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The Science of Ice Cream Making

Anyone who knows me knows that ice cream is one of my favorite things in the world. I love it so much that a few years ago I asked my husband for an ice cream maker for my birthday and began making ice cream in my home. Before I started making ice cream, I did not know how much science and trial and error were involved in the process. The science comes from learning about things like food stabilizers, which I discuss below, while the trial and error involves experimenting with the right quantity of ingredients to achieve your desired flavor.

For those who have never made ice cream before, it is a more time consuming process than one would think, usually taking place over the course of two days. Ice cream requires many egg yolks (usually a minimum of 5 or 6). This means that first the eggs need to be separated and then they need to be tempered. Tempering is a process by which a food is gradually introduced to heat without really being cooked. In the case of ice cream, you usually heat the cream, milk, sugar and flavor together and then temper your egg yolks. This allows the egg yolks to be warmed without scrambling the eggs, which you obviously don't want. After the eggs have been tempered, the entire mixture needs to be cooled, usually overnight in the refrigerator before it can be churned into ice cream.

The reason that ice cream requires so many egg yolks is that egg yolks act as a stabilizer. Stabilizers are essentially a glue or binding agent that hold a food together. In ice creams, stabilizers work to reduce ice crystals from forming on the ice cream and to prevent the ice cream from melting. When you buy ice cream in the store, it usually contains artificial stabilizers. While these artificial stabilizers are more effective at preventing the ice cream from melting, I like using egg yolks when I make ice cream at home because I like knowing exactly what I am putting in my ice cream and think it makes the ice cream less artificial tasting.

Although I make a lot less ice cream than I used to, I decided that there was no better time to get back into the ice cream making game than on a hot summer day. Inspired by the mint growing in my garden, I decided to make my first ever mint ice cream.

Although I sometimes like to experiment with making my own flavors, I have significantly less time these days. As such, I decided to rely on a recipe I knew I could trust. I followed the mint chip ice cream recipe used by David Lebovitz, but cut out the chip part to save myself even more time. David Lebovitz is a former chef at Chez Panisse and the author of several books, including the Sweet Life in Paris and The Perfect Scoop (a book dedicated entirely to ice cream), both of which I have been intending to read for a couple of years now. For those who would like to follow David Lebovitz's recipe, please connect to his website through the link I have provided. For a shortened version of his recipe, please follow the steps I took.

Mint Ice Cream

1 cup whole milk
3/4 cup sugar
2 cups heavy cream
pinch of salt
mint (I just clipped a whole bunch from my garden, until it seemed like I had enough)
5 large egg yolks

Heat the milk, sugar, cream, salt and mint in a pan until it is steaming. Remove from heat, cover and allow the mint to steep for one hour.
Place a strainer over a bowl and pour the cream through the strainer into the bowl. Throw out the mint caught by the strainer.
Reheat the milk mixture.
Whisk together the 5 egg yolks.
Gradually pour the milk mixture into the egg yolks to temper the eggs. Continue to whisk the yolks as you are pouring in the milk mixture.
Pour the entire mixture back into a pan. Stir the mixture until it thickens.
Pour the mixture back into a bowl and place in the refrigerator overnight.
The next day, churn in an ice cream mixture.

Do not be surprised if your mint ice cream comes out white. You will notice when you start making your own ice cream that most flavors lack color, which only goes to illustrate how much food coloring is put in commercial ice creams. The ice cream is milky, minty and delicious. Perfect for a hot summer day. Enjoy!

For more ice cream recipes let us know you're favorite ice cream flavor and I'll provide a recipe or subscribe to the Koo Review to keep reading!


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