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Ice Cream — an indulgence? A necessity!
Ice cream definitely has a home in LC
Land and nothing beats the taste of homemade frozen ecstasy. Oh sure, you can
now go to the store and buy lowcarb ice cream, but what's the fun in that?
Ice cream is easy to make: It is totally customizable, quality control is absolute,
and you don't have to remove your bunny slippers for a grocery trip! All you need
is a stockpile of appropriate ingredients and something to turn the raw stuff into
Since the dynamic duo of most traditional ice cream bases is cream and sugar,
low-carbers have been able to quickly create a huge recipe universe using their
ol' pal cream and their favorite sugar substitute. A quick Internet search or
browse through a book will open this treasure chest for you. And don't overlook
traditional recipes — most are easily modified to low carb.
For the base, sugar is the main part of the equation with which we take issue,
and there are plenty of appropriate substitutes available. Many people simply
replace the required sugar with a granular sugar substitute like Splenda. Some
prefer to reduce the countable carbohydrates provided by granular Splenda and
use a mixture of Splenda and a Splenda-sweetened coffee syrup. Syrups are made
with the liquid form of sucralose and this form does not contain the filler-based
carbohydrates found in the granular form. (Note: Granular Splenda is 24g of carbohydrate
Syrups used alone, however, can offset the liquid to solid ratio for your dessert
and produce a slightly icier texture unless you increase the other solids or add
a little extra fat. Also, Monin's O'Free Syrups tend to reduce this icy profile.
These are a tad thicker than other brands and are sweetened with both erythritol
and sucralose. Erythritol, the LC–friendliest sugar alcohol, is noted for producing
a creamy texture in frozen desserts and it does its job nicely here, while adding the
very pleasing flavor of the Monin syrup.
Granular erythritol is another option for
sweetening without carbs and creating a good texture. Some people find, though,
the "cooling" effect from pure erythritol crystals (like biting down on a WintoBlast
Menthol Mint), to be somewhat off-putting, and will use it in combination with
other sweeteners and not all by its lonesome.
Stevia and liquid acesulfame-K
concentrate are less common, but very effective alternatives to use alone or
buddied with another sweetener. And, yes, you can use aspartame or maltitol (or
the other sugar alcohols), too, but these are so mired with lowcarb and general
health problems — why spoil ice cream's perfection?
Now onto the "cream" portion of our program. Heavy cream is an old friend to
low-carbers, but ice cream hounds with a very low carb limit may balk at the
carbohydrate content. Averaging ~0.5 net carbs/tbsp, the liberal use of cream
in your ice creams may not be the most carb-conscious choice. You can substitute
one of the new low carb milks (Carb Countdown, Le Carb, or Keto RTD Milk) for part
of the cream to reduce the carbohydrates,
but keep much of real cream's taste and consistency.
Soymilk and nut milks (especially unsweetened almond milk) are
also very viable alternatives, as is silken tofu pureed with water or other liquid.
The advantage to heavy cream is, of course, the fat. Fat is a texture and flavor
enhancer. However, one does not have to rely on the fat from cream for these benefits.
You can add in a bit of oil — virgin, unrefined nut oils impart unbelievable flavor,
while enhancing texture — or use melted coconut oil or butter. A fatty component
such as a sugarfree nut butter or pureed avocado will add taste, interest and
boost fat content. Don't overdo the fat, though. Fat (especially cold) coats
the tongue and may block the tastebuds from receiving some of the flavor
components of the ice cream. It also increases the ice cream's density.
Some fat — dandy taste and texture; too much fat — duller taste and leaden
texture. No—brainer for this one...
Flavor is, of course, ice cream's focus. We all have our favorites and, by
making it at home, we are able to recreate these and produce unique combinations
to tantalize our tastebuds. From where, though, do we get flavor?
Fruit fans fondly recall youth's abandoned delicacies like banana, peach, pineapple or raisin.
Actually, the ice creams we remember from childhood normally had no natural flavors
in them at all! That good ol' banana cone that dripped down our hand on a blistering
August afternoon was usually produced with an artificial flavoring additive, not
the monkey's lunch. Today, those flavorings are available to consumers to use
in their own culinary applications. Groceries offer a pittance of ol' standby
extracts and you have to check closely their labels for added nasties like sugars.
However, there are currently many online retailers that offer a vast diversity of
flavor oils and concentrates. Almost any flavor can be had — macadamia nut, honeydew,
lychee, mango, rum raisin... Splenda-sweetened coffee syrups boost both flavor and
sweetness when used in ice cream mixtures and their diversity is also
delightful — White Chocolate, Cantaloupe, Red Hot Cinnamon, Mai Tai — Don't
forget about "other stuff", too. Cold coffee or tea, diet sodas, herbs and
spices, a touch of good unsweetened cocoa powder or melted lowcarb chocolate,
flavored nut oils or infused olive oils — all are very effective flavor additions
to ice cream bases. Sugarfree chai concentrate + orange flavor oil + healthy
splash of hot sauce makes me dance the night away.
So, gather your materials, blend together, and you're ready to go. Well... almost... Ice cream
bases are like people — they get better with age. Make your base early in the day
and chill in the refrigerator until dessert time. The flavors will marry together
and the cold base will freeze faster than a warm one, lessening the excruciating
wait–time between liquid and luxury... low carb luxury that is... pardon the pun.
Add–ins are the primary reason some people eat ice cream. Ice cream itself is just
the cold stuff holding up the cookie dough chunks. Well, chunkies are perfectly
fine for homemade ice cream, just make sure they are appropriately low carb.
Unsweetened coconut, nuts (toasted for greater flavor), chopped sugar free chocolate
pieces, frozen bits of homemade or purchased low carb cookies or brownies, frozen
homemade or lowcarb fudge or candy bar pieces — this list is limited only by your
imagination. Add them towards the end of processing and chill them first, though,
for best results.
Freezing homemade ice cream is easy with the right gadget. Your grandfather's
ice cream maker with ice, salt and a mule attached to the handle is a thing of
the past. Today's ice cream makers are designed for the modern lifestyle of
convenience. Electric models are readily available for very reasonable prices,
the most common style featuring a bowl that lives in your freezer. Pop it on
the machine, put in the dasher, add the ingredients and hit start. Voila! You
will soon sample your creamy, dreamy frozen concoction. Homemade ice cream will
turn out soft serve, delicious on its own right, but can be packed and stored in
the freezer for a bit to harden into a more "scoopable" product.
If you truly love ice cream, consider a self-freezing model. These units have self-contained
compressors, allowing you to freeze one batch, clean out the mixing area and
make another right away. However, they are criminal in the amount of counter
space they steal, and will drain your bank account of several hundred smackers.
My ice cream maker could house a family of four plus their cat, and it ate my tax refund
for breakfast, but I would marry it were it human. It makes the best textured
ice cream I've ever sampled and hardens it far better than does any cheaper model.
And, my ice cream is made with Splenda-sweetened syrups, silken tofu, milk protein
isolate, flavorings, water and xanthan gum. If it can turn that mess into
something that is indistinguishable from standard ice cream, it can turn your
normal LC recipe into something approaching Nirvana.
The low carb lifestyle is not one characterized by deprivation or abstinence. We
enjoy an amazing variety of nutritious and fantastically flavorful foods and can
even enjoy many of the little treats and indulgences that once we sampled in all
their sugar-glazed glory. Whereas the proliferation of low carb convenience
products and treats makes the occasional (and it should be occasional) self-pampering
session easier, nothing in the Universe beats the taste of the things we make
ourselves. Making ice cream is fun, creative, family-friendly and easy. Carve
out a little time to make a bit of frozen heaven soon!
Copyright © July 2005 Cerise Cauthron and Low Carb Luxury
Title and inset photo Copyright © 2005 Neil Beaty and Low Carb Luxury