Stracciatella Ice Milk: A Refreshing, Lighter Alternative to Ice Cream

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, at all times.

Vertical image of two bowls of stracciatella ice milk, with two spoons and two stacked waffle cones resting on their sides, on a gray and brown marble background.

When I belonged to the Morton Arboretum in Lisle, I went every week. Sometimes I even went 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.

The changing seasons fill me with this sense of wonder, watching days of rain and gusts of wind turn into autumn and then winter amazes me every year. And the first warm days of spring, which hint at winter’s end, are enough to make me powerfully optimistic in all areas of my life.

Even though I know what’s coming in some sense, the fact that it does and that I have absolutely no control over it years after year makes me feel hopeful, and I’m happy to trust this great thing, outside myself.

When the first hints of summer waft in on a warm breeze, I’m ready to embrace the change of seasons.

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.

Turns out, it wasn’t. And now I’m hooked.

A scoop of stracciatella ice milk in the foreground, and two bowls full in the background, with ice cream cones in shallow focus on a gray and brown granite surface, with a black background.

For this recipe, I was aiming for something like gelato – using a recipe that didn’t require eggs, since I only had one left.

I am notorious for choosing recipes based on what I already have in the kitchen, and I make frequent substitutions, with varying degrees of success.

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 this wonderful stuff?

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 hadn’t had ice milk – or really thought much about it – in years. You can’t buy it at my local grocery store.

Apparently, it disappeared in 1994, when the FDA changed the rules of terminology, turning ice milk into what is now referred to as “low-fat ice cream” – maybe a more marketable term, yes, but in my opinion, one that is much less charming.

Over time, as manufacturers tried harder and harder to make low-fat ice cream taste more like the regular full-fat kind, the old-fashioned texture of ice milk became more and more obscure. Now, it’s just not available.

Two glass bowls of vanilla and chocolate stracciatella ice milk, with inverted waffle cones on top and more resting on the granite countertop behind them with a few scattered spoons, on a black background.

This icy, refreshing stracciatella mixture isn’t as creamy as regular ice cream, but it’s also not as heavy. The name comes from the Italian for “torn apart,” like the chocolate bits in this frozen treat.

Eating a bowl of it, you feel refreshed, not overloaded.

Think of this stracciatella version as a mashup between the flavor of chocolate chip ice cream, and 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 a frozen dessert should be.

This is wonderful in the heat of summer, an ideal way to cool down. But it’s also delicious when just the first glimmer of an oncoming heatwave is in the air, early in the season. And really, there’s nothing stopping you from enjoying it at any time of year.

No matter when I make it, no matter what the weather is doing outside, at least in my kitchen, it’s summer.

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A glass bowl of stracciatella ice milk, on a granite surface with two spoons.

Stracciatella Ice Milk


  • Author: Shanna Mallon
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 8 hrs, 25 minutes
  • Yield: 8 servings
  • Category: Ice Cream
  • Method: Freeze
  • Cuisine: Dessert

Description

An unsung hero of the frozen dessert world, Italian stracciatella ice milk is a dark chocolate studded treat that’s surprisingly easy to make.


Ingredients

  • 4 cups skim milk
  • 3 Tbsp light corn syrup
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp unflavored gelatin
  • 1/2 cup powdered nondairy coffee creamer
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 4 oz bittersweet chocolate

Instructions

  1. Combine milk, corn syrup, and heavy cream in a large saucepan.
  2. In a medium bowl, stir together sugar, gelatin and coffee creamer.
  3. Whisk dry ingredient mixture into wet mixture. Bring to a simmer, stirring constantly over medium heat.
  4. Remove immediately from heat and transfer to a lidded container to cool. Stir in vanilla extract.
  5. Chill the mixture in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, or overnight.
  6. Freeze in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions. While it is churning, melt the chocolate. Drizzle into the machine in the last few minutes of churning.
  7. Add mixture to a metal loaf pan and freeze until firm. Defrost for 10 to 15 minutes before scooping.

Keywords: ice milk, stracciatella, frozen dessert, chocolate

Cooking By the Numbers…

Step 1 – Measure Ingredients

Prepare all of the ingredients by measuring them and placing them out on your counter in the order they are listed. This will make it much easier to grab things as you need them when you make the recipe.

Step 2 – Prepare Base

In a medium bowl, stir together the sugar, gelatin, and coffee creamer.

A stainless steel bowl of the mixed dairy base mixture used to make a frozen dessert, on a brown wood background.

In a large saucepan, stir together the milk, corn syrup, and heavy cream. Add the dry ingredients to the saucepan, and place over medium heat. Bring the mixture to a simmer, stirring constantly.

White bubbly ice milk base before freezing, in a large black saucepot, on a brown wood surface.

Remove immediately from the heat, and stir in the vanilla extract.

Step 3 – Chill

Pour the base into a large bowl. Cover the mixture and chill in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours. You can also chill the mixture overnight if needed, or if that’s more convenient. You want it to be really cold when you add it to your ice cream maker.

Step 4 – Churn

Add the chilled base to your ice cream maker, and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

While it’s churning, melt the chocolate. This can be done in a double boiler over the stove, or in the microwave.

To melt on the stove, boil about two inches of water in a saucepan over high heat, and place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl that can rest on top of the pan without touching the water. Turn the heat down, and stir with a heatproof spatula until the chocolate is nearly melted. Remove the bowl from the heat, and continue stirring until melted completely.

To melt in the microwave, place chocolate in a heatproof bowl and microwave in 15-second increments on 50% power, stirring in between, until melted.

Drizzle the melted chocolate into the machine during the last few minutes of churning.

Step 5 – Freeze

Transfer to a metal loaf pan and freeze until firm, approximately 4 hours minimum. Serve big scoops whenever you’re ready, in bowls or waffle cones.

Cool Off with a Simple, Sweet Dessert

The dark chocolate bits lend this stracciatella ice milk an extra crunchy texture, created when the sudden shock of hot to cold turns the melted dark chocolate into fine pieces.

A glass bowl of stracciatella ice milk, on a granite surface with two spoons.

Without the need for creating a custard on the stove, this is unbelievably easy to make, a light and delicious reminder of the summers of my childhood.

Have you ever had ice milk before, or another type of stracciatella dessert? Tell us about your experience in the comments below. And if you try the recipe, be sure to give it a rating so other readers will know how much you enjoyed it!


Don’t forget to Pin It!

A collage of photos showing different views of a batch of Stracciatella Ice Milk.

Photos by Meghan Bassett, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published on February 9th, 2009. Last updated: May 26, 2018 at 17:22 pm. With additional writing and editing by Meghan Bassett and Allison Sidhu.

Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.

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About Shanna Mallon

Shanna holds an MA in writing from DePaul University. Her mantra? Restoring order and celebrating beauty through creative content, photography, and food. Shanna's work has been featured in Bon Appetit, The Kitchn, MSN.com, Everyday Health, Better Homes & Gardens, Houzz.com, Food News Journal, Food52, Zeit Magazine, Chew the World, Mom.me, Babble, Delish.com, Parade, Foodista, Entrepreneur and Ragan PR.

13 thoughts on “Stracciatella Ice Milk: A Refreshing, Lighter Alternative to Ice Cream”

  1. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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.

  8. 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!)

  9. 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…

  10. 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.

  11. 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?

  12. 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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