Cocoa Powder Ice Cream |
with xanthan gum

Cocoa Powder Ice Cream | with xanthan gum

November 9, 2021


© 2022 Biterkin

updated: June 7, 2022

For this Cocoa Ice Cream, you need five ingredients: cocoa powder, milk, cream, sugar and xanthan gum. Xanthan gum is a stabiliser that thickens the ice cream mixture, creating ice cream with a lovely body that churns beautifully, melts uniformly during serving, and keeps well in the freezer.

Xanthan gum is not the only gum available on the market; other gums are also available, e.g. carob gum and locust bean gum. Each gum plays a different role in ice cream making, so they are usually combined to achieve the desired texture. The problem is that most are hard to find and can be rather expensive. So instead of buying and storing 2-3 different kinds of gums, you can use the one which, even on its own, gives a terrific mouthfeel: xanthan gum.

Why xanthan gum? Well, it is easy to find in speciality stores. It also works well on its own (no other gums are needed). Furthermore, you do not need to apply heat to it, which means no cooking over the stovetop, so it is also the easiest to use.

The cocoa powder you use determines the flavour of this cocoa ice cream. If you have a favourite one for baking, use this one. If not, a general rule of thumb is that the darker the colour of the cocoa powder, the richer the flavour of this ice cream will be. However, I have tested it with various types of cocoa powder, from cheap to expensive and from raw to Dutch-processed; and each batch was utterly delicious, with its own flavour tones.

Plain Ice Cream (it’s just milk, cream and sugar – MY FAVOURITE) 

Vanilla Ice Cream with vanilla extract

Vanilla Bean Ice Cream with vanilla bean

Strawberry Ice Cream  with fresh strawberries

Chocolate & Cocoa Powder Ice Cream to make it really rich in chocolate

Cocoa Powder Ice Cream with cocoa powder only 

Chocolate Ice Cream with chocolate only 

The Biterkin tricks for a perfect Cocoa Ice Cream with xanthan gum:

Here is are two tricks in the making of this cocoa ice cream, which take it to the next level.

You can replace regular sugar with good-quality raw cane sugar, such as Demerara or Turbinado, which are very aromatic, thanks to their natural content in molasses and have an earthy, slightly caramelised aroma.
By replacing regular sugar with raw cane sugar like the above, you boost the chocolate flavour of the ice cream, creating the ultimate chocolate ice cream experience.
Choose good-quality raw cane sugar, one which smells divine when you sniff it. The best Demerara sugar is known to originate from the island of Mauritius, so check the label for the origin.

When using xanthan gum for ice cream making, you need to bring the ice-cream mixture to the right temperature (45ºC-62ºC/ 113ºF-143ºF) to fully hydrate the xanthan gum and unlock its stabilising abilities.

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 simple method to bring the mixture to the right temperature without a thermometer before adding the gum. How does it work? Thanks to physics, you can calculate the temperature of a mix of liquids with different temperatures. But to do so, you need two temperatures that you do not need a thermometer to measure. Luckily, there are two temperatures in a modern home which are always the same:

  1. the one is the boiling temperature of the milk with the sugar, which is always approx. 95ºC/ 203ºF;
  2. the other is the temperature of a liquid, which is cold from the fridge; that can be anywhere between 4ºC-14ºC/ 39ºF-57ºF in normal conditions (abnormal conditions like extreme hot weather; or frequently opening and closing the fridge’s door can dissrupt the standard temperatures of your fridge).

In this recipe, we sift the xanthan gum with the cocoa powder; this helps so that xanthan gum doesn’t clump when we add it in the boiling hot milk and the cocoa powder release its aromas. When we add the cold cream and blend, the blended mixture instantly reaches approx. 62ºC/ 143ºF; you then blend for two minutes to fully hydrate and activate the xanthan gum. That works every time, and it is an easy way to use xanthan gum without a thermometer. And fear not for minor differentiations in the above temperatures, as xanthan gum is quite forgiving. 

The ingredients:

This is what you will need:

Every ingredient plays a vital role in the recipe. Do not attempt to reduce or replace anything; everything is there for a reason. Look out for these:

The recipe at a glance:

This is a quick overview of the recipe. If you are new to ice cream making, do read the recipe before proceeding. 

Note that the colour of your ice cream mixture depends on the cocoa powder you will use, so its hue may differ from that of the photos.

