We all love ice cream! It tastes like scoops of heaven, isn’t it? However, have you ever wondered how this delicious frozen dessert gained such vast popularity worldwide, how it is made, or why it tastes so good? It might surprise you to know that ice cream has a rich history and the science behind it is just fascinating! If you love ice cream as much as I do, then get ready to take a deep dive into ice cream and learn everything there is to know about this wonderful frozen dessert!
Table of contents
Where did the ice cream originate?
Its exact origin is unclear, but it is believed to have been invented in China or Persia (modern-day Iran) several thousand years ago. The ancient Chinese are thought to have made a frozen dessert by mixing snow with fruit juices, while the Persians are said to have made a similar dessert using a mixture of ice and saffron-flavored cream. History traces the arrival of the concept of frozen desserts in Europe and then America via the Arab world during the Middle Ages. However, its earliest form holds very little resemblance to ice cream as we all know it today.
(Image courtesy Hortongroup)
In the 16th century, Italian chefs began experimenting with new flavors and methods of freezing cream. The Sicilian Francesco Procopio dei Coltelli is considered to be the man who invented “gelato”. He opened in 1686 Café Procopio, which became the first literary coffeehouse in Paris. For over 200 years, the establishment was a meeting place for many notable names in the worlds of arts, literature, and politics, such as Napoleon Bonaparte, Benjamin Franklin, Robespierre, Anatole France, Balzac, and Victor Hugo (just to name a few).
Recipes of ice cream were brought in the 18th century from Europe to America (by American colonists), but it wasn’t until the 1900s that ice cream’s popularity exploded thanks to advances in technology that made it easier to produce and transport. Manufacturing ice cream soon became an industry in America, Jacob Fussell being the first person to commercially produce and distribute ice cream in the United States. As ice cream became widely available, ice cream parlors and street vendors began popping up in cities all around the world, offering new flavors and variations on the classic dessert.
(Image courtesy Irina Schmidt)
Although during its long history, this frozen dessert was regarded as a rare and opulent treat, a sign of wealth and power reserved only for the wealthy, nowadays we can find ice cream all over the globe – kulfi (India), dondurma (Turkey), akutaq (Alaska), gelato (Italy), mochi (Japan), Spaghettieis (Germany), etc.
When did ice cream become popular and widely available?
a) During the Tang dynasty in ancient China
b) In the 17th century thanks to Francesco Procopio dei Coltelli, the Father of gelato
c) In the 19th century thanks to advances in technology
How is ice cream produced?
Have you ever wondered what goes into making the varieties of ice cream you love? It’s a fascinating and complex procedure that blends science and ingenuity! Making the ideal scoop of ice cream involves some stages, from heating the ingredients to churning the mixture to freezing and packing the finished product.
What are the main ingredients in ice cream?
Traditionally, ice cream ingredients include milk (often whole milk, which contains around 3.5% fat), heavy cream (which contains about 36% fat), sugar, and varied flavorings.
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While the cream offers the finished product richness, the milk gives the ice cream its creamy texture. Low-fat or skim milk is called for in some ice cream recipes, although the texture may not be as creamy.
Sugar is a key ingredient in ice cream since it not only makes the treat sweeter but also aids in lowering the mixture’s freezing point, giving it a smoother texture.
There are plenty of ice cream flavoring options, some of which are rather unique and exotic, such as green tea, lavender, wasabi, or soy sauce (to name a few). However, vanilla and chocolate remain the two most widely consumed ice cream flavors worldwide. These flavorings are typically included as extracts or enhancements in the ice cream.
In addition to these basic ingredients, ice cream may also include stabilizers and emulsifiers, such as guar gum or carrageenan, which serve to improve texture and prevent the components from separating. They do this by forming a barrier around the fat molecules in the cream, which keeps them suspended in the liquid mixture. This is essential because the ice cream will become icy and grainy if the fat separates.
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The Freezing Process
First, milk, cream, and sugar are heated together to create a mixture. The resulting composition is then poured into a machine called an ice cream maker, which simultaneously freezes and churns it. The churning process helps incorporate air into the mixture, in which flavorings and mix-ins were also added. Did you know that ice cream can contain up to 50% air? Different ice cream flavors require different churning times and temperatures. For example, chocolate ice cream needs a higher temperature than vanilla ice cream. After being churned and frozen, the ice cream mixture is prepared for packaging and shipment. Some ice cream companies use special equipment to create fun shapes and designs, while others stick to classic scoops.
Before modern technologies, making ice cream took a lot of time and hard work because ice cream producers would have to hand blend the ingredients before putting the mixture in a container surrounded by ice and salt. Then they would churn the mixture for many hours until it became frozen and creamy. This is known as the pot-freezer method.
(Image courtesy Erwan Hesry)
Which of the following are key ingredients of ice cream?
a) Flour, water, milk, and sugar
b) Vanilla essence, cream, sugar, and flour
c) Milk, cream, sugar, and flavorings
Make Your Own Ice Cream at Home
You’ve always yearned to make ice cream at home, right? Well, it’s easier than you might think! The following ingredients are all you need:
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
add a pinch of salt
Combine the heavy cream, milk, sugar, and salt in a medium saucepan. Stirring occasionally, cook the mixture over medium heat until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is warm but not boiling.
Add the vanilla extract after turning off the heat.
The mixture should be transferred to a sizable mixing bowl and allowed to cool to room temperature.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator for at least two hours.
After the mixture is chilled, vigorously whisk it for three to five minutes until it thickens and turns creamy.
Place the mixture in a freezer-safe container and freeze it for at least four hours or until it’s firm.
Once your ice cream is frozen, enjoy your scoops of heaven!
(Image courtesy Bernardbodo)
Make your own handmade ice cream if you’re feeling daring. Try out several flavors to see how your ice cream stacks up to store-bought options. Better still, why not host an ice cream party in your house with all of your friends? Enjoy yourselves! Maybe you are also curious to find out how to create your own friendship bracelet or how to paint on stones.
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