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Gluten Free Homemade Newsletter, Issue #006 -- Homemade Ice Cream is Food Science Magic!
October 27, 2016
Homemade Ice Cream is Food Science Magic!
Making homemade ice cream is more than just dumping a batch of ice cream mix into a machine and letting it churn and freeze. The ingredients and techniques you use directly impact the resulting product.
Knowing some simple science behind this special food can make a difference between a ho-hum frozen dessert and an irresistibly great ice cream treat.
Ingredients MatterIt’s all about creating a creamy, coat your tongue with excellent flavor and silky smooth, texture.
The “cream” in creamy says it all. The fact is, the more fat in the ice cream mix, the creamier the ice cream will be. This is why it is so important to use high fat content dairy ingredients when making your frozen dessert, such as whole milk (not skim milk) and heavy whipping cream (not half and half).
In ice cream making, air is whipped in during the churning process and the fat molecules break apart. As the temperature drops, the fat molecules naturally reform, trapping teensy bits of air inside and the ice cream mixture increases in volume. When the concoction freezes, the fat molecules harden, stabilizing the mixture; air is locked inside the frozen fat molecules.
Technique MattersRemember, milk includes more than just fat; it is also a liquid; when frozen this liquid forms ice crystals. By nature, the long sharp needle-like crystals are hard and brittle and when eaten are crisp and crunchy.
The warmer the liquid before freezing, the longer it takes to freeze, and the greater and longer will be the ice crystals. The reason is, the more time it takes liquid to freeze, the more time ice crystals have to grow.
In order to produce the tiniest ice crystals possible when making ice cream, it is very important the ice cream mix is thoroughly chilled before putting it into the ice cream machine. The faster the ice cream mix freezes, the less time ice crystals have to form and grow.
The churning process breaks up what ice crystals do form into tiny pieces and their edges become “greased” by the fat, part of the “creamy” in ice cream.
Freezing Points MatterThe temperature at which liquid freezes is called the, “freezing point”. Each liquid or liquid mixture has its own unique freezing point, because every liquid chemical has its own signature freezing point.
We know the freezing point of water is 32° Fahrenheit, or 0° Celsius. However, the freezing point of ice cream mixtures is lower in temperature than the freezing point of water.
Thus, using ice alone in an ice cream machine does not produce a cold enough temperature to “freeze” the cold liquid ice cream mixture and turn it into ice cream.
Before the advent of electronic ice cream machines that live on modern kitchen countertops, hand crank and automatic ice cream freezers were, and still are, used to make ice cream. The space between the bucket walls and the covered ice cream container with a dasher inside, is filled with ice, and then salted, usually with inexpensive rock salt.
The salt reduces the freezing point of water, creating an environment colder than the freezing point of the ice cream mixture, enough to freeze the ice cream mixture and turn it into ice cream.
Moreover, the faster a cold ice cream mixture freezes, the creamier it will be because ice crystals have less time to form.
So, the next time you make homemade ice cream, think of your kitchen as a scientific laboratory, where your ingredients are the chemicals you mix to create a new substance and the ice cream machine is the lab equipment you use to apply the scientific laws of physics to force a substance from its naturally occurring liquid state into a solid.
Cooking is a fascinating food science and homemade ice cream is a scrumptious result!
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