Those of us who take ice cream seriously know the delicate balance of ingredients required. Do it right, and you end up with ice cream, luscious and velvety. Do it wrong and you end up with ice (sans cream). You know what I mean, just a frozen bit of flavoured stuff that you need an icepick to even chip away at the surface.
Ice crystals – that’s what you need to manage in order to avoid having a piece of Antarctica sitting in your freezer. Ice crystals form when you freeze a liquid. The larger the ice crystals, the icier the ice cream. The smaller the ice crystals, the better. The size of ice crystals can be influnced by churning – the quicker a liquid freezes, the smaller the ice crystals – so an ice cream machine is great help. Another piece of the puzzle is the ratio of solids to liquids in your ice cream mixture. Water is the liquid, fat and sugar are the solids. The more solids you have, the softer the ice cream. Try to be healthy and reduce the amount of sugar you have in a recipe and you will attract the wrath of the gods. Of course, there is a whole arsenal of tricks to manage the texture (alcohol and salt lower the freezing point; pectin, salep, cornstarch and gums like xanthan and guar gum can all be used as thickeners), but it feels a bit like cheating.
I no longer use sugar in anything, including my ice creams and go for xylitol instead (which, despite the chemical-sounding name, is a great natural alternative to sugar with a very low glycemic index). Xylitol, however, doesn’t have all the properties of sugar (it doesn’t caramelise, for instance). Since it’s also a bit sweeter, less of it is required when making ice cream, which means ice crystals are larger. The end result just isn’t as satisfying as normal ice cream.
When I saw a recipe for cream cheese sorbet on the Saveur website, I knew I’d hit the jackpot. It was obvious that the huge amount of fat from the cream cheese would certainly result in a sorbet with good texture, with or without sugar. I tried it with xylitol, and, yes, it’s awesome and tastes like a frozen New York cheesecake. If you want to use sugar, go for the recipe on the Saveur website. My adaptation is for a xylitol sweetened sorbet. I buy my xylitol here.
Cream Cheese Sorbet with Xylitol Recipe (adapted from Saveur)
- 2 packets Philadelphia or your favourite cream cheese (500 grams total), softened to room temperature
- 1 cup xylitol
- 1/2 cup lemon juice and equivalent lemon rind
- 1 tsp vanilla essence
- Add the xylitol and 1 cup of water to a pot and heat until the xylitol is dissolved
- Using a wooden spoon, mix the cream cheese until no lumps appear
- Bit by bit, add the water and xylitol mix, incorporating slowly with a whisk to ensure there are no lumps
- Add the lemon juice, lemon rind and vanilla essence
- Churn in your ice machine and freeze for 3 hours or so before you eat it
- If you don’t have an ice cream machine, I suspect it will still work really well if you put it in the freezer and churn it by hand every hour or so for around 6 or 7 hours