ice cream: bringing back a perfect food
I found it interesting that early in my pregnancy, it was the one constant “craving” I had. I couldn’t walk past a Gelateria and not stop for a cup of their sweet, milky creations. However it didn’t actually feel like I was sinning; when I ate it, it seemed to restore me to equilibrium, my mind was clearer, mood calmer, hands and feet warmer, and my racing pulse brought back to a stable, healthy pace: hypoglycaemic crisis averted. This got me thinking: maybe my body was “craving” exactly what it needed: a perfect combo of pro-metabolic sugars, protein, calcium, and a little fat of the good, saturated kind.
So it started me on a mission to explore the ingredients generally used and find the best and purest of the ready made options. Much to my disappointment, I found that the popular ice cream / gelato outlets as well as the packaged store bought brands available in Australia use hideous additives that I try to avoid: carrageenan, vegetable gums, locust bean, maltodextrin, glucose syrup … nasty junk used to stabilize, emulsify, fluff up and increase shelf life, that have potential side effects over the long term: among them inflammation and intestinal irritation. This was even the case with the ‘organic’ brands I looked at.
On my search, I came by an article that renewed my hope, about a small artisan ice cream company on the Sunshine Coast that I could remember having tried when I’d lived there years ago …
Ice Cream expert
Luigi Barosso, an Italian-born-forth-generation-ice-cream-maker and founder of Gigi’s, was making certified organic ice cream, technically more like ‘gelato’ from locally-sourced organic raw milk which he pasteurized himself (wow), fresh organic free-range egg yolks, organic cane sugar, and flavoured with a myriad of lovelies: vanilla bean, cocoa, Queensland tropical fruits like guava, mango, banana and passionfruit. I had to track down this Italian champion and sample his creations! So I did, and was thrilled to hear his jovial, exotically-accented voice on my phone, but then dismayed to hear that he’d shut down his business. On the up side, he’d since moved south and was happy to meet up, to drink coffee and talk ice cream.
You say ice cream, I say gelato …
it’s somewhat of a contentious subject, but apparently, originally, ice cream never contained cream, just full cream milk. Purist ice cream makers in Italy and Germany only ever used whole milk (what we might call ‘gelato’). It was the Swiss that added the cream in, with all their happily fatted-up Jersey cows, and since then the Americans adopted this fattier version. But as Luigi notes, there are a million stories and ‘definitions’ of what gelato is and what ice cream ‘should’ be made of, so to keep it simple, he labeled his product ‘frozen dessert’.
What most ice cream makers do agree on is the fact that the first frozen desserts were made in China, using snow and fruit juices. From there, Arabs imported the tradition to Italy and then the Gelato was exported to France thanks to Italian duchess Caterina de’ Medici, who married the Duke of Orleans (Henry the II of France) in 1533. She brought to France her personal expert in creating frozen delicacies, or Gelatiere. The Gelato started spreading through northern Europe, soon becoming a viable industry, thanks also to many other people who contributed with developing new recipes, manufacturing methods and inventing equipment and machinery. Things changed about the quality of the gelato after the second world war when industrial ingredients became available and food was manufactured in mass quantities. Things like carrageenan were introduced: it gives thickness, bulkiness and ‘inflates’ the product. With that came manufactured sweeteners and factory farming of animals that produced an inferior quality milk and egg. What was once a quality nutritious food became the junk food we know it as today.
* Avoid foods containing “gums“, guar gum or carrageenan (a common thickening agent, toxic, vegetarian alternative to gelatin, code: E407 / E407a). These block liver detoxification as they inhibit Cytochrome P450 which is the enzyme that drives Phase 1 detox. Also interacts with gut bacteria, produces PMS symptoms and autoimmune disease, increases inflammation and toxic free radicals. Make sure your yoghurt, cream, ice-cream, coconut cream and cottage cheese contains no carrageenan or ingredients ending in “gum.” You’ll be shocked how many foods they’re in, including “organic” coconut milk and some “biodynamic” yoghurts. Here and here are links to just a couple of the dozens of scientific studies on the damaging effects of carrageenan. More here and here too.
