My Own Homemade Ice Cream

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Homemade ice cream made with whole milk
Homemade ice cream made with whole milk | Source: William Breathitt Gray

🔗The Disappointment of Store-bought Ice Cream

I like ice cream. What I do not like is the excessive sweetness of the ice cream products available on my local store shelves. It's the added sugar I reckon; there's too much of it for my taste. Looking at the Nutrition Facts label of a Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla1 the added sugars is reported at 17 grams per serving (approximately 14 percent by weight).2 Admittedly less than I had expected, but still significantly more than the amount of fat (12 grams).

I suspect this disparity between sugar and fat contributes to my negative perception of store-bought ice cream. So I set out to develop my own homemade ice cream that would suit my particular palate.

🔗The Standard for Ice Cream

The primary ingredients3 of ice cream are:

Cream primarily contributes fat to the ice cream, while milk primarily contributes protein. Fat in ice cream plays a significant role in the creamy flavor of ice cream, as well as smooth texture by lubricating the palate; protein in ice cream plays a role in stabilizing the fat droplets in a membrane which moderates partial coalescene, as well as contibuting to the body and texture of the ice cream by stabilizing the air bubbles in a membrane and increasing the mix viscosity by holding on to water; sugar in ice cream plays a role in reducing the formation of ice crystals, which produces a smoother and softer ice cream. 4

While many commercial ice cream products include a variety of additional ingredients that serve as emulsifiers, stabilizers, etc., I kept the list parsimonious to simplify the task of making ice cream at home. However, I did include vanilla extract in my recipe out of my own flavor preference.

I wanted to make a preparation that would be considered proper ice cream in the United States of America, so I chose to follow the United States Code of Federal Regulations. The proportional requirements for ingredients of standardized ice cream are specified by 7 CFR 58.2825(a):

Ice cream shall contain at least 1.6 pounds of total solids to the gallon, weigh not less than 4.5 pounds to the gallon, and contain not less than 20 percent total milk solids, constitued of not less than 10 percent milkfat. In no case shall the content of milk solids not fat be less than 6 percent. Whey shall not, by weight, be more than 25 percent of the milk solids not fat.

So there were five requirements5 to statisfy:

For my own palate, I added an additional aim of getting the percentage of sugar lower than that of milkfat and milk solids not fat. To that end, I decided to utilize nonfat dry milk with water added as desired in order to have better control over the total amount of milkfat and water in the ice cream mixture.

🔗The Calculations

With "ice cream" properly defined, I moved on to calculating the ratio targets:

Solids ratio = Solids total Mass total ≥ 1.6 4.5 ≈ 36 % Milk solids ratio = Milk solids Mass total ≥ 20 % Milkfat ratio = Milkfat Mass total ≥ 10 % Milk solids not fat ratio = Milk solids not fat Mass total ≥ 6 % Whey ratio = Whey Milk solids not fat ≤ 25 %

Defining the variables further gives the following:

Solids total = Mass total - Alcohol - Water total Milk solids = Diary - Water diary Milkfat = Fat cream + Fat milk Milk solids not fat = Milk solids - Milkfat Whey = Whey cream + Whey milk Water total = Water additional + Water sugar + Water flavoring + Water diary Diary = Cream + Milk Water diary = Water cream + Water milk

Finally, there are my personal sugar ratio targets:

Sugar ratio = Sugar Mass total Sugar ratio < Milkfat ratio  and  Sugar ratio < Milk solids not fat ratio

I implemented these equations in a spreadsheet and started coming up with possible recipes. I used the United States Department of Agriculture FoodData Central data system to get the ratios of fat, water, and protein for cream and milk, as well as the ratios of water and alcohol for vanilla extract, and the ratio of water for sugar. I found the the ratio of whey to protein in dairy is approximately 20 percent7 according to Dairy Chemistry and Biochemistry.8

I created comma-separated values file of my work:

🔗The Recipe

Ingredients (for 4 servings):


  1. Combine nonfat dry milk and granulated white sugar in a large bowl. Pour water into the bowl and mix with a spoon until the milk is reconstituted and the sugar has dissolved completely.
  2. Pour heavy cream and vanilla extract into the bowl and mix as before until blended together.9
  3. Pour the mixture into an ice cream maker and churn until a consistency of soft-served ice cream is achieved.10
  4. Optionally, place ice cream in freezer to harden overnight.11

🔗The Result

I am statisfied with the end result and it has the creamier and less sweet taste I was seeking. The final constitution comes out with about 14 percent milkfat, 13 percent milk solids not fat, and 12 percent sugar.

One downside of using dry milk is the hassle of reconstituting it. I have experimented with other recipes using regular whole milk which avoids the need to add water. For example, combining 1 ½ cups of heavy cream, 2 cups of whole milk, ¾ cup of granulated white sugar, and 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract produces a mixture that fulfills the ice cream standard requirements; however, at about 14 percent milkfat, 6 percent milk solids not fat, and 15 percent sugar, I do not care as much for the taste, nor the texture which is icier perhaps due to the lower protein content.

Evaporated nonfat milk seems like a possible solution to the problems I encountered, so I may try to develop a recipe with it in the future to address these shortcomings.

🔗Update: June 29, 2023

I experimented with evaporated milk as an ingredient and came up with two possible recipes. I did not use sweetened condensed milk due to the high added sugar content inherent in the product. Instead, I developed one recipe using unsweetened evaporated nonfat milk (about 13 percent milkfat, 13 percent milk solids not fat, and 10 percent sugar):

And another using unsweetened evaporated whole milk (about 14 percent milkfat, 13 percent milk solids not fat, and 12 percent sugar):

Using evaporated milk did make the process much easier as I could simply combine all the ingredients at once and mix without worry of reconstituting the milk before allowing it to contact alcohol. However, I did notice that my evaporated nonfat milk had coagulated on the bottom of its can, which made blending the ingredients somewhat diffcult.

I suppose from now on I'll use evaporated whole milk for my homemade ice cream thanks to the much easier process yet comparible constitution of milkfat, milk solids not fat, and sugar, to nonfat dry milk.