Thursday, May 29, 2014

Why no chocolate ice cream yet?

Someone asked me why I haven’t posted any chocolate ice creams yet. The reason is that making a low carb chocolate ice cream has been kicking my ass! I’ve made a chocolate macadamia nut ice cream (made two different ways) that was good, but not great. I’ve experimented with a chocolate ice cream with almond butter chunks that turned out great, but I didn’t feel the chocolate ice cream part was up to snuff. The good news is that I’m confident enough to announce that I’ve cracked it!

Part of the problem is that I’ve been taking the easy way out. I don’t heat the sweet cream base and temper the eggs like every other French ice cream recipe does. I’m also technically not making a Philadelphia ice cream since that wouldn’t use eggs at all. (I think I’ve been making “Friladelphia” ice cream all along!)

A normal Ben & Jerry’s sweet cream base is 2:1 heavy cream to whole milk. My recipes generally use 100% heavy cream. At cold temperatures, it’s very viscous and doesn’t absorb things like sweeteners or cocoa. Mixing at high speed helps dissolve the cocoa, but doing that will turn the heavy cream into whipped cream very quickly. Ben & Jerry’s basic chocolate recipes use 1:1 or 2:3 ratio of heavy cream to whole milk. I believe part of the reason for this is to account for the extra fat from the chocolate. The other reason is that the chocolate and cocoa add viscosity and hardness to the ice cream, so the dairy components must be more dilute.

I’ve come up with two solutions:
  1. No heat, cocoa only: Use 15:9 ratio of heavy cream to almond milk with ½ - ⅔ cup of unsweetened cocoa. Mix the cocoa and other ingredients except the heavy cream at high speed in the almond milk, then fold in the heavy cream by hand.
  2. Heat, chocolate and cocoa: Use a 1:1 ratio of heavy cream to almond milk. Add 2 oz of chopped unsweetened chocolate, salt, and granular sweeteners (i.e., Truvia) to the heavy cream and heat to melt the chocolate. Add ⅓ cup of unsweetened cocoa to the almond milk and mix with the rest of the other ingredients at high speed. Combine the hot chocolate/cream mixture into the cold almond milk/cocoa mixture while stirring by hand.
The first solution is obviously easier, but the resulting ice cream isn’t as rich and freezes harder. The second one tastes more chocolatey and has a lower freezing point. The reason is because the erythritol (Truvia) dissolves in the cream due to the high temperature rather than being suspended in it; the freezing point is depressed lower. Both of these options result in a frozen ice cream that requires 30 seconds in the microwave to thaw. Have I mentioned that chocolate ice cream is a pain in the ass to make?

Some of you might recognize the the combination of chocolate, heavy cream, and sweetener as a ganache recipe. Yes, it’s very close. In our case, the ratio of chocolate to cream is low. Why don’t I toss in the almond milk, heat them all, then temper the eggs? Well, some brands of almond milk smell funny when you heat them. I think it’s because I buy vanilla instead of plain. Also, Trader Joe’s almond milk adds thickeners and other additives that may not react well to high heat. I personally don’t care about egg tempering or making a thick custard, so my recipes will leave the almond milk cold. Feel free to experiment.

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