“In the 1940s, carrageenan, a polysaccharide made from a type of seaweed, was recognized as a dangerous allergen. Since then it has become a standard laboratory material to use to produce in-flammatory tumors (granulomas), immunodeficiency, arthritis, and other in-flammations. It has also become an increasingly common material in the food industry.” -Ray Peat, PhD
Bringing back traditional standards and honest food
Luigi learnt the craft of making ice cream from his Italian uncle in Germany as a teenager. When he moved to Australia with his wife Carla in the late ‘90’s they saw an opportunity: the ice cream they tasted here was disappointing and saw that we considered it junk food. In 2003 they started Gigi’s; Australia’s first organic ice-cream company. They were stocked in organic and select gourmet food stores around the country (Luigi often driving the product himself to deliver it fresh) and even overseas. Nine years later sadly he closed the business due to too much “red tape” and increasing costs of using such high quality ingredients. Luigi was not willing to cut corners or produce anything less than the authentic high quality recipe passed on to him from four generations of gelato artisans.
A perfect food
Luigi told me that ice cream, gelati, gelato (whatever you want to call it) in its traditional form, need only consist of four ingredients: milk, cane sugar, egg yolk and something for flavour (fruit or cocoa or espresso or vanilla bean etc). Looking at the nutritional panel of his Gigi’s Vanilla Dessert label, one serve constitutes 26g carbs, 4g protein and 4g fat (3% total). This kind of milk based recipe makes it very different to the high fat varieties we mainly see on the market (more than 50% fat). If you ate this with some homemade fruit jelly (made with the best gelatin) you’d have a pretty perfect macronutrient balance. And when the milk and eggs used are of such high quality, it’s a nutrient dense meal in itself in a highly digestible form. My personal preference is grass-fed Jersey or Guernsey milk as a base; but use whatever milk you digest best. An ice cream like this is an excellent food for lowering stress hormones, regulating blood sugar, inducing sleep, supporting thyroid hormone conversion (T4 to T3), and increasing metabolic rate as found by Ray Peat PhD. No wonder ice cream in general tops the list of most people’s ideal ‘comfort food’ and generally induces happiness in kids and adults alike. If only the suff we could buy were the real thing then it’d truly be guilt free. My idea of a health food.
Become a stickler for real ice cream
Look closely at the ingredients on your favourite ice cream packaging, and ask for an ingredients list at your local gourmet ice creamery (notice you don’t see their full ingredients list on the wall, it’s because they don’t have to by law; hmmm). Ask questions, as you should of all your food producers, and know exactly what you’re eating. If you find any really good clean sources, I’d love to hear about them! Try making your own – ice cream makers are cheap and easy to use, and for an even simpler option, use icy-pole moulds. Experiment with old-fashioned recipes and then you can hand pick the best ingredients. And remember too that not even I can resist the occasional mouthful of ice cream even if it’s not so pure, but this I’d see exclusively as a “treat”. The kind that Luigi made, however, is something I’d classify as ‘food’; nourishing and restorative; something that I could eat daily, happily.
Make your own
Ice cream makers are cheap and easy to use, and for an even simpler option, you can find no-churn recipes too. Experiment with old-fashioned recipes and use the best ingredients.
The recipe that I’ve developed was inspired by this quote from Dr Peat:
“I blend an egg (warmed to 40 degrees C) with a cup of sugar (also warmed) and a cup of coconut oil until it’s smoothly emulsified, and maybe half a cup of powdered milk for extra texture, then add milk to fill the blender (total volume a little over a litre), with strong coffee or orange juice for flavour, or other fruit or vanilla, etc. The high oil content, and powdered milk, make it freeze without crystallizing, so the ice cream machine isn’t necessary.”
The addition of coconut oil makes this ice cream particularly thyroid-supportive.
My take on Ray’s Ice Cream Recipe
210g (1 cup) coconut oil (I prefer purified / refined, which doesn’t taste coconutty)
180g sugar (bit less than a cup)
1 good egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ cup skim milk powder OR 1/3 cup of casein powder
2 cups of milk
Heat the coconut oil on the stove until liquid and warm but not bubbling (about 40-50 degrees celsius).
In a blender (*I use a high powered Vitamix) put in the sugar, egg, vanilla and skim milk powder. Pour in the warmed coconut oil and blend on high until all the ingredients are very, very well incorporated.
Add the milk and blend again.
Optional: *At this stage you could add additional ingredients for flavor, such as espresso powder, cocoa powder, chocolate shavings, fruit etc.
Pour into an ice cream maker to churn. When it’s ready, transfer straight into a container and freeze.
Disclaimer: My posts are not meant to be individualised treatment plans, protocols, etc. I share what I research and use, and that is it. They are meant to spark thought based on the normal anatomy, physiology and biochemistry of the body. The information contained in this blog should not be used to treat or diagnose disease or health problems and is provided for your information only.