Vanilla Bean Ice Cream | with xanthan gum

May 28, 2021 | © 2021 Biterkin

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If you want to know why you should make a Vanilla Bean Ice Cream using xathan gum, let me tell you that with just four ingredients (milk, cream, sugar and xanthan) and the least effort possible, you can make an ice cream with a lovely body very close to a store-bought one, which churns beautifully, melts uniformly during serving, and keeps well in the freezer. 

Gums, like xanthan gum, carob gum and locust bean gum are used in ice cream making to stabilize the ice cream mixture. Although there are are various gums available on the market which when used in combination make for stellar ice cream, the problem is that they can be rather expensive. So instead of buying and storing 2-3 different kinds of gums, you can use one which, even when used on its own, gives a terrific mouthfeel: xanthan gum.

Why xanthan gum? Well, it is fairly easy to find in specialty stores. It is also the one which works well on its own (no other gums needed); furthermore, you do not need to apply heat to it, which means less cooking over the stovetop. And you will be surprised to know that you only have to increase the quantity used to make for α stretchy texture; just like Booza ice cream and Dondurma ice cream are (find out how in the ingredients notes for Xanthan Gum in the recipe).

Whatever vanilla bean you choose for this ice cream, rest assured that its aromas will come out loud and shining and everyone will love it. However, if you feel like going the extra mile for the ultimate vanilla bean ice cream experience, read some tricks  below which can boost the vanilla bean flavour of this ice cream.

Ice Cream | with xanthan gum  (the flavour is plainly creamy, simple yet amazing) 

Vanilla Ice Cream | with xanthan gum  with vanilla extract

Vanilla Bean Ice Cream | with xanthan gum   with vanilla bean

Strawberry Ice Cream | with xanthan gum  with fresh strawberries

for a richer ice cream, try this custard version, which is made with egg yolks

for the easiest ice cream possible, try the Philadelphia – style vanilla ice cream

for a more stable body make this; it is thickened with corn starch

no ice cream maker? make this perfect no-churn ice cream with cream, sugar, egg yolks

no vanilla bean? make this one with vanilla extract instead

or see all options here

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

Here are some tricks which can take this vanilla bean ice cream to the next level. You can choose the one which suits you most; or if you want to experience the ultimate vanilla bean ice cream, use them all.

However, if you choose to keep things simple and skip them, rest assured that everyone will love this vanilla bean ice cream nevertheless.

Although one vanilla bean is enough to flavour this ice cream and everyone will love it anyway, you can add two vanilla beans if you feel like making a top-notch ice cream. This is the extra mile and I rarely do it, with vanilla beans being so expensive, but sometimes I want to create a “fine dining restaurant” experience for my guests and then this vanilla seeds-loaded and vanilla flavour-bursting ice cream is the one which perfectly suits the occasion.

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, which takes the vanilla-ness to the next level.

You will need a good-quality raw cane sugar to obtain the best results. 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.

This is a small trick you can use to adjust the level of vanilla intensity in the ice cream to your likings.

All you have to do is make the ice cream mixture using the vanilla bean and decide whether to add vanilla extract by tasting a spoonful of it, during the last stages of churning, when the ice cream is nice and fluffy. Chances are that you will love the flavour nevertheless; however if you decide to further boost the vanilla flavour, go on and add one teaspoon of vanilla extract in the ice cream, with the machine running, then leave it to churn for 5-8 minutes more. You can go up to one tablespoon of vanilla extract; just keep in mind that the flavours will reach their full potential after a few hours of sitting in the freezer, so do not be tempted to add more than that.

When using xanthan gum for ice cream making, you need to bring the ice cream mixture to the right temperature (around 50ºC/122ºF) 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 55ºC/122ºF; 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.

The ingredients:

This is what you will need:

to show the ingredients of vanilla bean ice cream with xanthan gum

Every single ingredient plays a vital role in the recipe. Ice creams are all about using the right ingredients, in the right quantities. Do not play around increasing/decreasing one ingredient 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 Bean 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.

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.

Use heavy cream with 35-40% 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 500 gr (17.6 oz.) heavy cream you will need:

  • 350 gr double cream (12.3 oz.) (with 50% fat)
  • 150 gr/ml regular milk (5.3 oz.) (3.5% fat) *

How to use in the recipe: in step 1, instead of pouring the cold cream in the blender, put the double cream instead, turn on the blender on low speed and and pour in the milk, in a steady stream,blending just until smooth. Stop the blender and proceed with the recipe,

* these 150 gr milk (5.3 oz.) are additional to the 500 gr (17.6 oz) asked in the recipe. This means that if you use double cream, you will need 650 gr; milk (22.9 oz.) in total; 500 gr; 17.6 oz for the recipe; and 150 gr; 5.3 oz to mix with the double cream.

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 of xanthan gum to 2 tsp and the quantity of sugar to 200 gr; 7 oz.;  1 cup.

A good vanilla bean looks fresh and plumpy. The plumpier the vanilla bean, the more the seeds which hide inside it are; and the more flavourful the ice cream will be. 

Although one vanilla bean is enough for this recipe, you can use up to two vanilla pods if you feel generous. 

Tip: when it is time to remove the vanilla bean from the ice cream right before churning, give each halved bean a last scrape with your fingers (clean hands, please), holding the halved bean between your thumb and index finger and sliding it lengthwise over the ice cream mixture, to remove any seed residues which are attached on the pod and add them in. The reason to do so, is that the vanilla bean softens after steeping in the ice cream mixture; and any seeds which are still attached to it are easy to remove and add in your ice cream.

It is optional to add vanilla extract, as the vanilla bean should provide enough vanilla aroma to the ice cream, especially if it is a good-quality one.  

TIP: you can further enhance the vanilla flavour to your liking, by tasting the ice cream during the last stages of churning, when the ice cream is nice and fluffy. If upon tasting, you feel like levelling it up, add up to 1 Tbs. in the ice cream with the machine running and leave to churn for 10 minutes more for the vanilla extract to be fully incorporated. Do not be tempted to add more than 1 Tbs of vanilla extract through, as the ice cream’s flavours will reach their peak after it sits in the freezer for a few hours.

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 let it briefly boil for 10 seconds.

When you boil the milk with the sugar, keep an eye on it to avoid boiling it for too long. Boiling causes water to evaporate; and if we let the milk boil for too long, the loss of water will disturb the balance of the recipe. The result? You may end up with a sloppy liquid vs. a fluffy ice cream after churning, as the ratio of the sugar in the final ice cream mixture will be more than it should.

Do not worry about it too much, through; just be mindful while the milk is warmed and 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.

Pour the boiling 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 at low speed and slowly sprinkle the xanthan gum (1/2 tsp.) over it. Set a timer and let it blend for 2 minutes. Do not shortcut, xanthan gum needs to be blended for 2 whole minutes to fully hydrate. 

Pour the ice cream mixture into a bowl.

Scrape the vanilla seeds from the vanilla bean directly into the ice cream mixture and whisk to combine. Αdd the scraped vanilla bean in the mixture, too. 

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.
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

Check the ice cream mixture if it is thoroughly chilled, before churning: it should feel fridge-cold to the touch (or if you have an instant-read thermometer, it should read 4ºC–8ºC / 39ºF-46ºF).

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

Remove the vanilla bean from the ice cream mixture; add the vanilla extract (1 tsp -if using).

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

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 on 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 times 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 on 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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