker/eggier ice cream base. I chilled this and added crunchy bits, like cacao nibs and nuts. Then, I whipped sweetened heavy cream until light and fluffy. Then, I add one-third of the whipped cream to the custard base and gently fold it in. Then, I fold in another third of the whipped cream, followed by folding in the final third. The idea is to whip lots of airy air into the custard base. Then, line a loaf pan with plastic wrap, pour your aerated custard base into the loaf pan and freeze. Later, remove it from the freezer (it’s easier to work with if it’s softened in the fridge for an hour or two [becoming ‘kinda melty’]). Slice and serve!
Put the Smaller Thing in the Bigger Thing with Salt and Ice: The original ice cream machines, going all the way back to ancient China, involved surround a container with salt and ice. The old hand cranked machines (even the one I use to take turns with, with my brother, at my grandparent’s house as a kid [boy, did my arm get tired!]… all operate on the same idea. Take a bucket and put ice in it. Spread salt all over it. Take a smaller metal bucket and put it on the salt. Put the ice cream base inside the smaller metal bucket and add more ice and salt to the space between the bigger wodden bucket and the smaller metal bucket. The crank was essentially a paddle attached to a handle. It would spin inside the ice cream base, churning the ice cream as small crystals formed. This would result in ice cream! This same concept is true of a big metal bowl filled with ice and salt. Put a smaller bowl in the ice with ice cream base and swirl with a hand mixer, from time to time. Or, even more than that… Take a large gallon sized Ziploc freezer bag and put some ice and salt inside. Then, take a smaller quart sized Ziploc bag and add ice cream base to it. Seal the smaller bag, then place it inside the bigger bag with the salty ice. Now, shake the whole sloppy thing up! After just a few minutes, the ice cream inside the smaller bag will start to freeze and thicken. On a really hot day you may need to change out the salty ice with fresh salty ice, at least once, but this is a surprisingly quick way to make ice cream!
Ok, Mr. Foodie, you’ve done it, again. Another giant wall of wordy text. Where’s the recipe?!
For the most part, I just use one recipe that I tweak and adapt for flavors. Keep in mind, though… most any sweet liquid will freeze up. Mixing it while it freezes just helps make it more ice cream-like!
This is roughly what I do …
Generic Vanilla Ice Cream Ratio
Recipe makes roughly 5 cups (1.2 L) of base and yields roughly 7 cups (1.65 L) of ice cream.
2 1/2 cups (600 mL) heavy cream
8 egg yolks
1 cup (240 mL) sugar replacement
3/4 tsp (3 mL) xanthan gum
A dash of salt
1 tsp (5 mL) vanilla extract
1 1/2 cup (360 mL) unsweetened almond milk
3 tbsp (45 mL) vegetable glycerin
Gently heat the cream until it just simmers.
Slowly temper the hot cream into the eggs (add a small amount of hot cream. Add more and more while whisking). Then, put the hot egg mixture back into the pot. Stir quickly, so the eggs don’t scramble.
In a small bowl, combine sweetener with xanthan gum and salt. Mix well, this will keep the xanthan from clumping.
Whisk in the powdered dry ingredients and vanilla. Whisk quickly and thoroughly, again to keep the xanthan from clumping. Once everything is smooth and dissolved you can relax, somewhat. Although you do want to keep whisking to keep from scrambling the eggs. It should stay smooth.
Keep whisking, until the frothier bubbles stop forming on the surface, it thickens and coats the back of a spoon and the temperature is about 165 F (74 C).
Remove from the heat and add the almond milk, mostly just to cool it down.
Whisk in the vegetable glycerin.
Then, it goes into the ice cream machine!
Note: Most recipes suggest cooling the ice cream mixture (aging it) before it goes into a machine. I can never wait and have never felt it made a significant difference. I DO think it can be harder on the compressor, though.
