Don’t know why it took me so long to post this…
You, lucky reader, are about to be let in on The Secret of Ice Cream. It’s not in The Perfect Scoop (which I own and read, of course). It’s not on foodgawker (my constant companion). It’s in books like The Science of Ice Cream and The Handbook of Food Science, Technology, and Engineering. It’s hardcore science that will make your ice cream soft.
The reigning messiah of ice cream, David Lebovitz (author of The Perfect Scoop, reigning ice cream bible) distinguishes between two kinds of ice cream: Philadelphia style and French style. The former is based on cream and sugar while the latter adds to these egg yolks. He gives a recipe for Philadelphia style ice cream but warns us that it will be icier than the French style. What he doesn’t say is that there are other options.
It makes perfect sense, actually. Ice cream aside, what are egg yolks used for? Thickening and emulsifying things. But they’re far from the only ingredients used for these purposes. For thickening, you can use any of dozens of kinds of starches and gums, as well as gelatin and pectin. (There are other chemicals that emulsify as well, but I don’t worry about that – yet, anyway.) So it’s no coincidence that you can use all of these things to improve the texture of your ice cream, too. But gelatin, pectin, and gums are needed in smaller amounts than egg yolks and starches, and lack the fat of egg yolks (it’s not a health thing, I swear – I just think an overly fatty ice cream isn’t as delicious), so I’d rather use them.
Unfortunately, ice cream scientists seem not to be very gossipy, so no one is helping me get the secret out, and as a result, there are precious few recipes to go on. So, I took Lebovitz’s Philly Vanilla recipe and added an envelope of gelatin to it (and a row of Oreos, because I had been craving cookies and cream ice cream for at least a month). It came out too thick for my taste, so I tried again with slightly less gelatin and light cream in place of heavy cream (I didn’t use his option of using part milk in either case), and it came out better, but ever so slightly too icy. The experiments will have to continue, but my hunch is that more fat is not what’s needed. Rather, more sugar or even more milk protein (which I could add in the form of nonfat milk powder) may be the key. Or the full envelope of gelatin. Or a different thickener (I’m considering ordering some guar gum). I just try to see all these questions and the batches of ice cream they necessitate as the silver lining to the ridiculous heat wave we’ve been having here in Massafrickingchusetts, of all places. I expect these temperatures in Florida, but in Florida I have air conditioning!