stracciatella ice milk

I can’t stop talking about the weather, which I guess isn’t very new to you all. I tend to do this a lot, and I think maybe I should have been a gardener or a botanist or something. I am so aware of what’s going on outside. The two years I belonged to the Morton Arboretum in Lisle, I literally went every week, sometimes more than once, just to be outdoors, away from big buildings and heavy traffic, to sit in grassy fields with a book or walk through forests of fallen leaves. I’ll admit too that I feel this insane sense of wonder at the changing seasons, that watching days of rain and gusts of wind turn autumn into winter amazes me every year and that the first warm days of spring, which hint at winter’s end, are enough to make me powerfully optimistic in areas of my life that have no connection whatsoever to the weather. Even though I know what’s coming in some sense, the fact that it does and that I have absolutely no control over it makes me feel hopeful, happy to trust that which is greater than I.

Here in Chicago, we are having the most gorgeous February days I can remember—warm breezes, melting snow, the need for light jackets and not hooded parkas. I drive down the street to people jogging—wearing shorts, no less! And even though I know this can’t last, I also know we’re near the end. We are climbing down the hill of winter, with much more momentum (or at least more daylight), and I am thrilled. It’s enough to make me waltz into the produce section of the grocery store and pick up two celery roots, having no idea what their price was, let alone what I’d do with them (and then later just to chalk it up as a learning experience that one was rotted). It’s enough to make me clean and organize a bunch of files on a Saturday afternoon. And that same Saturday, while I wore a tank top and jeans and sat next to an open window, it was enough to inspire me to make ice cream.

I recently came into possession of an ice cream maker, complete with its instructional guide, and I don’t know what I was expecting, other than that it would be difficult to use. It wasn’t.

chocolate chip ice milk

For this recipe, I was aiming for gelato—using a Serious Eats recipe that didn’t require eggs, as I only had one left. I am notorious for choosing recipes based on what I already have in the kitchen, and I substitute things much more than I should. So when I took a bite of this dessert, where I used skim milk instead of whole and coffee creamer instead of dry milk powder, what I tasted wasn’t gelato; it was ice milk. Do you remember ice milk? It used to be fairly common, a less expensive sister to ice cream but with less dairy fat, more icy and much lighter. My grandma used to keep a carton of it in her freezer, next to the orange sherbet and not far from a cabinet behind the kitchen’s swinging door, where I’d often sneak into her secret stash of cones.

I haven’t had ice milk—or really thought much about it—in years. You can’t buy it anymore. In fact, when I zip through the frozen foods section of Dominick’s or Whole Foods, I see gelato and frozen yogurt and dozens of versions of ice cream, but no ice milk. According to Wikipedia, it disappeared in 1994, when the FDA changed the rules of terminology, turning ice milk into low-fat ice cream—maybe a more marketable term, yes, but, in my opinion, much less charming. Over time, as manufacturers tried harder and harder to make low-fat ice cream taste like regular ice cream, the texture of ice milk became more and more obscure, and now, it’s just not available.

This icy, refreshing stracciatella (from the Italian for “torn apart,” like the chocolate bits in this) mixture isn’t as creamy as regular ice cream, but it’s also not as heavy. Eating a bowl of it, you feel refreshed, not overloaded. Think the flavor of chocolate-chip ice cream meets the texture of a frozen slushy or Italian ice. As you spoon dollops of it into your mouth, the strongest sensations are cold and sweet—just the way frozen desserts should be. And while it was perfectly lovely on Sunday, a February day when I drove with my windows down, the wind blowing in my hair, it’d also be wonderful in the heat of summer as an ideal way to cool down or, heck, even in the blizzards of March, which I suspect are just around the corner for some of us. After all, just because it’s technically winter doesn’t mean we have to eat like it. With stracciatella ice milk, it’s summer, at least in my kitchen, and I like it that way.

Stracciatella Ice Milk
Recipe Adapted from SeriousEats

1 quart (4 cups) skim milk
3 Tablespoons light corn syrup
1 pint (2 cups) heavy cream
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
1/2 cup coffee creamer
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted

Combine the milk, corn syrup and heavy cream in a large saucepan. In a medium bowl, stir together the sugar, gelatin and coffee creamer. Whisk the dry ingredients into the milk-cream mixture, and bring to barely a simmer, stirring constantly over moderate heat.

Remove the mixture from heat and cool. Stir in the vanilla. Chill the mixture in the refrigerator, at least four hours or overnight.

Freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. As the ice cream is churning, combine the melted chocolate and the oil. Drizzle into the ice cream for the last few minutes of churning.

Transfer the mixture into a metal loaf pan and freeze. When ready to eat, defrost for 10 to 15 minutes before attempting to scoop.

Shanna Mallon

Shanna Mallon started Food Loves Writing back in 2008, as a way to remember her grandma and write about her life through food. Since then it's become a place leading her to a lifestyle of eating whole foods, a new home in Nashville and the love of her life, Tim. Follow Shanna on Twitter @foodloves, via Instagram or through the blog's Facebook page.

This Post Has 14 Comments

  1. Lan

    it was gorgeous in baltimore too and i to drove around the city with the window down. it wasn’t so warm that i craved ice cream tho. :) i’ve never had ice milk before, at least i don’t think so. i need to invest in a proper ice cream maker, i bought one 2nd hand from a friend and it was a bust. here’s the end of Winter!

  2. Jacqui

    hey, when you’re living in chicago, you can’t help but talk about the weather. it dictates our lives around here! and our appetites.

    i hope your optimism shines through and proves all of the pessimists of the Midwest (myself included) that spring really can come early if you just believe in it…

  3. E.P.

    The weather has been wonderful around here, and it makes me SO happy that you made gelato! I need to give this a try because it looks lovely!

  4. The Duo Dishes

    This will be a great one to try in the whole ice cream machine. Corn syrup and creamer are two things we’ve never seen in a recipe like this. Hmmm, the possibilities!

  5. My First Kitchen

    I love this post. Your writing just makes me smile. Believe it or not, I’ve never had ice milk. I know. I guess I’ll have to now! Our ice cream maker is a favorite, and I love all of the concoctions that come out of it. Thanks for sharing this one.

  6. Angela

    A couple of years ago a friend introduced me into mixing skim milk with my ice cream, to my surprise it was delicious. So I’m looking forward to trying this recipe, I’m sure I’ll love it.

  7. Carrie

    You. Make. Me. Hungry!!! Also wanted to let you know, you’re getting a little award from me for having a blog that boasts a great attitude… and gratitude! :-)

  8. Gemma

    I am so jealous. It has been unrelentingly cold here since Christmas and right now I am sitting in my favourite felted mohair slippers with a scarf wrapped round my neck and my face half buried into its warmth. I’m looking forward to longer days, a little more warmth and one day, just one, with no rain.

    On another note I have never been tempted by an ice-cream maker but am definitely planning on trying to make granita and frozen yoghurt this summer. Sounds like I’ll need to add iced milk to the experiments.

  9. Shannalee

    Lan – Here’s to the end of winter, indeed! We are SO CLOSE!

    Jacqui – Exactly. You so get it. And has my optimism spread at all, especially with the 60-something temps today?

    EP – I hope you do try it! Let me know what you think, OK?

    DD – Me neither! Even though this was the first time I’ve used the machine, I’ve been spying out recipes for a while. GO figure that sometimes weird things work.

    Kendra/MFK: You know how to make a girl feel good. Thank you!

    Angela – I’d be interested to hear other recipes like this with skim milk! I wonder if the consistency always goes more icy or not?

    You’re sweet, Carrie. And headed to London now, right?

    Gemma, We’re sending our Chicago Carrie your way, so sounds like she’s picked quite the time! Then again, some of the charm on the other side of the pond seems to be the cold and the rain and all. I know, I know, it gets old, I’m sure. But your felted mohair slippers sound so adorable! I bet they almost make up for it. (I said almost!)

  10. Adam

    That crazy machine certainly is hard to use! And I noticed that you’re under the impression that you’re in possession of that ice cream maker now, huh? Hm…

  11. Shannalee

    OK, OK, so when I said “came into possession of,” I may have meant borrowed/stole. To be fair, though, you weren’t using it for the whole year or whatever you had it! And, also, I did give you ice milk.

  12. Pingback: we will have salad | summer salad | food loves writing

  13. Amanda

    I love ice milk! I have fond memories of certain restaurants growing up that had ice milk – that was the only reason I liked going to them :-) Do you think a different sweetner could be substituted for the corn syrup, or is that an important part? What about, say, maple syrup?

  14. Shannalee

    I am loving your comments, Amanda! OK, I totally get not wanting to use corn syrup, so yeah, try maple syrup. Or maybe honey? I’d be interested to hear how the substitutions turn out!

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