Thursday, July 26, 2007

Frequently Asked Questions

It’s about time I drew up a FAQ, isn’t it? Thought so. So here are the answers to a bunch of questions. Yup.

Q. Do you have any general guidelines or advice?

A. You bet. Check ’em out here.

Q. What kind of texture should I end up with after freezing? My ice cream is too soft! My ice cream is too hard! I want my ice cream to be just right!

A. After you’ve finished freezing the ice cream in your ice cream maker, it’s usually the texture of soft-serve ice cream. You probably won’t eat it all right away, so you can store the rest in the freezer. It will harden. A lot. It’s going to be harder than store-bought ice cream because it’s not whipped around and aerated the way commercially made ice cream is. If it’s too hard to scoop, just zap it in the microwave for ten seconds or so.

If your ice cream is too soft after freezing it in your ice cream maker, you may have fallen to a couple of common pitfalls. First, the colder the ice cream liquid is before freezing, the easier it is to freeze. I usually leave my liquid in the fridge for several hours to overnight. Second, if you have an ice cream maker that utilizes a freezing container that must be frozen first, make sure that it’s properly frozen. My ice cream maker has one of these, and I just leave it in the freezer at all times.

If you want to make the ice cream softer/creamier right of the freezer, you can do a couple of things. The first is to increase the fat content. The more fat the ice cream contains, the softer it will be in the freezer. You can use a non-dairy milk with a higher fat content (e.g., coconut milk), or you can add fat yourself. Adding ¼ cup flax oil is a great way to give your ice cream an omega-3 boost while making it creamier, too. You can use any other oil you like, but if you use flax oil be sure to whisk it in after the cooling period (prior to freezing) because heat can damage flax oil.

Adding alcohol to your ice cream will also prevent it from freezing as hard. If you’ve ever put a bottle of vodka in the freezer before making martinis, you’ve noticed that it doesn’t freeze. So mixing in ¼ cup to ½ cup booze after the cooling period (so it doesn’t boil off) will make the ice cream more difficult to freeze. If you choose this route, be sure to use a flavor that blends well with your ice cream. For example, brandy goes well with chocolate; tequila goes well with lime or lemon; rum is essential for rum raisin. Please note: This will not make you get drunk on your ice cream. You might notice the flavor of the alcohol, but you won’t get tipsy. Bummer, I know.

Q. What about using sweeteners other than sugar? Can I use agave nectar? Brown rice syrup? What about sugar-free ice cream?

A. I like using plain sugar in most recipes because it has a very neutral flavor that won’t influence the overall flavor of the ice cream. If I want a deeper molasses flavor, I’ll use Sucanat or brown sugar, or even molasses. (I even have a recipe for molasses ice cream!) If you have concerns about how “vegan” white sugar is, I would encourage you to first read this, and then if you’re still upset with me for using white sugar (or “evaporated cane juice,” as I do), rest assured that you can find sugar that hasn’t been processed using bone char.

I will probably eventually experiment with brown rice syrup, agave nectar, and maple syrup. In the mean time, if you experiment with any of these sweeteners, let me know how it goes! Your input is valuable!

As for “artificial” sweeteners (or their natural counterparts), I don’t care for these at all, and my husband won’t touch them. So I haven’t experimented with them. But I imagine you could use products like Splenda or stevia to make sugar-free ice cream. Again, if you try any of these, let me know how it goes so I can be better informed!

Q. What kind of ice cream maker should I use? What if I don’t have an ice cream maker?

A. Check out my post on this here.

Q. Can I use agar agar or cornstarch instead of arrowroot powder?

A. I haven’t used agar agar or cornstarch, but you could always try it. (And let me know how it turns out for you!) You could also try skipping the arrowroot completely, especially in recipes that produce a very thick liquid (like my avocado ice cream).

Q. Can I use xanthan gum instead of arrowroot powder?

A. Again, I haven't tried this, but here's what Myra Kornfeld says in The Voluptous Vegan (which has a few awesome ice cream recipes!): "[Unlike arrowroot powder, which must be heated] you need only to blend the xanthan gum with the ice cream base." So I imagine you could skip the heating step altogether, unless you want to make it easier for the sugar to dissolve, and just toss everything together in a blender or whisk it together by hand. If you do heat it to blend the sugar, then I guess you'd just blend/whisk the xanthan gum in at the end with the vanilla.

