So. Our country won't be defaulting on its debts. Yay. It only took months of rancor and mud-slinging to get to the eleventh-hour "decision" that everyone knew was coming.
There's nothing like looming international doom to show you exactly what kind of people you live with. Today I cracked open the local university-centric news sources to read eloquent, barb-studded comments about "socialism for the rich" and the destructive force of those dumb, dirty Tea Partiers. Then I drove a couple miles south to get groceries and listen to my good neighbors explain to the teenage cashier that all the woes of the federal government come courtesy of "Those damn niggers. They lie. And steal."
Bloomington, Indiana: Pick your favorite flavor of intolerance, and we'll deliver.
Speaking of flavors, lets talk about something a little less prone to flaming: ice cream!
Since writing my post about my new ice cream machine, I've made four batches of frozen treats. However, I have no photographic evidence of these treats, because ice cream is horribly un-photogenic. And by the time I set up to take good photos in bad lighting with cheap, ugly bowls, my precious fruits of labor would have gone to waste. So you'll just have to take my word on the descriptions.
But this isn't a look-at-the-pretty-food post, anyway. It's an informational one. A lab report on my little kitchen experiments, so to speak. So let's start off with a nice diagram, shall we?
This is water. Water likes other molecules a lot. Water will hold hands with anyone who has a free one to spare, and sometimes even when they don't. When you make water cold, it feels especially touchy-feely and grabs on tight and doesn't let go.
This is what happens when water is surrounded by a bunch of strangers who don't like it back.
This is water's frienemy, propylene glycol. Water wants to be nice and buddy-buddy, but propylene glycol only sorta kinda pretends to like it back, and would rather keep it away from its friends. In other words, it's non-toxic antifreeze (or a very toxic classmate, whichever way you look at it).
Why do I start out a post on ice cream by anthropomorphizing the hydrogen bonds between cartoonish organic molecules? Because, before you even think about making ice cream, you need to go to your kitchen cupboard and look at the back of your bottle of vanilla. Unless you're a gourmand with a paycheck five times the size of mine, you probably bought imitation vanilla extract. And if you bought imitation vanilla extract, it probably has propylene glycol. This can either be a good or a bad thing, depending on what you want to do with your ice cream. In any case, you should be aware of it first.
Now the Recipes
After a lot of reading and mixing and hacking away at slabs of frozen chocolate, I think I have settled on my go-to thickener/stabilizer for non-dairy ice cream. If you're fortunate enough to be able to digest lactose, you don't really need one, because you can pick up heavy cream at any grocery chain. Soy creamer, however, is outrageously expensive, and it doesn't do the trick anyway. Instead, I have signed a contract with gelatin. Lovely, animal-based, foul-smelling gelatin. Gelatin, sugar, and soy milk form the base of all three of the following recipes...what you do with them depends on your goals and dietary needs.
#1: Straight-Up Gelatinized Soy Ice Cream
-1/4 cup water
-1 packet non-flavored gelatin
-3 cups soy milk
-1/4 cup sugar
-1/4 cup cocoa powder
Sprinkle the gelatin over the water and let it stand for ten minutes. Place the sugar and cocoa powder in a saucepan and slowly whisk in the soy milk over low heat. When steam starts to rise from the mixture, remove it from heat and stir in the gelatin and vanilla. Refrigerate for several hours or overnight. Break up the Jello-pudding-like blob and pour it into your ice cream maker to freeze.
This basic recipe yields an unbelievably full-bodied and creamy ice cream. This is soft-serve-shop quality stuff to a lactose-deprived, dark chocolate-loving young lass. Unfortunately, it doesn't stay that way when you pop the rest in the freezer overnight, and end up with a solid cocoa-flavored cylinder. The only way you can rescue your ice cream is to chop it up and blend it back into its original creamy consistency. It may be possible to avoid this by deliberately using imitation vanilla with propylene glycol, or pouring in another alcohol that would have the same effect. Or, you can try recipes #2 or #3.
#2: Whipped "Pudding" Ice Cream
Follow the same steps as above, through letting the base set in the fridge. Before you freeze it in the ice cream maker, whip it with an electric mixer until it's noticeably larger in volume and full of tiny air pockets. Then freeze in the machine as before.
This ice cream isn't quite as creamy as the first, obviously, but it does freeze better. If you set it on the counter for 10-15 minutes, it's somewhat scoopable by the time you're ready for it. However, if you're going to be making a big batch and eating it over time, I would suggest alternative #3 instead:
#3: Meringue-fluffed Soy Ice Cream
Follow the same steps through refrigeration again. Before freezing, whip two pasteurized egg whites (1/3 cup from the carton) until stiff peaks form. Carefully fold in your base, then freeze.
This ice cream was the most successful, in my opinion. First of all, it gives you a huge volume of base to go into the canister. It thaws more quickly and evenly than the whipped version, and it holds its shape even while it's melting in your bowl. However, the flavor is somewhat diluted, and the consistency can't compare to the first version.
Which recipe you use depends what you want to get out of your ice cream. If you're making a big batch for company, stick to the first for the biggest wow factor, and use genuine vanilla to freeze it thoroughly. If you're vegan or egg whites weird you out, go with the second (using kosher gelatin or agar for the vegans, of course). If you're going to be storing it in the freezer and hogging it all for yourself, I vote for #3. It's the recipe I will probably use for myself from now on, using imitation vanilla with propylene glycol to prevent it from freezing solid.
And now, a video of a barking cat: