Looking for a new, fresh ice cream base? Fond of milk? – Look no further!
Many people tend to base their ice creams on vanilla, combining it with whatever other flavour they want to create. But there are other ice cream bases which serve a similar purpose – the Italian tradition offers Fior di Latte!
Fior di Latte literally translates into “Flower of milk” which, I have been told, roughly means “The Best of milk”. Its name in French (“Fleur de lait“) means the same. I can hear some people yawning now – what point would there be in creating an ice cream which tastes of milk and little else?
Well – to start with, the sweetened, subtle flavour of milk is actually quite enjoyable in its own right.
Secondly, many people would mainly use Fior di Latte as the ’empty canvas’ for other creations: As milk is part of almost every other ice cream recipe, the Fior di Latte can easily be combined with about a zillion other flavours: a perfect and versatile ice cream-base, in other words.
Preserve the milk flavour: Use less cream, more milk
Fior di Latte should, in my view, really taste of milk – mild and rather “neutral”. Still, there are quite a few recipes out there which advocate the use of buffalo milk, unpasteurised milk, or other ‘creamier’ types of milk.
Myself, I did not grow up on a farm, was never given buffalo milk as a child, and I have never been much for creamy milk as a drink. In line with my personal preferences, I have therefore opted to mainly use “ordinary” whole milk (and much less cream than one normally would do in a traditional ice cream recipe). Your own experiences and preferences may differ, however, and if so, I encourage you to adapt the recipe accordingly!
But using less cream than usual comes at a prize: less cream also means less fat. Less fat means that the ice cream will be likely to freeze hard and unappetizing. We can’t have that, can we? Since we cannot rely on the fat of the cream for structure, we need to stabilize our ice cream in some other way. If we do not fancy the idea of turning to egg yolks (à la the traditional Italian and French traditions), we could try using different starches (like corn starch or arrowroot), or ingredients like Agar agar or gelatin.
Yours truly, however, wanted to try something new: Adventurously, I decided to try working with Gellan gum. Now, let me quickly acknowledge that strict ice cream purists, who reject anything else in their ice creams than dairy, sugar and eggs, may frown upon this. Well, I certainly lean towards the “natural ice cream” camp too, but I’m simply too curious to let that stop me from testing out things like Gellan 🙂
Gellan gum – stabiliser at work!
What does Gellan do? Like other ice cream stabilisers, its main purpose is to bind water. And it certainly does this very effectively: Even a small amount suffices to bring about effects that would require much larger quantities of egg yolks, fat molecules, starches, or Agar agar.
Gellan gum is a quite new invention. Actually derived from the fermentation of a bacteria, Gellan was first discovered/developed in a U.S laboratory towards the end of the 1970’s. First approved as a food additive in Japan 1988, it has since become regarded as a versatile and effective stabiliser, thickener and emulsifier. Nowadays, it is widely approved for use in food all over the world, often marketed as a vegan alternative to gelatin.
While the debate about the possible and alleged health hazards of food additives is likely to continue, Gellan gum seems to have come off quite well. The product appears to be not only “officially approved” but also widely considered as both safe and – coming from a bacteria – “more natural” than some other (industrial-grade) stabilisers out there. Ready to take the jump? Read on!
The preparations – easy and straightforward
Start by combining the dairy and most of the sugar in a saucepan. Save a little sugar in which to mix up the Gellan powder (thus further reducing the risks of gelatinous drops forming at the time of insertion).
In order to work properly, Gellan gum needs a temperature of 70° Celsius (158° F), so we will heat our milk/cream mix to that point.
When the temperature is right, add the Gellan gum (mixed up in a little sugar) and whisk until it has been well dispersed in the liquid.
Let the Gellan gum work its stabilising magic for about five minutes or slightly longer: keep the temperature at, or slightly above, 70° Celsius (158° F).
Take off from the heat, let the ice cream base cool down and then, ultimately, chill for a couple of hours or so in the refrigerator. Now, churn the base in your ice cream machine or still-freeze, using your ordinary freezer.
Fior di Latte is a perfect ice cream base for all of us who would like to try something different for a “foundation”. The milk flavour is mild and pleasant in its own right, yet subtle enough to be easily combined with a plethora of possible other flavours. Thanks to the Gellan gum, this ice cream also ends up being relatively “slim”: most of the dairy is milk, and the proportions would not have been possible to pull off successfully without the use of a stabiliser.
As for preparations, they could hardly have been easier: mix all ingredients, let the Gellan gum activate for a handful of minutes at the required temperature, and then cool down/chill and churn the base! Could it be simpler?
Gellan gum as a stabiliser also turned out to be extremely effective: a small amount sufficed to ensure a pleasant structure with a very nice, smooth and inviting texture. These positives were also validated by the pleasant and soft mouthfeel. To my relief, I can also confirm that the Gellan gum did not leave any particular tang either: the overall flavour remained milk – pure and untainted.
- 600 ml (2½ cups) whole milk
- 100 ml (about 0.4 cup) cream
- 150 ml (about 0.6 cup) sugar
- ½ teaspoon Gellan gum (NOTE: don't overdose!)
- (optional) 1 tablespoon of inverted sugar (like Agave nectar)
- Set aside a small part of the sugar and mix that with the gellan powder.
- Pour the milk, the cream and the rest of the sugar in a saucepan and bring to about 70° Celsius (158° F).
- Add the Gellan gum (mixed with a little sugar, to ease the mix-in) and whish to promptly disperse it in the hot liquid.
- Keep the temperature at, or slightly above, 70° C (158° F). for at least five minutes, while whisking.
- Take the ice cream base off the heat and let cool down.
- Once cooled down, place the ice cream base in the freezer to chill.
- Churn in your ice cream machine, or still-freeze the ice cream using your ordinary freezer.