Q. What is this “soy creamer” you keep mentioning?

A. I am not talking about Coffeemate or those other “non-dairy creamer” powders. Yuck! What I’m referring to are products like Silk Creamer (there are other brands, too, but they are harder to find). It’s basically soy milk with added fat and sugar to mimic the properties of dairy cream or half-and-half. You can find this in the dairy section of the grocery store near the soy milk or the liquid Coffeemate-type creamers.

Keep in mind that you do not need to use soy creamer at all, even if I use it frequently. You can replace it with any non-dairy milk, and if you want that little extra fat, think about using coconut milk instead (or even whisking in ¼ cup oil).

Q. Can I use something other than soy milk?

A. Of course! I personally like soy milk, but you can use rice milk, oat milk, hemp milk, coconut milk, almond milk, hazelnut milk, cashew milk…you get the picture. Each milk with have its own properties (fat content, nutritional information, allergy issues), so choose what you like best and go with it!

Q. What does "c" mean? What about "t"?

A. I finally got around to explaining in this post. Sorry for the delay.

Q. You have won the International Lottery. Please to send assistance and your financial information so we can process your prize.

A. ZOMG really?!?!? w00t!


  1. Anonymous6:30 PM

    Thanks for all of the recipes and info- I'll be trying the strawberry ice cream recipe tonight. I was wondering if you'd used xanthan gum as a thickener before. I used it as a substitution in a vegan chocolate gelato recipe from Nonna's Italian Kitchen and it definitely gave it a more gooey gelato texture, but I'm curious to know if it can also make a creamy ice cream.

  2. Cait--Great question! I know you can use xanthan gum to make ice cream; it's offered as an option in The Voluptous Vegan. I just added another point in the FAQ to talk about how you would use it. Go forth and make ice cream!

  3. Anonymous10:16 PM

    I made your strawberry recipe just as you described and it is totally delicious. I have The Voluptuous Vegan cookbook and so I'll look there for more info about xanthan gum in ice cream. Thanks a bunch!

  4. Anonymous2:18 PM

    Have you ever made Matcha Green Tea Ice Cream?
    I would love the recipe if you have.... :D

  5. Anonymous7:01 PM

    Hello! I just came across this blog a couple days ago.. the very next day, I find myself buying an ice cream maker! The recipes sounded so good, I simply couldn't resist.

    I just wanted to mention something though,in case anybody else may be wondering about it. As I was looking for ingredients yesterday, I forgot the name "arrowroot", but knew I needed something for thickening. I was in a health food store, also buying things to make veggie sushi. So I'm looking near the nori and pickled ginger, and find something called "Kuzu Root Starch." Apparently it's also a dessert thickener. So I got it and tried it, and though I don't know how homemade ice creams normally turn out, my result is exactly how I expected after reading your blog.

    So in short, "Kuzu Root Starch" can be added to the list of "things you can use besides Arrowroot."

    You say that you like to hear feedback on experiments, so there to go! ^.^

  6. Anonymous1:05 PM

    hi: i am allergic to cane sugar, but not BEET sugar, which is never processed through bone char for some reason. it looks, tastes and cooks exactly like the cane sugar you get in the grocery store, but it's harder to find. typically you can only find it in health food stores and online.

    if people really want the regular cane sugar, there are brands that promise not to use bone char for processing). here's the link:

    good luck!

    1. Not hard to find beet sugar if you live in Michigan - Sugar Beet Capital of the World. The main brand if Pioneer, but others are also available. It's not in a special section of the store, just with the sugar / flour, etc. You just have to read the label.

