Vanilla Ice Cream | with xanthan gum

March 18, 2021 | © 2021 Biterkin

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This Vanilla Ice Cream is made with xanthan gum to create a lovely body which churns beautifully, melts uniformly and keeps well in the freezer. There are several types of gums used in commercial ice cream making which are combined to stabilise the ice cream mixture and improve its texture. Although we can use a combination of gums at home, I prefer to keep things simple and for this reason I only use xanthan gum, which is easy to find, easy to use; and gives lovely results. 

The secret for the perfect vanilla flavour of this ice cream lies in the vanilla you use; for a perfect vanilla flavour, use pure vanilla extract rather than vanilla essence. This, along with some more details -which you can read below- take  the vanilla flavour of this ice cream a step further.

The Biterkin details for a perfect Vanilla Ice Cream using xanthan gum:

When using xanthan gum for ice cream making, you need to bring the ice cream mixture to the right temperature (around 40ºC/104ºF) before adding the gum. This is the ideal temperature for the gum to dissolve effectively without clumping.

While it is good to have a thermometer, it is only natural that you may not have one at home. For this reason I have developed a very simple method, which uses the laws of physics to guarantee that you bring the liquid to the right temperature before adding the gum.

How does it work? By combining the right quantities of two liquids which are at standard temperatures, we bring the final liquid to the temperature we want. Standard temperatures are the temperatures which are always the same at home. These are:

  1. Boiling temperature of a liquid, which is always around 100ºC; 212ºF. When we say boiling, we mean full boil of the liquid, when it bubbles up vigorously.
  2. Refrigeration temperature, which is cold from the fridge and is always 4ºC; 39ºF (assuming that the refrigerator works properly).

What you do, is bring the milk and sugar to a full boil and then pour it into the cold heavy cream. By pouring it directly in the blender and turning it on, the mixture immediately reaches 45ºC/113ºF; then you sprinkle the xanthan gum, blend for two minutes to fully hydrate; and you are set. This works precisely, every time, and it is the easiest way to use xanthan gum, without any hassle and thermometers.

Your best option is vanilla extract labeled as “pure vanilla extract”. Always check the ingredients; it should contain water, alcohol and vanilla bean extract. If possible, avoid the ones containing sugar or any other ingredients; they may seem like a bargain as they are cheaper, but in fact you pay for a diluted product, resulting in a weak vanilla flavour.

If you don’t have pure vanilla extract, refer to the ingredients section below, where you can find information on other forms of vanilla and how to use them. 

This is totally optional, but you can replace regular sugar with a good-quality raw cane sugar, such as Demerara or Turbinado. These are sugars which are very aromatic, thanks to their natural content in molasses, which gives them an earthy, slightly caramelised aroma, giving the final ice cream an aroma similar to that of vanilla’s.

By replacing regular sugar with a good quality raw cane sugar, you boost the vanilla flavour of the ice cream, creating the ultimate vanilla ice cream experience. To evaluate the quality of the sugar, you only have to sniff it; it should smell divine.  In my experience, the best Demerara sugar comes from the island of Mauritius, so I always check the packaging for the origin.

All vanilla ice cream recipes out there require that you add the vanilla extract right after you prepare the ice cream mixture and before chilling it in the refrigerator. Personally, I prefer to add the vanilla extract during the last minutes of churning instead, which brings out the vanilla flavour bold and shining. Just set a reminder to add it then, as you may forget it – especially if you are used to adding it at the beginning.

Another reason for adding it then and not at the beginning, is that the alcohol and sugar content of the vanilla you use may vary; this can disturb the balance of the recipe and get in the way of proper churning, resulting in a sloppy liquid vs. a fluffy ice cream. To avoid this, we add it after the ice cream has fluffed up and turned creamy.

The ingredients:

This is what you will need:

Every single ingredient plays a vital role in the recipe. Ice creams are all about balance, both in terms of ingredients, as well as their quantities. Do not play around changing the proportions of the ingredients or trying to use low-fat versions of dairy and sweeteners, such as stevia/other decreased-calorie sugars. Look out for these:

The recipe at a glance:
Vanilla Ice Cream | with xanthan gum
Ingredients:

For best results, use a scale and measure the ingredients directly into the utensils, when you need them.

Avoid weighing in one utensil and transferring to another, as this causes a small, but significant loss of quantity, especially in liquids.

If using cups to measure the ingredients, make sure that you thoroughly scrape the cup after measuring each ingredient.

This recipe yields 1.2 lt/qt ice cream mixture (before churning), which is perfect for ice cream makers with 1.5 litre/quart capacity and up.