I never make it like this, though. For one, it’s more just a plain ratio. For two, if I make vanilla, I’m using beans. Ultimately, it’s just a general framework, upon which I can add crunchy bits and levels of multi-colored layers of lunacy.
I’ll typically use less sweetener and almond milk, exchanging them for some sugar-free almond syrup, a jar of sugar-free strawberry jam, and toasted almonds, to get a strawberry-toasted almond flavor. This is done to swap the flavors, maintain a similar level of sweetness and swap one portion of liquid volume for another flavored portion of liquid volume. The goal is to never really grow this ratio to anything over a total of 6 volumetric cups, or else it won’t fit in my machine (remember, ice cream expands as air is added to it).
I’ll take a ratio like this and I’ll substitute a good portion of the cream and almond milk and use canned pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg, a dash of clove, and some sugar-free pumpkin pie syrup. Or, I’ll use coconut milk in place of the cream and add fresh chopped ginger and some lime zest. Or, strained Greek yogurt and blackberry jam. Or,… the list goes on and on.
Basically, by following a rough ratio, then tasting the “base”, you can make something that is always tasty and quite often extraordinary! Sometimes the texture ranges from slightly crystalized to … mind blowing, but it’s never ever bad.
Another trick … I tend to “under” sweeten it, then taste the “base”. If it’s not to my liking, it’s quite common for me to drip a few drops of liquid sucralose into it. It’s basically like seasoning a sauce as it cooks, but just with sweetener. “Follow your tongue. It always nose!”, I always say!
My favorite flavor so far? This one takes some extra steps, but … it’s a salty brown butter. OH MY!!! It’s like that salty sweet sensation that comes from something like Kettle Corn. OH!!! SO GOOD!!
Now that my secret is out…
I still don’t think the overwhelming majority of people will ever make homemade ice cream a big part of their kitchen lives. I wish I were wrong and maybe all y’all will prove me wrong!
I have a friend that I work with. She’s adopted this way of eating, but she’s not a fruu-fruu cheffy type. I often ask her this and that to see what she thinks. In many ways, I view her responses as indicative of what much of my audience might say. Her opinions carry a lot of weight! I’ve made a good 3 different batches of ice cream with her, including literally talking her through every step as she performed the dance. I’ve offered her a stash of the weirder ingredients. I’ve even offered to lend her one of my ice cream machines. Even with all that, she still hasn’t made her own batch of ice cream.
However, if I offer her some to eat, she pulls a long-handled titanium ice-cream spoon out of each pocket, then runs out to fetch her ice chest from the trunk of her car. Clearly, she LOVES ice cream. She also clearly has no desire to make it. I just think the creation of it is just seen as too complex, too much time and that infernal ice cream machine is heavy and takes up too much space!
So, where does this leave the ice cream lovers without the time or desire to make their own?
Unfortunately, mostly hosed…
While I’ll be the first to acknowledge that things like erythritol, vegetable glycerin, xanthan gum and sodium chloride (salt) all sound like a lab experiment… these are all ingredients that I use knowingly and thoughtfully. I find them to be better than the alternative (standard sugary ice cream that likely contains most of this stuff, anyway).
Sugar-Free Ice Cream in the Real World
The REAL big problem is all the sugar-free ice creams on the market. I’m currently down visiting Mexico, but even when I am in the states, it’s VERY hard to find a good quality sugar-free ice cream. I think the best brand that I’m able to occasionally find is SO DELICIOUS (and it is!). They have a sugar-free line of ice creams, but… they use coconut milk as a base. This is actually largely great, as well. Coconut is super healthy and their combinations tend to downplay the coconut flavor, but… it’s not true ice cream.
