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!