However, if you own a smaller ice cream maker, or if you do not want to buy more than a pint (or 500 ml) of heavy cream, you can still make this recipe, using these quantities:

  • 300 gr milk (10.6 oz; 300 ml; 1⅓ cup)
  • 145 gr sugar (5.1 oz; 2/3 cup)
  • 500 gr heavy cream (17.7 oz; 1 pint; 500 ml; 2 cups and 2 Tbs.)
  • 1/4 tsp. xanthan gum
  • 2 Tbs. vanilla extract

Any declinations on conversions above, are intentional and do not affect the outcome of the recipe.

Only use regular cow’s milk, fresh, with around 3,5% fat.

Do not substitute with light versions (lower fat) or non-dairy milk. Both the fat and the milk proteins are needed for the recipe to work. 

Use regular sugar (granulated sugar).

You could also use a raw cane sugar such as turbinado or demerara, which will enhance the vanilla flavour of the ice cream.

Do not use sugar substitutes, such as table sweeteners or stevia. Also, do not use confectioner’s sugar, it is not suitable for this recipe.

For best results, use heavy cream with 35-36% fat percentage. It should be of pourable consistency. Do not use lower fat versions. Do not use any kind of non-dairy cream. 

If you live in the UK where heavy cream is not available, you can combine double cream and milk to create heavy cream.

For 635 gr heavy cream you will need:

  • 440 gr/ml double cream (with 50% fat)
  • 190 gr/ml regular milk (3.5% fat)

To make the heavy cream, put the double cream in a large bowl, then pour in the milk, a little at a time, whisking smoothly after each addition until just incorporated. Do not over-whisk, or else it will turn into whipped cream; stop when the cream is smooth and preferably with a pourable consistency.

Proceed with the recipe, just as if you had the 635 gr heavy cream needed.

It can be found in specialty shops, health food stores and online. It should contain only xanthan gum and no additional ingredients. 

For a stretchy texture, similar to that of Booza ice cream, increase the quantity to 1/2 tsp.

For a perfect vanilla ice cream flavour, prefer “Pure Vanilla Extract” over “Vanilla Essence”, if available.

You can also use “Vanilla Paste”; to do so, use the amount equivalent to 2 vanilla pods as written on the product’s label. If using Vanilla Paste, add it in step 2 (instead of step 3 as you would do with the vanilla extract), after the ice cream mixture has cooled down and before you chill it. Whisk well to dissolve.

If you want a natural vanilla flavour, avoid using “Imitation Vanilla Flavouring” and “Vanillin” in this recipe. If you do not mind though, and it is the only kind you have, refer to the instructions on the package for the quantity you should use for the equivalent of 2 vanilla pods. Add this in step 3.  

A flexible rubber spatula is useful for:

-wiping the bottom of the saucepan when cooking dairy on the stovetop

-scraping residues which would be otherwise left behind in bowls, saucepans etc.

If you do not have one, I strongly encourage you to buy one, preferably a flexible one.

Fact: When you boil milk, it curdles.

But when you add sugar, you can safely bring milk to a boil; just make sure that all the sugar has dissolved before raising the heat to high. To achieve this, gently warm the milk with the sugar  over medium heat, stirring often to ensure that the sugar is completely dissolved; then you can raise the heat and safely bring it to a boil. If the milk boils before all the sugar has dissolved, it will curdle.

Instructions

Before starting, make sure that your ice cream maker is ready for churning when needed. This means that if it has a removable freezer bowl, it should be put in the freezer for the whole time indicated by the manufacturer, usually 24 hours.

If you intend to transfer the ice cream to a container to store the ice cream, put this container in the freezer well ahead of time, too; this will prevent the ice cream from melting upon contact with it.

Step 1: Make the ice cream mixture

Pour the cold heavy cream (635 gr; 22.4 oz.; 2⅓ cups)  in a blender.

Boil the milk and sugar: in a small saucepan put the milk (380 gr; 13.4 oz.; 1½ cups & 2 tsp.) and the sugar (185 gr; 6.5 oz.; 3/4 cup and 1 Tbs.)warm over medium-high heat, stirring often. 

When the sugar fully dissolves and the milk is hot and steamy, increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil (large bubbles on the surface).

Pour the milk in the cream: immediately remove from the heat and pour the hot milk into the blender with the cold heavy cream.

Add the xanthan gum and blend: turn on the blender on low speed and slowly sprinkle the xanthan gum (1/4 tsp.) over it. Let it blend for 2 minutes. 

