BRAIN FREEZE!!! We have all experienced what people refer to as a “brain freeze”? When something cold touches the roof of your mouth, the sudden temperature change of the tissue stimulates nerves to cause rapid dilation and swelling of blood vessels. This is an attempt to direct blood to the area and warm it back up. Brain freeze typically hits about 10 seconds after chilling the roof of your mouth and lasts about half a minute. The best way to avoid brain freeze is to eat or drink cold items, slowly. But I understand… when you are consuming treats like amazing raw ice creams, how can one control themselves? :) I found that if I pinch the bridge of my nose (right between my eyes) that it causes the brain freeze to stop. Do you have any tricks that help you or do you just practice enough self-control to eat your ice cream slowly? hehe
All of the information that I am providing below is based on creating a raw or high-raw, dairy-free ice cream. These are not the traditional ways nor am I really using traditional ingredients so please keep that in mind, raw ingredients work differently than cooked and processed ingredients. There are hundreds of flavor combinations and many different ways to make ice cream. I suspect that this posting will grow in time as I learn and experience more in the kitchen. But for now, I wanted to share with you what I know. I hope that you find this helpful and refer back to it as needed.
Basic Components of Ice Cream
- Purpose: Fats add richness, stabilises the base mix, improves density, the smoothness of texture and generally increases flavor. One of the hardest parts of making a dairy-free, raw ice cream is getting a rich enough base to create a firm foundation. For a good start, we need a healthy fat so that our base will be rich and creamy. In my experience many dairy-free “milks” are thin and if you don’t have enough fat in ice cream, it will become hard and icy.
- Types of fats: Soaked cashews, avocado, Young Thai Coconut meat/flesh, canned full-fat coconut milk
- Cashews always require soaking for at least 2 hours. This will help to soften them to create a creamy mouth-feel. They will swell during the soaking process so be sure to soak in plenty of water. All measurements listed in my ice cream ingredients are prior to soaking. Do not use roasted and salted cashews. This will throw off the flavor of the ice cream, plus it is not a raw product. Cashews are neutral in flavor so it makes for a wonderful base for any flavor creation. For a base, I tend to start with 2 cups of cashews (prior to soaking).
- Walnuts and pecans can be used an offer a great flavor but isn’t as neutral in taste. Be sure to soak raw walnuts for 8 hours. Drain and rinse very well. This will remove the bitterness and tannins.
- Avocados will impart a part some flavor (depends on the other ingredients added) and it will affect the color. Always use ripe avocados. If they are firm and unripe they will impart a bitterness. If you are not a fan of avocados you can easily mask their taste by adding sweeteners and raw cacao. This will give a great base for the ice cream, I tend to start with 2 large avocados.
- Young Thai Coconuts make for a wonderful base. You will use the meat and/or the flesh. These coconuts can be difficult to find (depending where you live), expensive and a bit of a gamble as to how many you will need. Please read this post for more information regarding this. Even if you don’t love coconut; the flavor is pretty subtle, especially if you mix it with fruit, chocolate, etc. For a base I tend to start with 2 cups of meat / flesh.
- Canned full-fat coconut milk is another option that works great but isn’t raw. So far the main brand that I use and have been happy with is Natural Value Coconut Milk. It comes in a BPA-free can, it is organic and doesn’t contain any fillers. For a base I tend to use 2 cans, and always with the full-fat version. If you are ok with using canned coconut milk, always keep two cans in the fridge so that you can create an ice cream on a whim.
- Purpose: Adds sweetness but also improves texture and body. Also lowers the freezing point of the mix, ensuring that the ice cream does not freeze rock-solid. In other words, reducing the sweeteners (for health- or dietary reasons, for example) does not only affect sweetness but could also jeopardise the “build” and stability of the ice cream.
- Types of sweeteners:
- Liquid Stevia: The bottle says to use 5-8 drops for 8 ounces of liquid. I don’t recommend using stevia all by itself as the only sweetener, it will affect the mouth-texture of the ice cream making it less creamy. Stevia works best when used in combination with another sweetener.
- Raw Honey: I tend to use 1/2 – 2/3 cup for a recipe.
- Maple syrup: Not raw. Look for grade B maple syrup to ensure maximum mineralization.
I tend to use 1/2 – 2/3 cup for a recipe.
- Coconut Nectar: I tend to use 1/2 – 2/3 cup for a recipe. Great replacement for agave if you can’t locate a raw form of agave.
- Raw agave: I tend to use 1/2 – 2/3 cup for a recipe.
- Dates: They are a whole food option. I prefer soft dates such as medjool. Harder dates may require soaking prior to using. Dates can effect your recipe visually so keep this in mind.
