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I have made my recipe with many changes and the most successful effort was the addition of a Instant Pudding mix. All others were much too hard to carve and serious effort was needed to just get the spoon or scoop into the frozen delight help please. All recipes made were made dairy free using soy and tofu bases.

The responses to this question have been very helpful and have given me new directions to explore. I believe now the product I want to create is achievable. Thank you everyone.

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I think the coconut cream is a great idea...i tried coconut milk, hoping the fat content would be high enough, but I'm going to move it up to the cream instead- it IS a dessert after all... –  user6639 Jul 1 '11 at 17:32
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10 Answers

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Well, that's basically where ice machines come into the game. Often ice recipes tell you to stir the ice during the freezing process every 5 to 10 minutes or so, so the ice will stay softer. That's what ice machines are taking care of: While freezing the ice they constantly stir the mass, so in the end you will get the perfect soft ice. Anyway if you then place this ice in the freezer, it will become hard nevertheless, since finally it's all a question of temperature.

So you might either go invest in an ice machine or get the ice out of the freezer (and into the fridge) some 15 to 30 minutes before serving it.

There's definitely no other way around it.

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I was unsure if my recipe or method was the problem Augenfeind. I do thank you for the reply though as this defines my problem as more method possibly than ingredients. Sounds to me like more play and testing! Oh Yummy. Will Santa have a Cuisinart for me this year? I'll let you all know. –  gypsybird Nov 19 '10 at 10:29
    
As I understand it, the stirring process incorporates air into the mixture and this is what causes the ice cream to be softer. It's the difference between a frozen foam and a solid block of ice. I think it's probably hard to get enough air into ice cream without a machine--though I've had only mixed results with a machine also –  bikeboy389 Nov 19 '10 at 15:15
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It's not just air. It keeps things moving so that large ice crystals can't form; ice cream with a bunch of tiny ice crystals is much softer than a block of ice. –  Jefromi Nov 10 '12 at 16:31
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Ice cream is essentially a foam of ice crystals surrounded by sugar syrup, and air.

The amount of air--called overrun--introduced during the churning and freezing process controls how dense, heavy and "creamy" the ice cream is. The more air ice cream has, the easier it is to scoop, since there is less solid mass being cut through.

Ice cream with less overrun will be harder to scoop but have a smoother, heavier mouth feel. Hagen Dazs is an example of a supermarket ice cream with low overrun. Ice cream with more overrun--Breyer's is an example of a supermarket brand with the maximum legal 100% overrun--will have a lighter, fluffier mouth feel.

The second factor is temperature. Sugar syrup does not freeze at 32 degrees. As ice cream freezes, water crystals crystalize out of the syrup phase, making the syrup even more concentrated, and further lowering its freezing point.

The colder the ice cream is stored, the harder it will be simply because there will be more ice and less liquid syrup. Good commercial ice cream shops will store ice cream in the back freezer at -10 F, but warm it to 25 F in the counter freezers for service.

Lastly, if the scooping instrument is hot (for example, dipping the ice cream scoop in hot water), it will melt a bit as it cuts through. Sharper scoops are also more effective.

So your options for easier to scoop ice cream are:

  • Serve it warmer, such as by "thawing" a bit in the refrigerator before serving.
  • Buy or make ice cream with more overrun.
  • Use a hot, sharp scoop.
  • A bonus one--ice creams without hard chunks mixed in are usually easier to scoop.

Vodka or other ingredients in the mix will change the the freezing chemistry, but not radically--they are more for flavor (some flavorants dissolve in alcholol but not water, or because of the flavor in the liqueur itself).

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I disagree with the last sentence. Even small amounts of alcohol are enough to make the ice cream noticeably softer, have seen this happen often in my own freezer (which is set at -18° permanently, so my ice cream is always hard to scoop). –  rumtscho Nov 23 '12 at 23:10
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No sure if this is a dead link now or not but I thought I would throw in my 2 cents. We have tried using Coconut Cream (Not milk) instead of the soy milk. This has really helped in keeping the ice cream a bit softer right out of the freezer.

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That was one of my problems too. If you are using eggs, try reducing the amount of yolks, e.g. 4 whites to 3 yolks. It really worked for me without adding any artificial ingredients, chemicals or compounds.

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-1; Egg yolks make it softer, not harder. (Maybe your problem is that you're putting egg whites in your ice cream?) –  Jefromi Nov 10 '12 at 16:21
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I put it in the microwave for 30 seconds. Stll to hard? zap it again. Over one minute it runs.

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We find it helps to get a mug of boiling water, and dip the ice cream scoop in it between each scoop of ice cream. It does take a bit longer but it does help to a certain extent - it depends how solid your ice cream is!

