Sunday, July 20, 2014

Making No Sugar Peach Ice Cream

Last weekend I made an extremely rich version of Peach Cheesecake Ice Cream for my sister-in-law's birthday. It was absolutely, hands down, the very best, creamiest ice cream I ever tasted. I was in heaven.

Unfortunately, with diabetes as a factor in my life, though easily controlled by diet, this ice cream seemed to send me way over the top in blood sugar levels. Drat. I finally find something that truly fits all my criteria for an ice cream and I should avoid it. Back to the drawing board.

I have had my DAK Gelatissimo Ice Cream Machine for a lot of years now, and have only used it for a small handful of recipes. It came with a little booklet of Drew's ice cream recipes. I used his cheesecake Ice cream recipe as a base idea when creating the Peach Cheesecake Ice Cream last week. But when Drew wrote this booklet of ice cream recipes, he also included a sugar free version for nearly all the recipes, right next to the originals. I had barely used the regular recipes; certainly never used the sugar free versions. I find that ice cream is kind of an addiction for me, as are many things. If I start eating it, I have a hard time stopping. It is best if there is no ice cream in the house, and thus no temptation. One thing though: if an ice cream is too filled with ice crystals, I just don't like it, and am not tempted to eat it. So, why buy it in the first place? I like the creamy mouth feel, and my Peach Cheesecake Ice Cream fit that bill in spades. It was also extremely high in fats. Alas.

No-Sugar Peach Ice Cream: note the ice crystal texture
I decided to try out a recipe for a sugar free version, really cutting down on fat and also using Sweet Leaf Stevia packets instead of sugar. I already knew that this would leave me with an ice crystal ice cream, but having never even tried this before, I wanted to test it first before looking for a fix for the problem. I scaled down the fat from the original version of the recipe, using 2% milk instead of heavy cream and only 2 ounces of cream cheese instead of the whole 8 ounce block. I used fresh pureed peaches rather than peaches cooked with sugar down to a preserves texture. And the Stevia packets instead of sugar. I still made a quick "custard" out of the 2% milk and 2 egg yolks. And while it churned, I tasted it and it was really good. Not like the high fat and sugar version, but really good. I had hope.

No-Sugar Peach Ice Cream

Makes 1 quart

2 peaches, about 9-ounces each
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 1/4 cup 2% milk
2 large egg yolks
8 packets of Sweet Leaf Stevia (or sweetener of choice)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 ounces cream cheese (1/4 cup)

Heat the milk to near scalding point, where there are a few tiny bobbles at the edge of the pan. Whisk the yolks in a bowl. Slowly pour the hot milk into the yolks, whisking briskly at the same time, until the milk is incorporated. Pour the mixture back into the pan. Set the pan on medium heat and whisk constantly until the mixture reaches 170 to 175 degrees. An instant Read thermometer such as the Thermapen is very helpful. Remove from heat immediately and set the pan in ice water, stirring the custard often, to chill. Refrigerate the custard. Once cold, stir in the packets of stevia or other sweetener along with the vanilla extract.

Peel 1 1/2 of the peaches and puree them with the lemon juice. You should have about 1 1/2 cups of puree. I had peaches weighing 8, 9 and 10 ounces, so the average is about 9 ounces apiece for this amount. Reserve the last half peach to cut up and add at the end of churning. With the peach puree in the blender, add the cream cheese until smooth. Pour in the milk custard mixture and blend thoroughly. 

Chill the mixture for quickest churning. Pour into an ice cream maker and churn for the time specified for your machine. Mine takes 30 minutes. Towards the end of the churning, add in the remaining peach half, peeled and cut in small cubes.

The Results?

Well, when the ice cream was just done, it was pretty good. Not the heavenly creamy mouthfeel of the first ice cream (Note the texture of the original high fat recipe in the photo at left, below. Nary an ice crystal to be seen.) but I didn't expect that. The flavor was good, though not as concentrated. Again, an expected result. The use of stevia was not terribly noticeable. It was plenty sweet enough. I put it into containers in the freezer. Next day I got one container out to try. It was hard as a rock and full of ice crystals. Drat.
Peach Cheesecake Ice Cream left            |              No-Sugar Peach Ice Cream right

I let it set on the counter for over a half hour (see photo on right, above), and while some of the edges were softened a bit, the main bulk was still terribly hard. Trying to scoop it out, I could see and feel the ice crystal texture.

Enter Guar Gum

I am relatively new to guar gum. I know that it, along with others like xanthan gum and locust bean gum, are used in many foods to thicken and give texture and body where they are lacking. I have guar and xanthan gums because I have done a fair bit of gluten-free baking. I have only tried one cold application of xantham gum in a salad dressing and was extremely unhappy with the flavor. Guar gum I have used only twice so far, in baking. Just this morning I read a bit about its use in ice creams. Guar, locust or xanthan gums are very often used in ice creams to keep sugar crystals from forming. AHA! 

I will not go into the whole analysis of these gums in this blog. After reading, I feel that it is something I would like to test. Apparently, the use of a whole block of cream cheese in  my Peach Cheesecake Ice Cream may have been a major factor contributing to that mouthfeel I so loved, because cream cheese is stabilized with guar gum! Since I used only a fourth of the amount of cream cheese in the No Sugar ice cream, the effect would be minimal. Sugar is also a contributor to the kind of texture I wanted, but to avoid sugar and very high fat content, I needed another way. Enter Guar Gum.

My results of the first attempt at a no-sugar ice cream were only marginally acceptable. The flavor was quite good. The texture was not. I will be going for round three of my ice cream testing very soon, using a smidgen of guar gum. The websites I visited indicated that only a very tiny amount (about 1/4 teaspoon or less per quart of mixture) of guar gum is needed per recipe. It is also important to either disperse it lightly over the ice cream while churning, or add it into the sugar before mixing into the rest of the ingredients. Either I will mix it into the stevia powder or into the machine while churning. My next results will likely be in the next week or so. Stay tuned!

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website and Marketplace, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. I am also on a spiritual journey and hope you will join me at my new blog, An Eagle Flies.