Step 2Chill the ice cream mixture

Cool it down: prepare an ice bath by putting ice cubes and cold water in a large bowl and carefully nest the bowl with the ice cream mixture in it, taking care that no water slips into it. Leave it to cool down for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Strain and chill thoroughly: when you churn it with the ice cream maker, the ice cream mixture should be thoroughly cold. To chill it, use one of the two methods below (click on methods to read more):

Personally, I prefer the slow method, as during the refrigeration process the ice cream mixture matures and the flavours improve. However, most people do not notice this flavour improvement, therefore feel free to follow the method which is more convenient to you.
Another thing to consider in choosing the fast method is whether you have enough ice to fully submerge the ice cream bag.

When churning with a domestic ice cream maker, your ice cream mixture should always be thoroughly chilled. Otherwise, your ice cream maker may not be able to churn the ice cream to its fullest potential, resulting in a sloppy liquid vs. a fluffy ice cream.

Step 3: Churn the ice cream

this vanilla ice cream will expand and fluff up during churning. It is ready when it looks smooth and fluffy. This could take anywhere from 30-60 minutes, depending your ice cream maker.

To evaluate if it’s ready, lift a spoonful; it should be thick enough to stand on the spoon, but still be soft like soft-serve ice cream. If, upon lifting some ice cream with the spoon, a pool immediately starts forming on its edges, you will have to churn it for longer. 

In any case, if you feel doubts about the consistency, leave it for ten minutes more. But beware: at this stage, do not expect it to be like store-bought carton ice cream; for now it should be more like soft-serve ice cream. It will firm up and become like store-bought ice cream only after it sets in the freezer. 

 

So, stop the ice cream maker when it is thick and creamy, as described above. If you leave it for much longer, it will start turning grainy.

Step 4: Put the ice cream in the freezer to set

Before serving the ice cream or removing it to a container for storage, you have to put it in the freezer to set. Remove the removable freezer bowl (still filled with the vanilla ice cream) from the ice cream machine, cover with a lid and put it in the freezer to set. Setting time depends on your ice cream maker; see notes below for indicative times.

After this, you can serve it directly from the removable freezer bowl or transfer it to an airtight container for longer storing.

This can take :

  • anywhere from 1 to 3 hours for removable freezer bowls (these are the ice cream maker bowls which must be frozen before churning). 
  • 1 hour for aluminium bowls (these are the bowls from compressor ice cream makers)

Note: the times given are indicative, actual time may vary depending on many factors, so do check it every one hour or two, while it sits in the freezer. For example, with my Cuisinart ice cream maker, it takes one hour for the ice cream to set, whereas with the Krups ice cream maker it takes 3 hours. 

To evaluate if the ice cream has properly set, insert a knife into it, all the way to the bottom:

  • if it is properly set, it will be soft enough for the knife to be inserted into it, and yet have the same consistency from top to bottom
  • if it is not ready yet, it will feel hard on the top and softer as you go down
  • if it is too hard for the knife to insert, you may have left it in the freezer for too long. You can still bring it to a perfectly scoopable consistency, just read the troubleshooting guide below.

If the ice cream stays in the removable freezer bowl for too long, it will harden and will be difficult to remove or serve.

Do not worry though, you can still make it scoopable by leaving it in the refrigerator to soften. This can take :

  • 4-6 hours for removable freezer bowls (these are the ice cream maker bowls which must be frozen before churning)
  • 1 hour for aluminium bowls (these are the bowls from compressor ice cream makers)

(Note: the time given is indicative, actual time may vary depending many factors, so do check it once in a while while it sits in the refrigerator).

After this, the ice cream will be easy to scoop and transfer to another container; or serve directly from the ice cream maker.

Straight after churning, the ice cream has a soft-serve consistency and melts immediately upon contact with anything. This makes it impossible to serve or transfer to another container.

Putting it directly in the freezer for 4-5 hours after churning, will help it set and reach the right consistency.

Then you can serve it or transfer to a sealable container for longer storing.

Storage and serving

Storage: in the freezer for one month, covered well to protect it from absorbing the freezer’s smells. 

Scooping: this ice cream, like all artisanal ice creams, freezes hard in the long term. To soften it to a perfectly scoopable consistency, put it in the refrigerator for one hour. 

Use a rubber spatula: 

A flexible rubber spatula is useful for:

-wiping the bottom of the saucepan when cooking dairy on the stovetop

-scraping residues which would be otherwise left behind in bowls, saucepans etc.

If you do not have one, I strongly encourage you to buy one, preferably a flexible one.

How to boil milk (because it is a fact – when you boil milk, it curdles.):

But when you add sugar, you can safely bring milk to a boil; just make sure that all the sugar has dissolved before raising the heat to high. To achieve this, gently warm the milk with the sugar  over medium heat, stirring often to ensure that the sugar is completely dissolved; then you can raise the heat and safely bring it to a boil. If the milk boils before all the sugar has dissolved, it will curdle.

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