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Soy Milk Ice Cream

I know a couple of people that can’t drink milk, which means they suffer a fate worse than death: not being able to eat ice cream. The solution? Make ice cream from soy milk.

But I discovered that there are two problems with making soy milk ice cream. First, soy milk has almost no fat in it, which is a problem when trying to make homemade ice cream because it needs a fairly high butterfat content to be smooth and creamy. And second, soy milk ice cream tastes like soy milk. Even if you’re used to the “beany soy” flavor, you probably don’t want your ice cream to taste like that. You want it to taste like vanilla, or strawberry, or whatever flavor you’re making.

To help overcome the problem of the low fat content, I used “Silk” brand soy milk creamer, which has about 7% fat by weight, instead of their normal soy milk, which has less than 2% fat. But since low-fat ice cream doesn’t even start until about 10%, and recipes like the Sweet Cream Base [1] are about 19%, even the 7% creamer is way too low to make good ice cream without it being icy.

My first thought was that I’d compensate for the low fat content by using a stabilizer like xanthan gum. I’ve had good success with xanthan gum in strawberry ice cream [2], because it helps reduce the iciness from all the water in the strawberries. And stabilizers are a key ingredient in low-fat ice cream like gelato, which is often made from just milk, and no cream at all. But an interesting thing happened that made the xanthan gum unnecessary — more on that in a moment.

For the first test, I decided to make a simple batch of vanilla, with no stabilizer. This would be the worst-case scenario, to see how bad 7% ice cream really is. And let me tell you, it’s bad. Not only was it horribly icy, the soy flavor completely overpowered the vanilla. The result went right down the sink.

For tests two, three, and four, I used xanthan gum, which worked great for getting rid of the iciness. But even though the consistency was fine, nothing could cover up the strong soy bean flavor. I tried a batch with cinnamon, a batch with fresh strawberries, and even a batch with almond extract, just because I had it on-hand. They were all terrible. Not quite as bad as the horrible vanilla batch, but terrible nonetheless. I realized that if I was going to cover up the soy bean flavor, I was going to have to bring in the big guns. That’s right, nothing was going to work in this case but the ultimate flavor for ice cream: chocolate.

So with that in mind, test five was a modification of the Jerry’s Chocolate [3] recipe, with a combination of melted chocolate and cocoa powder, and then I added some dark-chocolate-covered almonds just to give it a bit of crunch. I also switched from two eggs to four egg yolks, just to try to increase the richness a bit.  The result? Fantastic! Finally, the chocolate covered up all the soy bean flavor, and it tasted almost as good as the original recipe with heavy whipping cream (almost).

But since I was still using xanthan gum at that point, it tasted way too sticky. So I decreased the amount of xanthan gum a couple of times, and somewhere around test number seven, I realized it probably didn’t need stabilizer at all. Apparently the chocolate and egg yolks did the trick on their own. I do think, however, that if you removed the eggs, you might need to add about 1/4 teaspoon or so of xanthan gum, but I haven’t actually tried that. (If you do use xanthan gum, be sure to add it while the mix is spinning in a blender, to prevent lumps.)

The final result ended up being a rich, creamy chocolate ice cream, with no stabilizer at all. Give it a try — it’s great.

Chocolate Ice Cream From Soy Milk

2 cups soy milk creamer (I used the Silk [4] brand)
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate
1/3 cup cocoa powder
4 large egg yolks
1 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup dark-chocolate-covered almonds

(makes about a quart)

To prevent the chocolate from seizing when you melt it, chop it up and toss it in with the cocoa and soy milk creamer, and heat it all together on medium-high heat. Usually about the point it starts to bubble is the time to take it off the heat, and whisking it a bit will make a nice smooth consistency that looks like chocolate cream, rather than tiny bits of chocolate mixed in with the cream. You can then follow the basic process in my Sweet Cream Base [5] post to get everything mixed together.

Cool the mix somewhat before adding the vanilla, to prevent the extract from evaporating in the heat. Then continue cooling the mix to 40 degrees F (5 C) or lower before churning it in an ice cream machine.

Quarter the almonds, and put them into the refrigerator to chill.

After churning, move the ice cream to a pre-chilled bowl with a pre-chilled spoon.  Fold in the almonds, and then move the ice cream to pre-chilled containers and into the freezer to  harden.