Cocoa Powder Ice Cream | with xanthan gum

This recipe makes 1.2 litre/quart ice cream mixture (before churning), perfect for ice cream makers with a capacity of 1.5 and up to 2 litres/quarts (like Cuisinart ice cream makers).

If you need to scale the ice cream mixture up or down, use this ratio of the ingredients (in weight only):  milk 46%, cream 32.6%, sugar 17.55%, cocoa powder 3.76%, xanthan gum 0.12% in desired total weight of ice cream mixture.

If you have a kitchen scale, weigh the ingredients instead of measuring them by cup; it provides accurate results, very much needed in ice cream making.

If you do not have a kitchen scale, follow these guidelines:

– 1 cup (US) = 237 ml | 1 Tbs. = 15 ml

– Cocoa powder: first, sift the cocoa powder into a bowl and then measure by gently taking a spoonful at a time; and levelling it with the flat side of a knife. Do measure the cocoa powder right after sifting it, as its volume lessens while it sits.

– Sugar: measuring sugar in tablespoons is more accurate than measuring it in cups. Do not use a regular tablespoon: you need a 15 ml measuring tablespoon; this is 13 gr of sugar. To measure, scoop the sugar to fill the tablespoon, then level it with the flat side of a knife. Repeat scooping and levelling. Do not convert the sugar into cups with the usual “1 cup=200 grams” conversion; this is too much sugar, which results in sloppy ice cream.

– Cream: thoroughly scrape the cup with a rubber spatula every time you measure and empty it.

Any unsweetened cocoa powder will do.

Use your favourite unsweetened cocoa powder, or choose a cocoa powder judging by its aroma and colour. A dark brown colour and a lovely cocoa aroma are good indicators for the maximum chocolate flavour in the ice cream.

Dutch-processed cocoa is a good choice for it has a rich flavour and colour, but you can also use natural cocoa powder or raw cacao powder.

Only use regular sugar (white granulated sugar) or raw cane sugar such as Turbinado or Demerara.

Do not try to reduce the calories of the ice cream by cutting down the sugar or replacing it with low-calories or “healthy” sweeteners. Do not use:

  • sugar substitutes, such as table sweeteners or stevia, liquid or granulated. Sweeteners mixed with sugar are not suitable either.
  • confectioner’s sugar
  • honey or other liquid sweeteners, natural or artificial

Milk: it should be whole (which is approx. 3.5% fat). Do not substitute with skimmed milk or plant-based milk.

Heavy cream: 35-40% fat content is ok. It should be of pourable consistency. “Ultra-pasteurised cream” and “cream suitable for whipping” with 35-40% fat are ok, too. Avoid any cream which contains sugar or other sweeteners. Do not substitute with low-fat cream or plant-based cream.

You can combine double cream with whole milk to make heavy cream for this recipe. To make 390 gr (13.8 oz.) heavy cream, you need:

  • 275 gr double cream (9.7 oz.) (with approx. 50% fat)
  • 115 gr/ml whole milk (4.1 oz.) (with approx. 3.5% fat) *

To make the heavy cream, put the double cream in a medium bowl and pour in the milk, a little at a time, stirring smoothly with a rubber spatula until smooth. Avoid whisking, as it may turn into whipped cream.

The resulting heavy cream has 36% fat, perfect for this ice cream. Proceed with the recipe, just as if you had the 390 gr (13.8 oz.) heavy cream needed. 

*this 115 gr (4.1 oz.) milk is extra to the 550 gr milk (19.4 oz) asked in the recipe. So, if using double cream, you will need in total 665 gr milk (23.5 oz.), from which:

  • 550 (19.4 oz.) are for the recipe; and
  • 115 gr (4.1 oz.) are mixed with the double cream to make heavy cream

You can find xanthan gum in speciality shops, health food stores and online. It should contain only xanthan gum and no additional ingredients. 

You can adjust the quantity of the xanthan gum in the recipe to your liking, depending on the texture you want to achieve:

  • To slightly stabilise the ice cream without affecting its texture and mouthfeel much, use 1/4 teaspoon (0.7 gr; 0.025 oz; this is 0.06% in total weight of ice cream mixture) xanthan gum and decrease the sugar by 10 gr; 0.35 oz.
  • To create a firmer texture, which has a fuller body and mouthfeel, use 1/2 teaspoon (1.5 gr; 0.05 oz; this is 0.12% in total weight of ice cream mixture) as per the recipe.
  • For a stretchy texture similar to Booza/salep ice cream, use 1 teaspoon xanthan gum (2.7 gr; 0.1 oz; this is 0.22% in total weight of ice cream mixture) and increase the sugar in the recipe by 15 gr (0.5 oz.)

A flexible rubber spatula is good for:

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

-scraping residues from bowls, saucepans etc.
If you do not have one, I strongly encourage you to buy one, preferably a flexible one.

Plan ahead:

Make the ice cream mixture (steps 1-2) one day before churning it.

If your ice cream maker has a removable freezer bowl, put it in the freezer for the whole time indicated by the manufacturer before churning, usually 24 hours.

Step 1: Make the ice cream mixture

Set up the blender: if your blender needs to be assembled, have it set up and ready to use. 

We will blend boiling milk into the blender, so take care that the blender jug is heatproof and can take at least 600 ml of hot liquid.

Alternatively, use an immersion blender and a deep heatproof bowl.

Sift the cocoa powder and xanthan gum: combine the cocoa powder (45 gr; 1.6 oz.) and xanthan gum (½ teaspoon) into a fine-mesh sieve placed over a small bowl. Sift and set aside.

Warm the milk with the sugar: in a medium saucepan put the milk (550 gr; 19.5 oz.and the sugar (210 gr; 7.4 oz.). Warm over medium heat, stirring often with the rubber spatula, until the sugar dissolves and the milk is hot and steamy.

The most common mistake is when the milk and sugar are quickly heated to a boil before the sugar has dissolved. You cannot boil milk alone because it curdles when it comes to a boil. The sugar in the milk creates “nets” that allow the milk to boil without curdling. But if the milk comes to a boil before all the sugar dissolves, it will curdle; and you will have to throw it away and start all over again.

So, first, we have to warm the milk gently; stirring is also essential because it helps the sugar dissolve faster. After the sugar dissolves, you can raise the heat and safely bring the milk to a boil.

Bring to a boil: when all the sugar dissolves, increase the heat to medium-high and as soon as it comes to a boil (95°C / 203°F / or when large bubbles which pop vigorously appear on the surface / or if it starts to overflow) immediately remove it from the heat and pour it into the blender’s jar.

When you boil the milk with the sugar, keep an eye on it to avoid overboiling. Boiling causes water to evaporate, and if the milk boils for too long, this loss of water will ruin your ice cream. The result? You may end up with a sloppy liquid vs. a fluffy ice cream after churning because of the excess sugar’s proportion in the final ice cream mixture.

Do not stress over it too much, through; all you have to do is being mindful while you cook the milk: as soon as you see the first bubbles appearing on the surface, count to 10 (as for 10 seconds) and remove it from the heat.

Add the cocoa and blend: with the blender on (medium speed), add the cocoa/xanthan gum mixture a tablespoon at a time. Aim for the centre of the blended mixture to avoid cocoa getting stuck on the sides of the blender.

Add the cold cream: with the blender still on, pour the cold cream (390 gr ; 13.8 oz.) into the cocoa milk.

Blend for 2 minutes (set a timer) to fully hydrate the xanthan gum, then stop the blender to scrape with a rubber spatula any cocoa streaks attached on the sides and bottom of the blender. Blend again until no streaks of cocoa are visible and a nice, uniform brown colour is obtained.

Step 2: Chill the ice cream mixture

Strain the ice cream mixture over a fine mesh sieve and into a bowl.

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 over it, taking care that no water slips into the ice cream mixture. Let it cool down for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Chill until completely cold: cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least 8 hours or until completely cold, and up to 3 days.

The ice cream mixture will get colder if you store it in a glass container (vs storing it in a plastic one).

If you don’t have a glass container, store the ice cream mixture in the back of the fridge where things are colder.

You want the ice cream mixture to be as cold as possible before you churn it so that it fluffs us to its fullest potential. If you have a thermometer, the perfect temperature of the ice cream mixture to start churning it is at 8°C / 46°F (and anywhere between 4°C-12°C / 39°F-53°F it is ok too!)

When churning with a domestic ice cream maker, your ice cream mixture should always be fridge-cold. Otherwise, if the ice cream mixture is not cold enough, the ice cream maker may not churn it to its fullest potential, resulting in a sloppy liquid vs. fluffy ice cream.

Step 3: Churn the ice cream

Check the ice cream mixture if it is cold before churning: it should feel fridge-cold to the touch (if you have a thermometer, this is approx. 4ºC–12ºC / 39ºF-53F ). 

