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A friend recently sent me a link to an ice cream recipe that used cornstarch, rather than eggs, as a binder and thickener. That prompted me to think (and write him back) about an ice cream-making technique I learned about when writing The Perfect Scoop. Talking to Faith Willinger, an expert on Italian cuisine, she told me that some Italian ice creams (namely in Sicily) are thickened with starch rather than eggs, because it was so hot in the summer, that people in the south of Italy didn’t want to the richness of egg yolks in their gelato.
I pointed out to my friend that I’d written about starch-thickened before the article he sent me had appeared, but I can’t take credit for coming up with the idea, and am happy to give the fine folks of Italy, who’ve perfected the art of making ice cream and gelato, full credit for teaching me about the technique. (Although I should add that there are starch-based ice creams from other countries, such as stretchy booza, made with mastic, and salep-thickened ice cream, called dondurma.)
In France, ice cream like this is often called Fleur de Lait, or Fior di Latte in Italian, which means “flower” of milk, showcasing high-quality milk used to make it. We often don’t think of the quality of milk; it’s just something we buy in a carton or jug at the supermarket. But good-quality milk has a nutty sweetness, and not adding eggs to it when making ice cream helps keeps that milky flavor in the forefront.
Sometimes people tell me they can’t eat eggs, or can’t digest cow’s milk. I’m one of those people that had trouble with cow’s milk growing up, and used to live near a goat dairy. So I routinely got milk (and ice cream) from them, which were both delicious. I still love the faint tang in goat milk, which is especially nice when churned into ice cream.
This one has no cream or egg yolks, so it is lower in fat, for those concerned about keeping tabs on that. (Although the swirl of cajeta inside, and on top, kind of makes that point moot. But you can omit it.) I add a little fresh goat cheese to the base to dial up the goaty tang of the ice cream, but it’ll be a little firmer to scoop than traditional ice cream since it doesn’t have cream or egg yolks. You can check out some of my strategies for keeping homemade ice cream soft, or you can take it out of the freezer 5 to 10 minutes before serving. Or, you can eat it all as soon as you’ve finished churning it, which I nearly did after licking the dasher just after I pulled it out of the machine (churner’s bonus!) and found it hard to stop.
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