Ice Cream |
with xanthan gum

Ice Cream | with xanthan gum

May 12 , 2021


© 2022 Biterkin

updated: May 29, 2022

All you need for this ice cream is milk, cream, sugar and xanthan gum. Xanthan gum gives a lovely body to the ice cream so that it churns beautifully, melts uniformly and keeps well in the freezer. The process is easy: you bring the milk and sugar to a boil, then blend it with the cold cream and xanthan gum for two minutes. You then chill the mixture until it is cold, and churn it. The result is an ice cream with a delightful mouthfeel, made with the least effort possible.

Xanthan gum is one of the gums used in commercial ice cream making. When used in combination with other gums (like locust bean gum, guar gum), it improves the texture of the ice cream. Although we can definitely use a blend of gums at home, xanthan gum is the one which is easy to find, easy to use, and gives a perfect mouthfeel, even when used on its own.

The flavour of this ice cream is plainly creamy, very similar to the Fior di Latte ice cream; the difference is that Fior di Latte ice cream is traditionally made with corn starch instead of xanthan gum. You will be surprised by how good this ice cream tastes without vanilla or other flavourings; although it is just milk, cream and sugar, it is one of those ice cream flavours that everyone loves.

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 trick for using xanthan gum:

When using xanthan gum for ice cream making, you need to bring the ice-cream mixture to the right temperature (approx. 52ºC/ 125ºF) before adding the gum. At this temperature, xanthan gum dissolves without clumping, fully hydrates during blending, and effectively stabilises the ice cream mixture.

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).

What we do is divide by 50%-50% the blended mixture (milk, cream, sugar) that we want to stabilise with the xanthan gum; half of the blend must be boiling hot and the other half fridge-cold.

  • The boiling hot is “all the sugar”+”enough milk to reach 50% of the total blended mixture” 
  • The fridge-cold is the remaining ingredients: cream and rest of milk (if any)

When you blend them together, the blended mixture instantly reaches approx. 52ºC/ 125ºF; you then sprinkle the xanthan gum and blend for two minutes to fully hydrate. 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. In fact 52ºC/ 125ºF is the temperature I prefer for convenience; actually xanthan gum works anywhere between 45ºC-62ºC/ 113ºF-143ºF.

Note: if you live at a high altitude, you can still use this method as xanthan gum is quite forgiving. A minor differentiation in the boiling mixture will not affect the outcome.

The ingredients:

This is what you will need:

Every ingredient plays a key 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. 

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 50%, cream 35%, sugar 14.88%, xanthan gum 0.12% in desired total weight of ice cream mixture.

For best results, use a digital kitchen scale and measure the ingredients directly into the utensils, as you proceed with the recipe. Avoid weighing in one utensil and transferring to another, as this causes a small, but important loss of quantity, especially in liquids.

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

– 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.

– Milk & cream: make sure that you thoroughly scrape the cup with a rubber spatula every time you measure something and empty it.

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.)

The milk and cream in this recipe make for ice cream with approx. 14% fat, which is the lowest in fat we can go here before the ice cream texture and mouthfeel start to suffer. I have kept the fat in all the ice cream recipes made with xanthan gum this low because xanthan gum can give the ice cream a lovely texture without using more fat (as opposed to e.g., Philadelphia-style ice cream where you need more cream/fat to make it work). Other than that, I prefer my ice cream richer in cream; if you like it this way too, you can use 425 gr; 15 oz milk & 575 gr; 20.3 oz. of cream -instead of the 590 gr milk and 415 gr cream used in the recipe. This makes ice cream with 18% fat, with a fuller body and mouthfeel.

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 415 gr (14.6 oz.) heavy cream, you need:

  • 290 gr double cream (10.2 oz.) (with approx. 50% fat)
  • 125 gr/ml whole milk (4.4 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 415 gr (14.6 oz.) heavy cream needed. 

*this 125 gr (4.4 oz.) milk is extra to the 590 gr milk (20.8 oz) asked in the recipe. So, if using double cream, you will need in total 715 gr milk (25.2 oz.), from which:

  • 590 (20.8 oz.) are for the recipe; and
  • 125 gr (4.4 oz.) are mixed with the double cream to make heavy cream

Only use regular sugar (white granulated sugar).

You can also use raw cane sugar such as Turbinado or Demerara, but it will slightly affect the flavour of the ice cream (with regular white sugar, the milk and cream flavours in the ice cream shine.)

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

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

If you have an instant-read thermometer, you can skip the instructions in this step and warm the milk, cream and sugar to 52°C/ 125°F, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Sprinkle the xanthan gum over it and blend for 2 minutes to hydrate the gum.

If you do not have a thermometer, following the instructions in step 1 is a foolproof way to bring the ingredients to 52°C/ 125°F before sprinkling the xanthan gum. To sum it up, all we do is combine half of the blend at fridge-cold temperature and the other half at boiling-hot temperature. And that’s it. The blend instantly reaches approx. 52°C/ 125°F (fluctuations of ±10°C/ ±50°F are perfectly fine!).

Pour the cold heavy cream (415 gr; 14.6 oz.) and 1/3 of the cold milk (200 gr; 7 oz.; 200 ml) into the blender jar. If you do not proceed with the recipe immediately, place it in the refrigerator to keep it cold.
Warm the rest of the milk with all the sugar: in a medium saucepan, put the rest 2/3 of the milk (390 gr; 13.8 oz.) and all the sugar (200 gr; 7 oz.). Warm over medium heat, often stirring 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 when 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 jar with the cold cream & milk.

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.

Turn the blender on (medium speed). Note: by blending that much boiling hot milk with that much fridge-cold cream, the blend instantly reaches approx. 52°C; 131°F; this is a good temperature for the xanthan gum to dissolve efficiently. 

Add the xanthan gum and blend: with the blender on, slowly sprinkle the xanthan gum (½ tsp.) over the surface and blend for 2 minutes to fully hydrate the xanthan gum. At this point, do not expect the blend to thicken; it will thicken slightly as it cools.

Step 2Chill 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: the ice cream will have slightly thickened after chilling (consistency of heavy cream); give it a nice and thorough stir with a rubber spatula.

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

Why do we 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 while it is in the freezer. To evaluate if the ice cream has set, insert a knife into it, all the way to the bottom: 

  • when it is ready, it is soft enough to insert the knife into it and yet has the same consistency from top to bottom. If you have a thermometer, this is approx. at -11ºC / 12ºF temperature midway through the ice cream,
  • 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 remove from the ice cream bowl. Do not worry, though! Just read below how to soften it.

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.

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:

  • anywhere from 4 to 10 hours for removable freezer bowls which must be frozen before churning
  • 1-2 hours for aluminium bowls (these are the bowls from compressor ice cream makers)

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

After this, the ice cream will be easier to scoop and transfer to another container and store in the freezer or serve directly from the removable freezer bowl.

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.

4 Responses

  1. Thank you for posting this recipe. I’ve looked high and low for a recipe with these ingredients. You would think that would be easy to find . . . but not so. Do you have a similar recipe using xanthan AND guar?

    1. Thank you for your feedback! I haven’t got to work with guar gum yet to provide you with trustworthy instructions. It is in my plans to create a collection of ice cream recipes using a range of stabilisers, so do check occasionally for new arrivals, which may fit your liking. Until then, you can rest assured that the texture of this ice cream made with just xanthan gum is divine, so I strongly encourage you to give it a try.

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