Interestingly, let’s look at the ingredients in their Vanilla Bean Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert: ORGANIC COCONUT MILK (WATER, ORGANIC COCONUT CREAM), GUM ARABIC, VEGETABLE GLYCERIN, CHICORY ROOT EXTRACT, ERYTHRITOL, VANILLA EXTRACT, NATURAL FLAVORS, SEA SALT, LOCUST BEAN GUM, GUAR GUM, CARRAGEENAN, MONK FRUIT EXTRACT, VANILLA BEAN SPECKS
Basically what you have is coconut milk, followed by various ‘natural’ gums (stabilizers and texturizers), sweeteners in the form of chicory root (I’m assuming it’s an inulo-oligosaccharide), erythritol and monk fruit (all ‘natural’ and super-low to zero glycemic sweeteners). They’ve also got the vegetable glycerin. The rest is salt and actual vanilla.
What’s missing are the eggs and cream! As a result, these still comes off as a very very distant vanilla coconut sorbet. A really nice one, though!
This is about the only ice cream brand that I’m generally able to find (even in Mexico on rare occasions) that is doing some good work. Additionally, a lot of these extra ingredients just come down to synergy. They work better together than any one ingredient can. My ratio is simplified for ease, but could also layer in all these gums and sweeteners. If I did, my homespun goodness would be… just… that… much… better!
Most of the rest of the options (short of some niche brands that are impossible to find) are all either sugar-free and fat-free (sweetened aerated nutrient lacking chemicals), or their sweetener of choice causes in increase in blood sugar, even though they can legally call the product “sugar-free”.
In contrast, here’s Blue Bell’s No Sugar Added Vanilla Ice Cream (they’re proudly low-fat): Milk, Skim Milk, Polydextrose, Cream, Sorbitol, Maltodextrin, Cellulose Gel, Cellulose Gum, Vegetable Gums (Guar, Carrageenan, Carob Bean), Natural and Artificial Flavor, Soy Mono- and Diglycerides, Aspartame, Acesulfame Potassium, Annatto Color, Vitamin A Palmitate
Here, we have some dairy, but most of the fat has been removed from it. We see much of the same gums. There’s also polydextrose and maltodextrin, which are both forms of glucose. One a scale of 1 to 100, polydextrose is a decent 7, however the maltodextrin is roughly… 100. Yep, it’s equal to blood sugar. Table sugar is only 65! There’s also sorbitol (GI of 9), which is one of the more laxative of the sugar alcohols. You could make the argument that this ice cream is self-policing. There are artificial flavors, some soy, then finally aspartame and Ace-K, both of which are synthetic sweeteners (to be fair, they taste nice in this blend and I don’t demonize synthetic sweeteners like many do. That said, these are two of the more controversial ones). Annatto is a seed… no problem. I like it on my Yucatan pork. No clue what a “Vitamin A Palmitate” is, though. I could Google it, but I’d rather just sneer at it, ignorantly. Must be delicious!
This also has no eggs, no meaningful and satiating fat, I can’t trust the carb count and it’s got a lot of needless wonkiness going on with it. I find all kinds of variations of these themes through the sugar-free ice cream landscape, sad to say. Basically, this would likely boost my blood sugar, then cause rabid lunatic cravings.
Whenever I make statements like this, I get emails from angry people who claim their favorite brand isn’t like that and they stand to defend their brand of choice. That’s fine. You may be right! These aren’t blanket and all-encompassing statements. They’re broad generalizations, but there are exceptions. I know for a fact that there are some excellent niche and local producers around, but I can’t think of any national brands who are absolutely nailing it.
Which… interestingly… leads me to my next section.
An Elaborate Plan to Disrupt the Sugar-Laden Ice Cream Industry
I get emailed a wide variety of proposals all the time, from all over the place. Some of the time it’s an actual reader with their own books or products and other times it’s completely irrelevant spam. I try and help those where philosophies align. Every once in a while, though, there’s an email that causes me a double-take. Wha? WHA?!
Austin’s timing couldn’t have been better, either. Keep in mind that as of a few weeks ago, I’ve never heard of Austin. I don’t know him and have absolutely zero skin in this game. My role in sharing this is strictly because I think the world needs a product like Austin’s. If you’re reading this, I think YOU need a product like Austin’s. I’m willing to throw some spotlight on him, because he’s creating ice cream after my own heart.
Austin is working hard to Kickstart a national Keto-friendly ice cream brand: Rebel Creamery.
I support my friends and family. I also fully support ice cream!
I’m just going to cut to the quick. Austin is looking for pledges to help him make Rebel Creamery a reality. I want him to succeed, because… as much as I love making ice cream, some of the time, I just want to stroll into a store and buy some. Also, if you pledge more than $40.00, not only are you increasing their chances of survival, but they’ll also mail you 4 pints of ice cream! Yep, pre-orders are option, now!
The good news is, he’s already nearly tripled their goal, but that’s just to get him to the next rung on the ladder. Getting a product on shelves in grocery stores is not easy. NOT AT ALL. He’s actually REALLY looking to get $150,000, which is more than double where he sits. This gets them to a national level, PLUS it gives them the ability to roll in a fifth flavor. I think the fact that he’s already near tripled his original goal speaks volumes to the potential of such a product. Let’s help him speak even louder!
I’m going to write more, but if you want to check out the Kickstarter page with a video and loads of info, please visit it here. This is the real deal! Healthy, fun, delicious and with a pitch perfect philosophy.
Anywhooo… Austin wrote me about a month ago. I was running behind (as usual) and was trying to get my Thanksgiving post out on time. This is when I received his first email. I responded with exuberance and 2 quick questions: What kind of ice cream cones are in the photos and… how do I know you’re not just some shyster out to cash in on Kickstarter? As much as I believe in your concept and idea, why should I believe in YOU?
He responded with…
1. We should make this clearer in our Kickstarter page! These are low carb waffle cones. We’ve tried several recipes, these were made using this one. Sometimes they turn out to be a disaster, sometimes they turn out pretty well! Some say konjac is the miracle flour. 🙂 I also want to explore making some using some crushed pork rinds and see what that might do for the structure.
2. This is a fantastic question. Many flakey people could certainly could come up with all kinds of lies and smooth talking to get you to trust them. I come from a family of eight children, and if there’s anything I’ve learned growing up and what I’ve tried to teach my own kids every single day, it’s that integrity is more important than anything. That we grow up to be a man or woman of our word. Over the past several years, I’ve struggled with what I want to do with my MBA and my time, but this idea hit me like a ton of bricks. I’m extremely passionate about healthy food and want to be a force for good in the world. It almost feels like this is my calling, and I’m going to work my heart out to make this happen and use it to help others on their low carb journey. A keto way of eating has made such an impact on my own life that I want others to also enjoy its benefits!
And, as if that’s not all good enough, take a look at the ingredients they use: cream, almond milk (almonds, water), egg yolks, erythritol, vegetable glycerin, chicory root fiber, monk fruit, carob gum, guar gum. However, we do plan to have non-dairy, LCHF, coconut cream-based flavors in the future!
All they need is a dash of salt and it very nearly straight-up mimics my own homemade blends.
Oh, come on, you guys… pledge. PLEDGE! I want them to succeed, if anything, because my arm gets tired from all the stirring and whisking. I just want to buy it!
Note that their campaign ends in just 5 days, too. Pledge… and pledge quickly!
In all sincerity, Rebel Creamery looks to be the real deal. They speak our language. Can’t wait to try me some!
And, on to the recipe!
Browned Butter and Maple Ice Cream
I don’t know that I’ve ever had a Maple flavored ice cream before, but the thought just sounded incredibly appealing. The result far beyond surpassed my expectations. The lovely homemade pumpkin pie sat sadly in the shadow of the mammothly popular ice cream. From there, I’ve tinkered with the formula … More >
……… Coming Soon!
An Easy Guide to Grain-Free Quick Breads
Taking Out the Carbage
AKA The Big Book of Bacon
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