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You scream, I scream...

I love ice cream. Really packing it away since the temperatures have climbed. Right now in the freezer is a Kroger Delux, Chocolate Cherry Nut Truffle. WOW. I think it's terrific. This container replaced a Kroger Private Selections Moose Tracks. Again, a flavor I thought delicious.

But now I'm thinking...

I really don't know what makes an ice cream good. Or great. And I would never pay more than, say, $3.50 for a 48 oz. package. So what am I missing by passing on Dove or Ben & Jerry's, or any of the scores of other premium ice creams?

Teach me, please.

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  1. Cheaper ice creams tend to have more air, or higher overrun, while the premium ice creams tend to be denser. Some manufacturers take a quart of base and churn it into a quart and a half, others will churn it into a half gallon. Same amount of product, different amounts of air.

    3 Replies
    1. re: babette feasts

      From what an ice cream maker told me, not only does the amount of churning determine the volume, it will also effect the shelf life of the ice cream. The more in volume, the shorter the shelf life. This gentleman takes great pride in his ice creams, and claims that because he only churns his ice creams just enough to fully incorporate the ingredients. He claims that if properly stored, his ice creams will keep for years. Of course, everyone has different types of refrigerator/freezers, so, depending on the intermittent cycling as well as the self-defrost cycling, your mileage may vary.

      1. re: bulavinaka

        Shelf life in terms of what? Fresh flavor? Ice crystals?

        The formation of ice crystals in a product is due to the amount of available water and the temperature at which it is stored, and churn speed doubtless affects it too, but I am feeling too lazy to go get my professional ice cream book right now. Crystals grow more slowly at colder temperatures. Exposure to air does tend to lead to a decline in quality for many things, so it is plausible that this would apply to ice cream as well.

        Anyone seriously interested in ice cream should pick up Francisco Migoya's book 'Frozen Desserts' - or at least browse through it at Barnes & Noble : )

        1. re: babette feasts

          >>Shelf life in terms of what? Fresh flavor? Ice crystals?<<

          Yes and Yes.

          >>The formation of ice crystals in a product is due to the amount of available water and the temperature at which it is stored, and churn speed doubtless affects it too...<<

          Yes - you answered your own question, and is consistent with what said-ice cream maker mentioned. This is the place:

          http://www.icedreamonline.com/

    2. The so-called soper-premium ice creams are denser for the reasons babette feasts notes, and have a much higher butterfat content. Airy, light ice cream that instantly melts when it hits your mouth or dense, very creamy tasting ice cream (with lots more fat and calories in the same volume measure).

      1. I don't know the technical terms for describing this, but to me the luxurious quality in more expensive ice cream is that it is smeary rather than puffy. When you smear it with your spoon against the dish, it doesn't fluff. Baskin-Robbins smears best; Fannie Mae is second. And if you're not paying more than $3.50 per 48 oz, you're missing out on the good stuff. Go for it. Life is short.

        1. All of you people are over-complicating this discussion!. JEEPERS! Open your eyes and taste buds people!
          - Great ice cream contains CREAM, cheap ice cream contains "milk solids".
          - Great ice cream contains natural flavors, cheap ice cream contains artificial flavors.
          Great ice cream is sweetened with sugar or honey. cheap ice cream is sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup.
          All of this discussion about overrun is a side-show. There are great ice creams that have a very high overrun (i.e. Bassetts of Philadelphia) and there are great ice creams that have LOW overrun: Haagen-Daz, has the LOWEST overrrun... and you can tell. It is SO DENSE you can an use an unopened containers as a weapon!
          Finally, something no one has discussed and should: The overuse of guar gum as a thickener and emulsifier. There is absolutely NO NEED for guar gum in ice cream. It is a natural fiber that is used as the exclusively thickener in all frozen diet desserts (Tasti-De-Lite) and in all diet shakes. Because guar gum is a fiber, it also acts as a powerful laxative. Want proof? Go ahead and drink a few cans of diet shake or have a few scoops of frozen diet dessert and watch what happens!

          Finally, the best way to learn about ice cream is to go ahead and make some ice cream! Buy one of those 50 dollar cuisinart thingies and make some ice cream. You will very quickly discover what makes good and bad ice cream!

          2 Replies
          1. re: bobmakarowski

            Great post.
            Once you get beyond the basics of premium ingredients, and determining the desired texture/density, don't forget about the flavoring. Beyond the obvious need for real, high quality flavorings, there is a real art is in balancing the flavors and textures to create a stelar frozen treat. I agree that making your own is he best way to learn. If you are looking for a benchmark for a commercial premium Ice cream from start to finish, I would suggest Jeni's (jenisicecreams.com), in Columbus Ohio (yep, Columbus). You can build meals around the flavor profiles.

            1. re: bobmakarowski

              As much as I appreciate you warning us about things like milk solids, guar gum and certain sweeteners, those are a given in my book. Given that the ingredients should be premium - that is what the discussion is about - the technical aspects are very pertinent IMHO. Again, check out the website I cited above. I don't think those folks would know what to do with guar gum if they were forced to use it...

            2. It's the creaminess that makes good ice cream great. Only real flavor or fruit combined with cream, sugar, eggs, and vanilla should be in real ice cream.

              1. Do you have Tillamook or Humbolt Ice Cream available in your area? They have thick, luxurious ice creams. I think better than those premium brands you mentioned. I also think Safeway premium brand in the black label is a fine ice cream.

                1. Slightly off topic, but I really wish they'd sell ice cream by weight and not by volume. More and more often I open 2 L tubs of ice cream only to find aerated floof inside. So disappointing.