Prepare the ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. 

Stir: this ice cream mixture may become very thick after chilling, so give it a thorough and vigorous stirring with a rubber spatula to loosen it (or if it’s too thick, give it a quick blitz with an immersion blender); this will allow it to churn for longer and to acquire a better texture.

If the ice cream mixture is too thick (say, like yoghurt), give it a blitz with an immersion/regular blender before churning it to loosen it.

Why should you do that? If the ice cream mixture is too thick, the ice cream maker may stop before it incorporates enough air into the ice cream. In this case, the ice cream will be sloppy instead of fluffy.

So, if you are after fluffy ice cream, take the time to bring the ice cream mixture to a fluid (pourable) thickness before churning it.

If you feel unsure about the ice cream’s thickness, prefer to err on the side of fluid and give the ice cream mixture a blend nevertheless before churning it.

Churn: with the machine running, pour the ice cream mixture through the canister and into the ice cream makerLeave to churn until fluffed up and creamy; depending on your ice cream maker this can take anywhere from 30-60 minutes (see below).

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

To evaluate if it is ready, lift a spoonful; it should be thick enough to stand on the spoon, but it will be still soft like soft-serve ice cream. If you lift ice cream with the spoon and 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 to churn 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 thick and creamy, as described above. If you leave it to churn for much longer, it will start turning grainy.

Warning: some ice cream makers are programmed to automatically stop after a specific length of time, which doesn’t make sense because the ice cream may need to churn for more to reach its fullest potential. So, if you notice that your ice cream maker stops on its own and upon checking the ice cream, you find that it is sloppy instead of fluffy, try to turn the machine on again and leave it to churn until it reaches the desired texture.

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

Put in the freezer to set: before serving the ice cream or moving it to a container for storing, you have to put it in the freezer to set. To do so, turn off the ice cream machine and:

  • remove the removable freezer bowl (still filled with the ice cream) from the ice cream machine,
  • remove the paddle, scraping any ice cream attached to it back into the ice cream bowl,
  • cover the ice cream bowl and put it in the freezer to set.

Setting time depends on the ice cream maker you use; see below for indicative times. Do not leave the freshly churned ice cream in a removable freezer bowl for more than 5-6 hours, or it will become too hard to scoop; if this happens, read the troubleshooting bulb below:

The setting time for the ice cream largely depends on the type of ice cream maker you use.

It can take :

  • 3-5 hours for removable freezer bowls (these are the ice cream maker bowls which you should pre-freeze before churning)
  • 1-2 hours for aluminium bowls (these are the bowls from compressor ice cream makers)

Note: the times given are indicative. Setting time depends on many factors.

Check it occasionally (approx. every 2 hours; or as needed) while it is in the freezer. The ice cream is ready when it has an internal temperature of -11ºC / 12ºF. If you do not have a thermometer, to evaluate if the ice cream has set, insert a round tip knife into it, all the way to the bottom: 

  • when the ice cream is ready, it feels firm as you go down, but at the same time it is soft enough to insert the knife into it; it should have this same firm consistency from top to bottom.
  • not ready yet: it will feel hard on the top and softer as you go down
  • if left in the freezer for too long: it will be too hard for the knife to insert into it and too hard to scoop out of the ice cream bowl. Do not worry, though! Read right below how to soften it.

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

To make it scoopable again, leave it in the refrigerator to soften. That can take:

  • anywhere from 4 to 10 hours for removable freezer bowls (the ones which need pre-freezing before churning)
  • 1-2 hours for aluminium bowls (these are the bowls from compressor ice cream makers)

(Note: the time given is indicative, time may vary depending on many factors, so do check it occasionally as it sits in the refrigerator.)

When the ice cream is easy to scoop (or it has an internal temperature of approx. -11°C / 12°F if you have a thermometer), you can transfer it to another container and store it in the freezer or serve it directly from the removable freezer bowl.

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 in the freezer after churning sets it and brings it to the right consistency, similar to that of an ice cream parlour’s.

Serve or store: when it sets, you can either serve it directly from the removable freezer bowl or transfer it to an airtight container for longer storing. 

Storing and serving

Storing: 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 45-60 minutes.

If you have an instant-read (or infrared) thermometer, the perfect serving temperature of this ice cream is when midway through the ice cream the thermometer reads approx. -11ºC / 12ºF. At this the temperature, the ice cream has a lovely mouthfeel and is perfectly scoopable.

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