What goes into the creamiest most delectable ice-cream

The multi-faceted scientific composition aside, ice cream is not just a block of frozen cream, it is an orchestra of the original ingredients that, when combined, form a symphony of flavours that explode in your mouth. So, what really goes into making the most delicious ice cream to ever touch your lips and turn your tastebuds into a frenzy?

The ice cream industry is mammoth and has grown exponentially through the years, with many ice cream variations being sold across the world. In saying that, it would seem that truly phenomenal ice cream is difficult to come by these days. So many creameries have changed their recipes and tried to get more money for less product. However, the real ice cream makers stick to the original recipe, which means there is no skimping on the milk and cream, and they don’t up the ice cream volume with loads of air.

AIR

Many creameries incorporate air into their churning processes. The idea is that the air makes the ice cream light and fluffy, however, true traditional creameries avoid the air and allow their ice cream density to run high, ensuring more delectable ice cream, bursting with flavour.

FLAVOUR

The best part of any ice cream dream. There are so many heavenly flavours, such as Cookies ‘n Cream, Mint Choc, Coffee, Praline and Double Chocolate, amongst hundreds of others. It’s essential to find just the right amount of flavouring and mixing in the correct amount of chunks is completely crucial. Mushy crumbs don’t add flavour and they certainly don’t instigate a need for more ice cream. The correct ratio of flavour to chunks that don’t go soggy, or just plain flavour, is imperative to exquisite and luscious gelato.

BUTTERMILK

An emulsifier that not only adds richness and texture to ice cream, it also improves the density, and actually boosts the flavour, giving you the creamy part of the ice cream. Ice cream wizards never leave home without it.

CREAM

This ingredient can contain up to 16% fat, which is the most fat that ice cream makers put into their gelatos. Any more fat than this and the product becomes a highly calorific cholesterol fest that is extremely rich and can only be consumed in small portions. Less fat, more consumption.

STABILISERS

Granted, it’s not an ingredient to make your taste buds cry with anticipation, but it holds your ice cream together. It’s an essential component, unless you want a milkshake. Stabilisers provide the texture in ice cream, holding the air bubbles in place. This particular compound also assists in evenly distributing the fat particles throughout the ice cream, ensuring each mouthful is rich and tasty.

SUGAR

Sugar obviously gives ice cream its delicious sweetness, but it also prevents the ice cream from crystallising. In syrup form, the higher the sugar content, the lower the freezing point.

Certain creameries are ice cream assassins. They add more air to their ice cream to pump up the ice cream volume, skimp on the flavour, milk and cream, and try to convince their patrons that theirs is true gelato. Professionally produced gelato is dense ice cream, as one would expect. Correctly-made gelato is decadent, dense and deliciously creamy with just the right ratio of sugar, flavour and stabilisers. Know the difference. It’s what separates the consumers from the connoisseurs.

Ice cream, you’ve really shown your true colours…

Oh, ice cream; how cleverly you’ve reinvented yourself over the years. Chances are, 17th century ice cream makers (thought to be when ice cream was officially created using full-fat milk, cream and eggs), would marvel at the flavours that grace our ice cream parlours and dining establishments today.

When we think back to the early 1930s, the ever-so- racy, rum and raisin was considered wildly exotic and somewhat risqué in its day – what with its cheeky dash of liquor and rum soaked fruit – but compared to salted caramel-triple- choc-fudge- with-candied- peanuts-and- freeze-dried- raspberry- chunks, well, it kind of pales in comparison don’t you think?

That’s not to say ice cream has ever been dull – far from it in fact. In the 17th century, ice cream was flavoured for what would have been considered rather hip in its day. Seasonal fruit (and chances are it was organic and non-GM!) was often used to flavour thick, icy cream or custard, which, by all accounts, probably tasted quite appealing to the wealthy folk who had access to it. Apricot, violet, rose, chocolate, and caramel (yes, caramel!), are the flavours touted by historians as common of that era – and they’ve ultimately shaped the flavours of today.

But let’s see how tastes and ice cream has evolved on a local scale – right here on our own turf, in Western Australia.

