The term "low-fat ice cream" is somewhat of an oxymoron. After all, it's in large part the butterfat in cream and whole milk that gives the frozen treat its luxurious texture and taste.
Apart from the real deal — made using a custard of cream, egg yolks and lots of sugar — there are plenty of scoopable, frozen treats available that have more virtuous nutritional profiles along with pleasing texture, but it's often because they are made with thickeners and stabilizers whose names defy pronunciation.
But the arrival of small ice-cream makers that fit in your freezer means making a healthier frozen dessert with wholesome ingredients has gotten a lot easier.
This brown sugar and toasted-almond ice cream contains no cream but is plenty creamy.
For the custard, we've used low-fat milk, a bit of unflavored gelatin for stability and nonfat evaporated milk, which has the intense dairy taste you might otherwise only get from cream or whole milk. You wouldn't want to drink this stuff on its own, but in the blend of an ice cream, it adds just the right flavor.
We've kept egg yolks in our recipe (though not as many as in full-fat ice cream) because of their unsurpassed ability to produce a smooth texture.
This simple custard can be used as the base for almost any flavor you like. Here, we've sweetened it with mellow-tasting brown sugar plus a dash of amaretto. But if you like, you can use regular table sugar along with a puree of your favorite fruit, or even a chocolate malt powder.
For a blend-in, we've added toasted almonds at the end so they don't get too pulverized while the ice cream is mixing. If you like, you can add a handful of bittersweet chocolate chips, as well.
Start to finish: 2 hours 45 minutes (15 minutes active)
1 1/2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
2 1/2 cups low-fat milk, divided
3/4 cup packed dark-brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3 large egg yolks
1 (12-ounce) can nonfat evaporated milk
1 tablespoon amaretto liqueur or rum
1/2 cup chopped almonds
In a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over 1 tablespoon of water. Let stand while you make ice-cream base.
In a large saucepan, stir together 1 1/2 cups of the milk, the brown sugar and cinnamon. Heat milk mixture over medium heat, stirring often, until steaming.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and evaporated milk. Gradually pour in hot milk mixture, whisking until blended. Return mixture to pan and cook over medium heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, until spoon back is lightly coated, 3 to 5 minutes. It should reach 165 F. Do not bring to a boil, or custard will curdle.
Strain custard through a fine-mesh sieve into a large bowl (preferably stainless steel). Add softened gelatin and whisk until melted. Whisk in remaining 1 cup milk and the amaretto (or rum). Cover and refrigerate until chilled, at least 2 hours, or overnight.
In a small, dry skillet over medium-low heat, toast the almonds, stirring constantly, until fragrant and lightly browned, 2 to 4 minutes. Set aside to cool completely.
Once cool, whisk ice-cream mixture and pour into canister of an ice-cream maker. Freeze according to manufacturer directions. Transfer ice cream to a container, stir in toasted almonds, cover with plastic wrap gently pressed into surface and freeze until firm.
Nutrition information per serving (values are rounded to the nearest whole number): 211 calories; 53 calories from fat (25 percent of total calories); 6 g fat (1 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 85 mg cholesterol; 31 g carbohydrate; 9 g protein; 1 g fiber; 99 mg sodium.
Recipe adapted from EatingWell magazine