A friend recently commented that I've been making only ice creams for weeks now, and I will admit that it has been awhile since I've thought of making anything but. I've become preoccupied with making a better homemade ice cream, especially regarding texture. Taste hasn't been too much of an issue, in my opinion, and I always have a long mental list of new flavors to test out. Last time I made my first gelato, and I thought it was quite successful texture-wise, but I don't like the idea of forever making gelato (I'm more of an ice cream person myself) and also forever using raw eggs. One thing I noticed was that it was nicer coming out of the freezer then my previous custard-based ice creams. Taste was less rich, admittedly, but texture was a bit more scoopable.
Before the gelato, my cornstarch ice cream was a terrible failure. Too pudding-like and melted strangely. So moving on to my next experiment, I decided to give gelatin a try. Gelatin is commonly used in desserts that "set", such as panna cotta, jello, and gummies. According to Wikipedia: "Gelatin is a protein produced by partial hydrolysis of collagen extracted from the bones, connective tissues, organs and some intestines of animals such as domesticated cattle, pigs, and horses." Gross, huh? Try not to think about that when you are eating or using anything with gelatin in it (probably a lot more products than you realize).
It was used as the main stabilizer in the ice cream industry for years, according to Dr. Douglas Goff, before being replaced by cheaper compounds. What's the benefit of using a stablizer? Dr. Goff states that adding a stabilizer increases the viscosity of the ice cream mixture by thickening the unfrozen portions of the water and preventing them from moving through the mix, joining together, and creating big ice crystals when re-frozen. Gelatin powder put into water, for instance, dissolves a little at room temperature, but then melts completely with sufficient heat. When cooled, the mixture then solidifies into a colloid gel--the water being suspended in a protective collagen matrix.
So I decided to use a few sprigs of fresh mint as my flavor (which by the way, gives such an amazing flavor as compared to the mint chocolate types of ice creams you buy at the store), just to keep it fairly simple as I didn't know how the use of gelatin would turn out. I used 2 egg yolks, half a packet of gelatin powder, 1/3 c sugar, 1 1/2 c whole milk, and 1 c heavy cream--along with my usual recipe for making ice cream mix, except I melted the gelatin in after infusing the mint into the milk/cream. Remember that you have to melt the gelatin at sufficient heat to incorporate it throughout the mix.
The results were a success! I found the ice cream more scoopable, yet still rich and creamy, and had firm "bite". Also, it had nice melt-down characteristics--none of that "pudding"-like weirdness that cornstarch gave. Unfortunately, it is not vegetarian, which is the biggest downfall of using it in ice cream (as far as I can tell). Which I assume would be where vegetation-based hydrocolloids like locust bean gum come into play. Anyway, I'm convinced! I now see the benefit of adding a stabilizer into my ice creams. As a temporary fix, gelatin seems to work well, but if I want my vegetarian friends to partake, I'll eventually have to find a substitute. Which is your favorite plant-based hydrocolloid and how do you use it?