No-Churn Chocolate Ice Cream – Experimental Recipe

No-Churn Ice Cream
No-churn chocolate ice-cream

I love my ice cream maker, but we have a problem. It is the type that doesn’t have its own cooling system. Instead, you have to pre-freeze the bowl for 24 hours. I just don’t have enough room to keep it in the freezer all the time, so in order to use it, I have to plan ahead, and that doesn’t always happen.

The other day I was reading Linda’s post about jelly ice cream. This was a bit of improvisation she did on a catering job after forgetting to pack her grape ice cream. She made ice cream on the spot using grape jelly. With no churn available, she realized that the pectin in the jelly would prevent large ice crystals from forming, and it gave a brilliant result. Why?

The primary purpose for churning ice cream is to keep it moving while it is freezing so that the ice crystals stay small. This is aided by freezing the base as quickly as possible. The secondary purpose is to introduce some air into the mix. Pectin solves the first problem a different way. It creates a light but fine gel matrix, limiting the size to which the ice crystals can grow.

I was fascinated by Linda’s discovery because it immediately reminded me of Alex and Aki’s sliced chocolate (recipe at PopSci), which I’ve made quite a few times. Could I use powdered pectin to set ice cream that didn’t have pectin built it the way Linda’s grape jelly did?

The answer is yes… the ice cream you see above was made with absolutely no churning. I simply melted the chocolate in the cream and milk, blended in the remaining ingredients and poured them in a shallow pan in the freezer. A couple of hours later: creamy, rice chocolate ice cream without any hint of ice crystals.

This was actually my second try. On the first attempt, I used 1% pectin by weight, figuring that the sliced chocolate recipe was 2% and I didn’t want that heavy of a set. It was pretty terrible! Very gummy in the mouth, with a weak flavor and poor melt. Then I remembered that when I’ve done the sliced chocolate with milk chocolate before, I’ve had to reduce the pectin level a lot. LM pectin sets in the presence of calcium, and guess what dairy products have a lot of? (This is different than “traditional” HM pectin which sets in the presence of sugar.)

This second batch I cut that down to about 0.23% by weight and it was drastically better. There is still a hint of pudding-pop about it, but everyone enjoyed it greatly.

Now I’ve only made this twice, and I’ve got a whole bunch of questions that will be answered with future batches:

  1. How long will this keep in the freezer? Possibly longer than normal ice cream since the pectin will reduce synerisis (water separating when thawed and frozen).
  2. Can I reduce the pectin even further without ice crystals forming? I’m pretty sure the answer will be yes, since this batch was completely creamy.
  3. If so, will it help to stir it occasionally in the freezer? That might incorporate a bit of air, too, which is nice in small doses.
  4. Will I need more pectin if I use a higher cream to milk ratio (since there is less calcium in cream)?
  5. How well it work with other flavors besides chocolate?
  6. Are there any issues with making a larger amount instead of a pint if I still freeze in the same size container? (Meaning it will freeze more slowly).

No-Churn Ice Cream
Gluten-free / Yields 1 pint + /  15 minutes active time

    • 20 grams (3 tablespoons) Dutch-processed cocoa powder
    • 80 grams (7 tablespoons) granulated sugar
    • 1 gram (1 big pinch)¬†salt
    • 1.6 grams Pomona-brand LM pectin (about 0.23 % by weight of mix)
    • 234 grams (1 cup) heavy cream
    • 234 grams (1 cup) whole milk
    • 120 grams (4 ounces) dark chocolate (70%), roughly chopped
    • 1 gram (1/4 teaspoon) vanilla extract
    1. In a small bowl, whisk together the cocoa powder, sugar, salt, and pectin. Place a 9×13″ casserole pan or other shallow pan in the freezer to chill.
    2. Put the cream, milk and chopped chocolate in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Cook, whisking frequently, until it reaches a bare simmer (190 F.)
    3. Remove the pan from the heat. Carefully use an immersion blender at high speed to form a vortex in the liquid. Slowly pour the dry mixture into the vortex and move the blender around until it is fully incorporated. Continue to blend for 1 full minute more. (You can also do this in a regular blender as long as you know the method for blending hot liquids safely).
    4. Pour the ice cream base through a sieve into the chilled pan. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze until ready to serve. Remove from freezer at least 10 minutes before serving to allow it to soften slightly.

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