Vanilla Bean Ice Cream |
with xanthan gum

Vanilla Bean Ice Cream | with xanthan gum

May 12 , 2021


© 2022 Biterkin

updated: May 30, 2022

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 stabilise 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. 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, . 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.

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 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 all of them, this is still the best vanilla bean ice cream you will ever have.

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.

Although one vanilla bean is enough to flavour this ice cream, you can add two vanilla beans if you feel like making a top-notch ice cream. This is the extra mile, and with vanilla beans being so expensive, you definetely not need to do it. But once in a while you may want to create the ultimate fine dining restaurant experience for your guests; and then this vanilla seeds-loaded and vanilla flavour-bursting ice cream is the one which perfectly suits the occasion.

This is trick to adjust the level of vanilla intensity in the ice cream to your likings:

start with making the ice cream mixture as per the recipe, using only the vanilla bean. You can decide at the last stages of churning, when the ice cream is almoste ready, if you want to add vanilla extract by tasting a spoonful before stopping the ice cream maker.

Most likely, you will love the flavour nevertheless; however if you decide to boost the vanilla flavour, add one teaspoon of vanilla extract (and up to 1 Tablespoon) into the ice cream -with the machine running- and leave it to churn for 5-8 minutes more.

Note that all ice cream flavours reach their fullest potential after a few hours of sitting in the freezer, so add as much as you feel it is almost just right.

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 in half 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:

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

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 (click on photos to enlarge)

Vanilla Bean Ice Cream | with xanthan gum
Vanilla Bean 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; and approx. 1 vanilla bean for every litre/quart 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) 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

A good vanilla bean is 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.

A good-quality vanilla bean should provide enough vanilla aroma to the ice cream, so it is totally optonal to use vanilla extract.

Bonus tip (not included in the recipe’s instructions): you can decide at the last stages of churning if you want to add vanilla extract when the ice cream is nice and fluffy. Here is how to do it: without stopping the ice cream maker, lift a spoonfull of the ice cream and taste it.
If you feel like levelling up the vanilla flavour, with the machine running, add 1 tsp. vanilla extract (and up to 1 Tbs.) in the ice cream and leave to churn for 10 minutes more; or until the vanilla extract fully mixes in the ice cream.
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 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/infrared thermometer, you can skip the instructions in this step and  do this instead: warm the milk, cream and sugar to 60°C/ 140°F, stirring to dissolve the sugar. With the blender on, sprinkle the xanthan gum over the surface 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  (minor fluctuations in temperature 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.

Strain the ice cream mixture over a fine-mesh sieve and 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 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 ). The ice cream mixture will have slightly thickened after chilling (consistency of heavy cream).

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).

Stir: give the ice cream mixture 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 (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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