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Thanks for the help Bluebelle, tried that and still had to wait 30 minutes to have the mix soften. It is so annoying when one mix is perfect and the next 5 are difficult to carve. All conditions were unchanged. –  gypsybird Nov 10 '10 at 11:02
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One option I recently and inadvertently tested, was adding more fat. The recipe I normally use calls for 2% milk, but I purchased whole milk instead. The slightly higher fat content made the ice cream soft enough that I didn't have to warm it on the counter like I always had to do before.

Now since you are going Dairy free, you'd have to find your fat somewhere else. Commercial premium ice creams have a range up to 16% fat content. A combination of that and the air whipped into the ice cream, keeps them soft and smooth. The same principle that applies for alcohol (as Michael was stating) applies for fat. With a much lower freezing point, it will help keep the ice cream stay soft. I’m not sure what type of oil you are using, but Corn oil has the lowest at -20 C, Sunflower might be a little more neutral and with a freezing point of -17 C, it should keep a nice soft consistancy at a low temperature. .

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Thanks for your response. My oil of choice for many years has been sunflower and is almost neutral in flavor, perfect for an ice cream recipe. Ratio of soy milk is 375 mls of liquid milk to 60 mls of sunflower oil. Does this equate to 16 % fat content or should I alter the oil amount please Nick Cessac? –  gypsybird Nov 5 '10 at 6:45
    
Well, after looking at the math, you are using 16% oil. This got me curious to break down the ratios of my recipe, to see what else you may want to look at. Fat = 11%; Carbohydrates = 16%; Protein = 4%; Water content 66%. Brings it to a whopping total of 98%. What's the other 2%? Well, that will have to represent the margin of error, but also include minerals, vitamins and other bits. I used the following site and an excel spreadsheet to break down the contents of my recipe. It might help expose any issues with yours as well? nutritiondata.self.com –  FoodTasted Nov 6 '10 at 7:39
    
Thanks for the comment Nick Cessac, I will try out that site and see if my recipe turns out a better nutrition value for all the ingredients I use. The list includes liquid soy milk, oil, 4 powders, 3 salts and 3/4 cup of confectioners sugar to hopefully obtain an ice cream I can eat. –  gypsybird Nov 10 '10 at 10:59
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If you really don't want to defrost it, you need to do something that will make it less hard when frozen. One choice, if it doesn't conflict with your allergies or your flavor profiles, would be to add alcohol - a liquor of your choice will make it freeze significantly less hard.

Another option would be to make it less susceptible to crystallization when refreezing, so that you can defrost it on the counter (or 20 seconds in the microwave). Try adding about 1/4 teaspoon of xanthan gum to a quart of ice cream base, that should reduce your crystallization problem a bit. You may need to reduce the agar a little to compensate. (I learned this from pastry chef Dana Cree).

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You recommend xanthan gum so often that I wonder how I have gotten along for so long without having any. It's now at the top of my list of new ingredients to experiment with. –  Sobachatina Nov 5 '10 at 13:52
    
Ha! That's funny. It isn't like I use it constantly, but there are certain things it is really good for. And I don't have any allergies, but for people that are avoiding gluten or other starches, it is a particularly handy thickener. –  Michael at Herbivoracious Nov 5 '10 at 14:42
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Have you tried to put your ice cream in the refrigerator for 30 mins before you have it. It should softern up the ice cream.

The time to softern the ice cream also depends on the type of ice cream. I think the one that has less water content which means more dairy base one take less time to go soft.

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Thank you for your reply Foodrules but the same reply I posted for Varuuknahl applied for your solution. The product has a very soft-carving finish and competes with retail brands that I cannot have anymore due to additives introduced in 2007. –  gypsybird Nov 5 '10 at 4:41
    
I have a more extreme idea.. what about you put the ice cream in a blender or food processor? I think 30 sec in food processor will do the trick –  Foodrules Nov 5 '10 at 4:59
    
Thank you again but when I tried that it was so soft it was only a slushy, I really enjoy a full flavored cold lickable cone of ice –  gypsybird Nov 5 '10 at 6:47
    
Thank you again but when I tried that it was so soft it was only a slushy. I really enjoy a full flavored, cold, lickable cone of ice cream similar to what I had as a child with the added bonus of increased goodness from the different ingredients for my diet. –  gypsybird Nov 5 '10 at 6:50
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Uh, I'm confused: what's wrong with just letting the ice cream thaw a few minutes at room temperature before serving? Isn't that what you do with any ice cream?

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I agree with Marti, I have bought retail ice cream that could sit on the counter 15 minutes and still need a chainsaw to get through. Are we missing something that would make the ice cream you create different? –  Varuuknahl Nov 5 '10 at 3:51
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The base is soy and oil and powders of soy milk, potato flour, icing sugar, and salts and pectin and agar agar. have tried this and the ice cream remaining seems to exhibit freezer shock, crystals form if refrozen and I am trying to eliminate that problem by replacing the still fully frozen product back into the freezer quickly. –  gypsybird Nov 5 '10 at 4:40
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