- Yacon has a molasses kind of flavor and is raw, low calorie, low glycemic and is a pre-biotic. (helps nurture intestinal bacteria)
- Make sure any sweetener you add is in syrup/liquid form, or it’ll cause crystals to form.
- When converting a cooked ice cream recipe to raw, honey can be used instead of sugar pretty much in a 1:1 ratio.
- Purpose: Lecithin is very important in recipes involving blending fats with other liquids, it is an emulsifier (binding property). It comes in several forms.
- Types of lecithin:
- I tend to use 1 Tbsp of lecithin per batch of ice cream.
- Use the same measurement whether in granular, powder or liquid form.
Ice crystals ~
- Ice crystals are formed when the water-content in the base starts to freeze; they put the “ice” in “ice cream”, giving solidity and body. The size of the ice crystals largely determines how fine, or grainy, the ice cream eventually turns out.
- The main objective is to keep the size of the ice crystals as small as possible. Churning the ice cream as it freezes helps this process.
- Sugar forms a physical barrier to crystallization (that’s why low-sugar ice cream recipes often turn out with such poor results).
- Faster freezing is another way to cut down on the ice crystal size but since we can’t always turn our freezers down just for our ice cream, the answer is to freeze the ice cream in shallower containers. Perhaps a baking pan or ice cube trays.
- The tiny air cells whipped into the base mix are largely responsible for the general consistency of ice cream, and greatly affect texture and volume.
- The quicker an ice cream machine whips in the air, the more air the creamier theice cream. Home ice cream machines can’t produce as much air as commercial ones so this part is hard to replicate.
- When you are ready to transfer the ice cream from the ice cream makers container to a freezer-safe container, Do NOT pack the ice cream down or you will eliminate the fluffiness that helps make for a smoother texture.
Banana Ice Cream base ~
- Use ripe bananas because they are at their peek of ripeness which means they are sweeter. Using them in their sweetest state means less added sweetener.
- Bananas must be frozen first before making your banana based ice cream. Peel and place on a cookie sheet, either whole or sliced. I freeze mine whole and just break into chunks when adding to my food processor or blender.
- They should be frozen for at least 24 hours prior to use.
- Banana ice cream can be eaten as an one ingredient “ice cream” or you can add other ingredients to it. Be creative!
Last minute tips:
- Always start with all ingredients chilled. Chilled ingredients help the ice cream to freeze quicker which makes for less time for ice crystals to form.
- When adding fresh fruits; divide the quantity and blend 1/2 in the base and then dice up the remainder and stir into the ice cream after it has gone through the ice cream machine process. This will intensify the fruit flavor.
- When adding sweeteners, remember that once the ice cream is frozen it will taste less sweet than when it was in the liquid batter form.
- Always taste test as you go along! When it comes to adding spices or extracts… start with less and add more as needed.
Ice cream machine:
- The bowls of most ice cream makers take at least 24 hours to freeze. If the bowl isn’t completely frozen it won’t get the ice cream totally cold. Get in the habit of storing the bowl of your ice cream maker in the freezer, wrapped tightly in a plastic bag so it doesn’t absorb weird freezer odors.
- Don’t overfill your ice cream maker bowl. Fill it 3/4 full and it will yield the best results. The ice cream batter expands as it freezes due to the air being whipped into it, and needs room to accomplish this.
- Add mix-ins, such as chocolate chips, nuts, and fruit pieces, during the last minute of churning. The ice cream should already be done. You just want to distribute the mix-ins evenly.
- Shallow, flat containers are best for freezing and storing ice cream as it promotes an even consistency when freezing.
- To prevent large ice crystals from forming, be sure to cover the container with a layer of plastic wrap or wax paper before placing the lid on the container. This will give it another layer of protection.
- Freeze newly-made ice cream for about 4 hours before serving. This is also known as “ripening.”
- Homemade ice creams keep well for up to a week. After that, they begin to lose their flavor and creamy texture.
- Remove the frozen mixture from the freezer 5 to 10 minutes (or longer) prior to scooping and serving.
Making Ice Cream Without A Machine:
- Prepare your ice cream mixture, pour into a shallow container, then chill it over an ice bath. An ice bath is basically a larger container (plastic, stainless steel, etc) lined with ice cubes on the bottom and sides that your ice cream container will fit into.
- After 30 minutes, check it the ice cream. As it starts to freeze near the edges, remove it from the freezer and stir it vigorously with a spatula or whisk. Return to freezer.
- Continue to check the mixture every 30 minutes, stirring vigorously as it’s freezing. You can use a hand-held mixer or stick-blender for best results if you have one.
- This process can take 2-3 hours.
- Remove the frozen mixture from the freezer 5 to 10 minutes (or longer) prior to scooping and serving.