In recent years, the Aussie love affair of cooking programmes, celebrity chefs and local foodie entrepreneurs has led to an audience of sophisticated palates and given rise to the gourmet flavours of today, but it hasn’t always been the case.

Certainly, in the early 1900s, the Italian migrants brought with them their sublime-tasting gelato which West Aussies grew to love…but it took time to win them over. Gelato is slightly different to ice cream. It’s made from milk, eggs and sugar as opposed to full-fat milk and cream, and is somewhat less dense in texture due to more air added to the mix. Flavours like pistachio, hazelnut, custard and tiramisu were foreign additions to a patriotic palate where brands like Peter’s ruled supreme with its vanilla, chocolate and strawberry offerings. Oh, and who can forget Neapolitan (all three in a tub) bought for those special occasions. What a treat!

Peter’s Diary was founded in 1907 in Manly Sydney and by 1923 Peter’s ice cream was coined “the health food of a nation” – a term which lasted 50 years. It bought WA-founded Brownes Dairy in the 1960s, who, since the 1930s, had been delivering ice cream to WA households.

In the early 1960s, Peter’s again wooed the country with its “Peters drumstick” and its special “choc- tipped cone”, but other brands were already planning their stake of the pie.

Streets, Sara Lee and various Nestle products -they all followed.

Then, in the early 90s Connoisseur ice cream was launched. This was a ‘next level’ product. It used high quality ingredients, and more milk fat and less air, resulting in a denser, richer ice cream experience. Real vanilla beans, Belgian chocolate and caramel chunks made all the difference and discerning consumers chose it as their pure indulgence treat.

International brands like Hagen Daas, Ben and Jerry’s (Chunky Monkey banana ice cream, fudge chunks and walnuts, springs to mind), Baskin-Robbins had also exploded onto the scene and introduced us to what seemed like an endless choice of flavour combinations.

But it was Gelare International’s introduction onto the ice cream strip in the late 80s that really took quality and flavours to another level.

Thought to be the trailblazer of bringing freshly-made waffle cones and the now adored cookies and cream, and chocolate chip cookie dough flavours into WA, Gelare ice cream was, and still is today, second-to- none. Who can forget the seductive aromas of freshly baked waffle cones from the first Gelare store in Fremantle?

Commercial “cheaper” brands, although they certainly have their place in the market, are often made with a lot less cream and milk fat, they add more air to increase volume and use artificial flavour enhancers, corn syrup, additives and preservatives, to name a few. Ever wondered why the cheaper brands develop an icy layer, shrink-up and lose their flavour after too long in the freezer? That’s why.

Super-premium ice creams are undoubtedly the pinnacle of luxury. Like Gelare, full-cream farm-fresh milk, sugar and high-quality “real”flavours” give each scoop an indulgent, magnificently-dense consistency, creamy texture and intense taste. The difference? Not one single puff of air is added to bulk up the tub.

In the Gelare vanilla for instance, vanilla beans are extracted from the whole seed pod of a Madagascan white orchid, resulting in a proliferation of little black vanilla flecks in every spoonful. The ‘Dutch chocolate overload’ and ‘wild strawberry’ (hailing back to our 17 th century ancestors perhaps?) are also best sellers. The chocolate is dense and dark; the strawberry is abundant with luscious berry fruit. Recent on-trend introductions include peanut butter cup, black licorice, matcha green tea and lychee sorbet.

And with the changing times, has come an increase in food intolerances and dietary choices. There are now non-dairy, vegan options on the market…and they’re taking off, big time – soy and more so, coconut are popular alternatives. Zebra Dream, Cocowhip and Coconut Alley are all coconut-based vegan ice creams which not only appeal to the health conscious, but deliver on sophisticated flavour adaptions: salted caramel, choc mint and coffee sit perfectly at home alongside their diary counterparts.

Today, almost anything goes, there are no rules – truffle ice cream, maple bacon crunch, or salted fennel – but according to world studies, vanilla is hands-down, the number-one best-selling flavour around the globe.

Would our forbearers be proud of us? Perhaps they’d much rather their unadulterated and uncomplicated fruit versions, which no doubt oozed with flavour. But one thing is for sure. When you find a flavour and brand you love…stick with it!

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