Monday, May 7, 2012

Apple #581: Ice Cream

I'm pretty excited about this week's topic:  ice cream.

Yes, I'm admitting that the Daily Apple is now pretty much a Weekly Apple.  Ah, well. Such is life.

Now. On to the good stuff.  Ice cream.

Ice cream. Infinitely versatile. Always delicious. Here, in chocolate.
Photo and recipe from Tracey's Culinary Adventures)

  • In 2009, about 1.5 billion gallons of ice cream were made. Billion. That includes hard and soft serve.
  • Among those billion and a half gallons, the favorite flavors are, in order:
  1. Vanilla (27.8%)
  2. Chocolate (14.3%)
  3. Strawberry (3.3%)
  4. Chocolate chip (3.3%)
  5. Butter pecan (2.8%)

Vanilla has been the champion flavor since maybe forever.Diving into a good vanilla can be pretty luxurious.
(Photo from in love godiz world)

  • Chocolate is moving up on vanilla, though. In 2008, only about 10% of ice cream purchases were chocolate, so it moved up 4% in one year.
  • My favorite flavor, by the way, is chocolate almond. Of basic grocery-store ice creams, that is.  Of Ben & Jerry's flavors, it's a close call between New York Super Fudge Chunk and S'mores. I won't get into my favorites of all the other varieties out there.
Ben & Jerry's S'mores has chocolate ice cream, chunks of fudge, gobs of toasted marshmallow, with a graham cracker swirl. I choose it first for the chocolate, but it's that graham cracker swirl that keeps me eating it.
(Photo from Polyvore)

 Ice Cream Ingredients
  • Ice cream is made of some pretty basic stuff: 
  1. whole milk
  2. heavy cream
  3. sugar
  4. egg yolks
  5. salt
  6. flavoring
  •  How much of each ingredient you put in is where the artistry comes in.  Plus, of course, whatever flavoring or extras you might add.  Such as peanut butter cups.  Or pecans.  Or chopped strawberries. Etc.

Every once in a while, I like a good strawberry ice cream. With actual strawberries. Yum.
(Photo and recipe from Singapore Local Favorites)

Ice Cream  vs. Other Frozen Desserts
  • So, what's the difference between ice cream and frozen yogurt, and frozen custard, and sherbet, and all the rest?  The difference comes down to the amount of milkfat in the dessert.  
  • But what's milkfat?
  • To get very basic about it, milk is comprised of three things: 
  1. water (most cow's milk is about 87% water)
  2. fat globules, called milkfat
  3. solids that aren't fat, or non-fat solids
  • Milkfat globules are solid at room temperature.  Homogenization breaks down the globules so that they're all more or less the same size and therefore easier to digest.
  • Whole milk has at least 3.25% milkfat. Keep that in mind as a point of reference for the percentages that follow.
  • Ice cream: minimum 10% milkfat. This is regulated by the FDA. To be able to call your product "ice cream," it must have 10% milkfat.  Gourmet ice creams often have more than 10%, sometimes as much as 14%.
  • Custard: same amount of milkfat as ice cream, but more egg yolks. In our basic ice cream recipe, we would use 6 egg yolks to yield 2 pints of ice cream. In a basic custard recipe, you would need 20 egg yolks to yield 2 pints of custard.
  • Gelato: 3% to 10% milkfat and less air than ice cream.
  • Frozen yogurt: at least 3.25% milkfat. Frozen yogurt contains the same ingredients as ice cream, plus two yogurt culture bacteria.
  • Low-fat frozen yogurt: 2% to 0.5% milkfat.
  • Sherbet: 1% to 2% milkfat. Made mostly of fruit and water with a little bit of dairy.
  • Sorbet: 0% milkfat. Technically an ice water. Any fat comes from vegetable or animal sources but not from milk or egg yolks. May contain egg whites. Does not need to be pasteurized.

This rainbow sherbet sure is pretty. You bet.
(Photo from FrozenHeart at Sodahead)

  • Nobody is exactly sure when ice cream first came on the scene, but the story goes that Marco Polo came back from his trip to China with a recipe for something that was a lot like sherbet.
I am Marco Polo. I bring you . . . sherbet!
(Photo from Ian's page at Riverdale Elementary)

  • Some time in the 16th century, Marco Polo's sherbet recipe evolved into something very like our ice cream today.  There's a lot of dispute about just where in Europe "Cream Ice" first appeared -- was it at Catherine de Medici's table in 1553 after she became the wife of Henry II in France? Since Marco Polo was Italian and so was Catherine de Medici, does Italy claim the birthright? But since she ate it in France, does France get the glory?  Or did ice cream also appear on some dignitary's table in England?
Catherine de Medici. I really have to learn more about her. Especially since she liked ice cream.
(Image from the History Channel)

  • While we're not sure royal person in which European country ate it first, ice cream was made available to the general public in 1660 when a Sicilian offered a dish that mixed milk, cream, butter, and eggs at his cafe -- the first one in Paris.
  • Ice cream was a very rare treat due to that whole frozen business until the invention of ice houses in 1800, which could store and keep ice. (Fans of Little House on the Prairie will remember when Nancy tricked Willie Oleson into locking a girl in the ice house, which could have killed the girl.)
  • But it wasn't until after WWII when refrigeration became widely available that people all across the country could enjoy ice cream on a regular basis.
This is the hard part of making ice cream: it has to be frozen and whipped to put air into it -- simultaneously. This process is what keeps a lot of people from making their own ice cream, except on rare occasions. Here the Waltons are hand-cranking it in their ice cream barrel.
(Still from DelsJourney)

After all those serious historical figures and whatnot, I thought it was time for a banana split.
(Photo from the Tropical Ice Cream Cafe)

Finally, it would be a crime not to mention Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams, which is increasingly recognized as some of the best ice cream available today. You can order it online or buy it in more and more stores these days, or you can get her recipe book and make it yourself: Of her flavors, I'm not sure whether the Brambleberry Crisp is my favorite, or the Riesling Poached Pear sorbet. Yes, it's a sorbet, but it's that good.

This is a scoop of Jeni's signature flavor, Salty Caramel.

Related entries: ice cream trucks

International Dairy Foods Association, Ice Cream Sales & Trends and The History of Ice Cream
Francis Lam, Basic ice cream recipe (and how to flavor it),, What is Milk?
The Ohio State University, Food Science & Technology, Introduction to Food Processing, Frozen Foods Definitions, Ice Cream vs. Custard
How Products Are Made, Frozen Yogurt
TLC Cooking, Sherbet vs. Sorbet

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