Mirrored from Velvet Kerfuffle Kitchen and Garden.
Lactose is the bane of my existence. Well, not the only one, obviously. But a significant one nonetheless when you’re severely intolerant to it, living in a country where it is omnipresent, and not given much choice in avoiding it other than turning to often off-tasting specialty foods or chain-popping expensive enzyme pills. Considering that 60% of the world has some form of lactose sensitivity and America is a country of immigrants, it really is rather silly that more thought isn’t given to this by food manufacturers. I don’t know how many times I’ve come across somebody asking for dairy substitutes only to have some ignorant lactose-consuming “expert” advise them to “use the real thing”, assuming that the person making the request is just being cheap or trying to lose weight. My usual response in these situations is to point out that “quality” is subjective, depending on the consumer. Especially when partaking of one person’s “quality product” will lead another person almost directly to puking and other unpleasant side effects. Leaving soapbox now.
At any rate, rich dairy products are especially hard to avoid when you have a fondness for cream-based desserts. Entirely soy-based ice creams tend to have a bit of a beany aftertaste and the only brand of Lactaid ice cream available in our area is plain vanilla. Born out of all this dietary adversity is my ongoing quest for the perfect lactose-free ice cream recipe. I don’t claim to have found it yet, but I have had quite a few trials that ended up as qualified successes. One of which I will talk about now.
The usual suspects. I decided to go for chocolate this time, since I didn’t have any handy fruit around and we had plenty of cocoa left over from my holiday baking bonanza. I’ve read through a lot of homemade ice cream recipes, but can’t say that this follows anything in particular. It’s in the same family, surely, but that’s about all I’m willing to commit to.
I started by scalding a cup of Lactaid milk and dissolving 1 packet of gelatin in it, to give the finished product some stability. I’ve made earlier batches without gelatin, which tended to melt much faster and turn liquid after being out of the fridge for a bit. I usually prefer agar because it’s what my mother always used in her cooking, but it’s not as readily available in most Western-style supermarkets. Next, half a cup of cocoa powder went in to be dissolved. I tend to prefer powder over solid chocolate because a lot of the solids have odd waxes that can give the boy a stomachache. I might try melting down a higher-end chocolate next time, though, for reasons I’ll expand upon later.
Whisked mixture until smooth. Took a quick taste-test and found that it was on the bitter side. Added 2/3 cup of sugar to sweeten it up, and let it all melt together completely.
The chocolate mix then got tossed in the blender along with 6 oz. (1 small tub) of plain greek yogurt, for its live cultures, dairy creaminess and an extra bit of tanginess. 2 squirts of chocolate syrup were added, mostly because I had it around and don’t believe one can ever have enough chocolate. It all got blended on a fairly low setting.
Finally, 8 oz. (one tub) of Cool Whip went in to lend its unique creaminess to the mix. This would be the space normally reserved for heavy cream of some sort. Despite the scorn heaped upon Cool Whip by would-be food snobs, it’s remarkably low in calories (25 cal per 9 grams) and delightfully lactose-free. It wouldn’t be such a popular and enduring artificial topping if it didn’t have some appeal, eh? I made the mistake this time of just popping it in the blender and mixing up the whole thing like a giant smoothie. In retrospect, I probably should have folded chocolate mixture into the Cool Whip in a large mixing bowl, to preserve the airy texture. I’ll be doing this next time.
Resulting mixture went into the freezer for a few hours to harden. Yes, I might have poked at it a few times to see how it was coming along
When solid enough, it scoops like a gelato, rather dense but still very creamy. I shaved a few curls of chocolate over the serving for garnish. If allowed to thaw, it becomes a very decent chocolate pudding.
Taste analysis: I mentioned earlier that this was a qualified success. The reason for the qualification is because I believe it would have turned out better if I had used better ingredients. I happened to have Hershey’s products on hand, so I used them, but I would have probably been happier with a richer chocolate powder (possibly Ghirardelli or the like). A melted-down bar of good wax-free chocolate — a hunk of Belgian, or one of the many bars we brought back from Finland — would probably have worked, too. It would have probably also eliminated or lessened the need for additional sugar and syrup, which led to a strangely high-pitched sweetness in this particular end product. It wasn’t unpleasant, but it did rather taste like some of the cheaper ice creams that I’ve had as a child. It hits your palate at the wrong level for chocolate, and you can’t help noticing that artificiality. I’m certain this is more the fault of the chocolate than the Cool Whip because I’ve used the whip before to make a wonderful strawberry sorbetto that had no cloying taste whatsoever. The strange part? It only feels weirdly sweet in ice cream form. When thawed into pudding, it tastes amazingly similar to the very rich Belgian chocolate pudding that I’ve bought at Trader Joes… pretty impressive considering its low dairy content.
Texture analysis: I don’t have an ice cream machine, nor do I particularly feel the need to get one since my kitchen is already pretty cluttered. I also enjoy the denser iced creams, like gelatos and sorbettos, so the freeze-and-scoop method suits me pretty well. Those wanting a lighter product might do well to invest in an ice cream machine to inject more fluff into the finished product. As I mentioned earlier, though, I also suspect that if I had folded in the chocolate rather than blending the whip, I would have ended up with a fluffier product since the whip is very light to begin with. Future testing will probably confirm this.
Convenience analysis: Using mostly stuff that’s already in the kitchen or easily picked up at the grocer’s freezer. Minimal kitchen work involved, and a tasty result in hours which would have fooled most of my dinner guests. Not bad, not bad.
Financial analysis: This is iffy, since there’s nothing really similar on the market. Well, there’s the soy ice creams, which come in tiny tubs and are priced like the gourmet ice creams. So to that extent, this is a great success. As you can see I have a whole pan of the stuff, which would probably make two tubs worth at least. The ingredients are relatively cheap, even if I end up using the “good” chocolate. Doing a version out of fruit would also be a very nice alternative. Thumbs up all the way on this category.
PS. Why am I doing these food columns all of a sudden, you might be asking? A few reasons — 1) I’ve been cooking a lot more in the past year since I’ve moved into my own full-stocked kitchen. 2) I have a few friends (I’m looking at you, sassygurl) that I’ve been promising to help along in the culinary department for a while. 3) I need some blog entries and some “how-to” articles to put into my writing samples for some future employment. 4) I’ve missed writing