Weird Facts for National Ice Cream Day
I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream! That’ll teach you to use blood and chunky guts in your ice cream. You thought to yourself, “Everyone loves hamburgers, everyone loves ice cream. I’ll invent cheeseburger ice cream!” But oh, it all went awry. Nobody likes raw meat in their ice cream. Except, apparently, Japan.
But here in the U.S.A., we’ll keep enjoying the regular ol’ recipe and not try to reinvent the wheel. In fact, as you’ll see below, disaster often strikes even when ice cream sticks to the basics.
First, Understand How Ice Cream Is Made
Ice cream is an emulsion, meaning it was never meant to exist. Its separate components don’t normally mix, but man, in his hubris, found a way to produce a dessert too beautiful for this world. By salting the ice, you lower the freezing point of the water (for the same reason you spread salt on a sidewalk after it snows). Let’s science! (sidenote: you will never love ice cream as much as the author of that blog does. There are Popes who don’t revere forces in this universe the way that site admires ice cream.)
So now you’ve got a big ol’ collection of superpowered water. It will chill the milk enough to emulsify, since milk’s freezing point is below that of even your salted water. But that’s not enough in and of itself. You must also combine the product by shaking, stirring, or rolling the contents. The important thing is it keeps moving and mixing so that air gets trapped into the mix. This prevents the formation of larger ice crystals, which would suck. You want those crystals as small as possible so you get that thick, even ice cream mouthfeel. By surrounding the cream with the salt water (but not mixing the two), the latter will leach all the heat out of the cream. Voila! Frozen foam!
That’s the classical method. You could use professional equipment instead, like your modern-day ice cream maker, which uses a variety of methods to achieve the same effect: emulsify the fat into the water while incorporating air bubbles even as the water is crystallizing. That’s a lot of processes to tackle at once! A faster freeze makes smaller crystals (which is good), and you get that classic ice cream taste. (Unless you’re making gelato, in which case all those rules go out the window: less fat, less air, higher temperature, and for some reason you get a silky dessert of the gods. But anyway…)
Salt and sugar inside the ice cream mixture don’t just taste good: they help it form from within. Same goes for the fat: it stands between the air and the ice, keeping ice cream soft enough to scoop and preventing the ice crystals from getting too big. Other products may be added to achieve desired texture: egg yolks, gelatin, starch, gluten. Funny enough, the flavors do as much for the formation as the texturers (can we say texturers? Is that, like, a word?) Vanilla contains alcohol, and therefore lowers the freezing point even further, softening the ice cream. Bits and pieces from the candy box or the cookie jar help buffer the components to, again, keep the
Now that you know how everything gets dispersed, here are some interesting ice-cream related matters you can bring up at the next ice cream truck drivers’ convention to impress that hottie from the south loop route.