August 18, 2010

The eggs-in-ice-cream controversy and some alternatives

jumbo egg, bantam eggs
A jumbo egg, an average size bantam egg, and a tiny bantam egg

Using Raw Eggs

Using raw eggs in ice cream is such a controversial topic. I've read so many comments on recipe sites from readers horrified at the the thought of using raw eggs but I feel comfortable with my home grown, super fresh, organic eggs. I like quick and easy recipes and living dangerously. After all, this is Honduras where we don't sweat the small stuff!

I am generally a world class worrier so I sympathize with your fear. But I live in Honduras. Raw eggs are the least of my worries. And did you know that you can also get salmonella and E coli from melons, spinach, lettuce, and a bunch of other "healthy" foods?
My theory is that there are only so many things you can worry about.

I'm not saying that
you should use raw eggs or that your fears are groundless. I'm just saying that I do. I never use a cracked or dirty egg for ice cream or those eggs that have been hanging around the fridge for weeks. Eggs serve a purpose in ice cream besides adding richness. Eggs stabilize the ice cream and prevent it from becoming rock hard. But I feel that I must give some options to those with raw egg-phobia. Washing the eggs right before you crack them might not be a bad idea.

Another simple option is to use the pasteurized eggs in cartons that are available in the US. I've never seen those here in La Ceiba. Another solution is to gently cook the eggs in a custard base. Instructions for converting any of my recipes to a cooked custard based recipe are here.

homemade papaya ice creamNot using raw eggs

Other options are, of course, to use an eggless recipe or a cornstarch base. Here are a couple of eggless recipes that get good reviews.

Ben & Jerry's Sweet Cream Base #2
makes 1 quart

This is Ben & Jerry's eggless base. They point out that it does not freeze well, "so plan to eat it all the same night". I assume by that they mean that it freezes rock solid. For easier serving of rock solid ice cream, microwave it on 50% power for 10-15-20 seconds, depending upon the quantity. This is my preferred method of softening ice cream as it results in a more evenly soft ice cream. Slightly softened ice cream tastes better and that's a fact.

This simple recipe is made with a minimum of ingredients and requires no cooking. It makes a very creamy ice cream with 25% butterfat.

2 cups heavy or whipping cream
3/4 cup sugar
2/3 cup half & half
Pour the cream into a mixing bowl. Whisk in the sugar, a little at a time, then continue whisking until completely blended, about 1 minute more. Pour the half and half and whisk to blend.

Ben & Jerry's Sweet Cream Base #3
makes 1 quart

This ice cream base is described as: "This recipe makes a less creamy, less rich ice cream. Ben likes the slightly cooked flavor of the sweetened condensed milk." This one will not freeze rock solid because of the condensed milk.

2 cup light cream
1 cup sweetened condensed milk - cold

Whisk the light cream and the sweetened condensed milk together in a mixing bowl until blended.

LG note: I occasionally use sweetened condensed milk in a pinch when I can't find cream. I do not add any sugar to the recipe. To use this base in a fruit recipe, there is probably no need to increase the base recipe for 1 1/2 quarts. To make 1 1/2 quarts of a vanilla base, do not increase the sweetened condensed milk — it will be much too sweet. Instead, increase the cream or add milk (about a cup).

Cornstarch-based recipes

I've only tried one cornstarch-based recipe so far (Mocha gelato, to be posted soon) — how much ice cream can a person eat in a week?! Although, El Jefe asks me every night, "Are you going to make ice cream tonight?" I do plan to try a couple more gelato recipes using cornstarch, but it may be a week or so until I do.

Egg sizes

I don't think egg size is too critical to a 1 1/2 quart ice cream recipe. Note that in place of 2 regular eggs, I generally use 4 small bantam eggs, which have a higher yolk to white ratio than normal sized grocery store eggs, so that could make a difference in the final product. For those who want to live dangerously like me, to simulate the bantam eggs, try using 1 whole egg and 2 egg yolks in place of 2 eggs — but again, I really don't think it is critical.

The photo shows a large grocery store egg, and two normal bantam eggs. In case you don't know, bantams are just small chickens. The brighter color of the yolk is because my chickens free range and find lots of tasty greens to munch on in the garden.

I hope this helps to ease your mind! See also my ice cream making tips (especially for the tropics) and my ice cream maker reviews. For several of my favorite ice cream recipes, including some using tropical fruits, click on "LG recipes" in the topics list in the sidebar.

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