  7. I made the cookies & cream ice cream, and when I froze it, the top had an ice-like texture on the top (that you would get from leaving the ice cream out to melt, and refreezing it)

    I have a feeling it has something to do with the container I stored it in to freeze. I used one of those wide and short black tupperwares from a Chinese restaurant. It seems like it didn't work because of the shape. I just wanted to ask what you freeze your churned ice cream in. Thanks ~Roo

  8. Going along w/ my last comment, I didn't get the soft serve ice cream look in the ice cream maker. I got more liquid (like a creme anglaise). I think I didn't let it churn long enough. I let it churn around 20. Should I let it churn longer (I have the same machine as you... only red)

  9. Ida--

    I'd let it churn longer. I usually churn mine for 25 minutes before I put in any add-ins, then churn for five minutes more, depending on how it looks. I also keep my freezer bowl in the freezer at all times, so it's really, really cold whenever I'm ready to use it. Plus, I cool the liquid in the fridge before I freeze. I hope this helps! (P.S. I wish my ice cream maker was red!)

  10. Anonymous10:03 PM

    I got it to work this time. Figured out the problem was. The base was room temp rather than cold before I put it in the ice cream maker. I was sooooo ecstatic, I made a bunch of flavors!!!

    Oh btw, you know that Ben & Jerry's Americone Dream (same thing as Haagen Dazs's "Caramel Cone") Well I made the vegan version of that, and it came out awesome (I had my non-vegan friend who's addicted to that stuff try mine, and he LOVED it)

    Just basically your lazy vanilla recipe, and caramel recipe, with chocolate dipped crushed cones (the "Let's Do Organic" waffle cones, which are vegan)

    Just take semisweet chocolate chips, melt them and dipped the crushed cone pieces in it, and let them harden. Add the cone pieces in the last 5 min of freezing.

    To swirl in caramel, take the container you're gonna freeze it in, swirl some on the bottom and around the edges. Layer in 2 scoops of ice cream and swirl more caramel on top. Repeat that process

    Try it, for IT'S GOOD EATS

  11. I was wondering if you could use Tapioca Starch in place of arrowroot powder? THanks!

  12. Candace--

    I imagine that tapioca starch would work. If you try it, let me know!

  13. Anonymous6:57 PM

    I have been using the "Lazy Vanilla" recipe with success for several months now. Lately, I have been thinking about using stevia in place of the sugar. Has anyone tried it or turbinado sugar in this recipe? What were the results? How much stevia would replace the 3/4 cup called for in the recipe?

  14. I've used turbinado and Sucanat sugar in the Lazy Vanilla recipe. You just use the same amount of turbinado as you would white sugar. It gives the ice cream a slightly deeper flavor...more molasses-y.

    I imagine you could use stevia, but I don't know the ratio of stevia to sugar when replacing...

  15. i've made several of these ice creams but one didn't come out quite right. the coffee ice cream. we used brewed coffee & it came out with lots of icey flakes in it, the texture was all wrong. was i supposed to use coffee grounds instead of coffee liquid? or do you have any other recommendations because i really want to try this one again.

  16. Diana--

    The best way to fix icy ice cream is to increase the fat and/or add alcohol. You could make the Kahlua variation and see if that solved the problem.

    I talk about texture in my FAQ under the question: Q. What kind of texture should I end up with after freezing? My ice cream is too soft! My ice cream is too hard! I want my ice cream to be just right!

  17. Anonymous8:15 PM

    Hi, Love your site! Have not tried any recipes yet, but will as soon as i get my ice cream maker! I am looking for a good recipe (or any recipe for that matter) for vegan tahini ice cream. Got any ideas? Would love to see a recipe for that on this site!

    -L. in China

  18. For all of you asking about "icy" ice cream, I have started making all of the recipes with all soy creamer. If I use any amount of non dairy milk, I add a tablespoon or so of oil per cup of milk. As Agnes says, it's the fat that makes a difference. Fat is where it's at!!! I'm vegan and my fiance isn't. When I started making the full fat versions of these awesome ice creams, he said we didn't have to buy him Haagen Das anymore! Thank you, Agnes!!
    P.S> Has anyone tried swirling chocolate sauce or caramel into the ice creams?

  19. Anonymous10:31 PM

    I tried tapioca starch with the chocolate raspberry recipe, replacing the exact amount of arrowroot with tapioca starch, doing everything the same (making the slurry, etc.). It does not work very well, at least not in the amount of two tablespoons. The ice cream will still solidify after you've frozen it, but it has more of an ice crystal texture. It's fine otherwise, but one of the things I liked so much about the arrowroot is the distinctive non-ice-crystaly results it gave.

    Unfortunately though, 65 cents for an almost one-pound bag of tapioca starch at the local Asian market is way cheaper than $19.99 a pound at my local supermarket...I will either keep searching for more reasonably-priced arrowroot powder, or just accept that in the long term, I will need to make ice cream that is more ice crystaly.

  20. Heather--

    Check your Asian/Indian markets for arrowroot. You can often find it there for much less than at the grocery store. Also, the internet is your friend! I did a quick search and found it available for around $3/lb. Of course, the spice companies will try to sell you a tiny jar for $5 or something insane like that, but you can definitely find it for less.

  21. Anonymous9:30 PM

    I went online looking for prickly pear ice cream recipes and yours came up. The cacti are in bloom here in Arizona and i want to make some for my family. I am not sure how to get the peel off without hurting myself!!! I tried to pick some and the darned things have tiny, fuzzy thorns all over. I really could use some suggestions. :)
    Thank You,

  22. RE: prickly pears

    I'd use some thick gloves to pick them. Then you can burn the thorns off over a gas stove, or you can carve them out with a knife. But do be careful! They can really stick you. The bright side? At least they're not as prickly as cholla!

  23. Anonymous4:51 AM

    I found your site long ago when I was starting to make vegan icecream and I love all the recipes I've tried! I've made some of my own as well. Just wanted to add in a note about thickeners. I don't use arrowroot because it is so expensive. So I used to use cornstarch. It worked fine, but about 20% of the time my icecream would develop a "mealy" texture once I froze the leftovers in the freezer. Very unpleasant! I didn't know why until I read recently that cornstarch will break down when frozen. So that's why! so I would NOT recommend using cornstarch. However, tapioca starch does NOT break down during freezing, so I have been using that now and it works beautifully. But unlike arrowroot, you have to add it in and boil it for a few minutes to get it to work the best. I'm guessing the previous poster who tried tapioca starch put it in at the end like you do with the arrowroot. I also read somewhere a suggestion to put in lecithin to make it not crystalize so much in the freezer. So now I add in up to a tablespoon of powdered lecithin into the "pudding". Seems to make it creamier. Just wanted to add my findings on the thickeners, thanks for a great site!

  24. Agnes,

    I love this blog. Keep it coming! In fact I just got my ice cream maker today and can't wait to try a recipe. My boyfriend is lactose intolerant and reacts badly to sugar but his favorite thing of all time is ICE CREAM! Go figure!

    That said, which one of your recipes do you think might do better with Stevia? Has any of your readers reported in on trying a sugar free vegan delight? If so, I'd love to hear the outcome.


  25. I have gotten such great ideas from your site. I've found that the easiest way to make the ice cream is to take one box of Morinu Tofu, one box/carton of coconut milk, and then whatever flavorings needed--banana, chocolate, peanut butter; chocolate and mint; strawberries and banana; etc. The ice cream is so creamy and rich that my non-vegan family loves it!


  26. Anonymous2:59 AM

    Hi there!
    I discovered your blog a year ago, tried one or two recipies and after that, learnt the most important thing by heart: 2T arrworoot for 1 Qt liquid, and off I went ;)
    I notice nobody mentions brown rice syrup, so here's my input: being a vegan chef leaning towards macrobiotics, I use the healthier sweeteners, and that's rice syrup for the most part. I go as low as 1/2 cup rice syrup for 1 Qt vicecream mixture, depending on what else is inside. But me and my wife are no sweet tooths, so you'd want to add a bit more, or use a stronger syrup like agave or maple (pretty local for Americans, but not for us on the olde continent)
    My next step is to get creamier textures after frezing in the freezer, so I'll experiment with lecithin and more oil.
    Keep up the good work!
    greetings from Belgium - Tino

  27. I was happy to stumble upon your site today, but sad to learn about your condition. Best wishes on your recovery.