Good Food Blog
The scoop on ice creamPosted at 10:53AM, 06 August 2008 by Carol Wilson - Food writer
As the weather hots up, so do sales of ice cream. What could be more cooling and refreshing than lusciously creamy ice cream, scooped into a crisp cone, sandwiched between wafers or spooned into a bowl with summer fruits for a quick and easy dessert?
But... would you be happy eating frozen whipped vegetable fat pumped up with air and artificially flavoured and coloured? Of course not, but the depressing fact is that big brand ice creams in the UK are often made with cheap vegetable fats, such as palm and soya oils and emulsifiers; just as disheartening is that manufacturers can choose from thousands of flavourings which mimic the flavours and aromas of real ingredients.
Ice cream has certainly come a long way since a confection of fresh cream, sugar and puréed fresh fruits such as peaches or strawberries first appeared in Britain in the 17th century. Much ice cream in the UK today wouldn't be classified as real ice cream in the rest of Europe, as about 80% of British ice cream contains no milk fat.
To Italians, ice cream is much more than a treat - it's a way of life
The Italians were the first Europeans to make ice cream and, in stark contrast to many British ice creams, their gelati come in a whole range of intense flavours and diverse textures - some rich and creamy, others lighter, flavoured with the seductive aroma of real vanilla, chocolate, fruit, coffee or nuts. To Italians, ice cream is much more than a treat - it's a way of life. Every town and village has at least one gelateria, where young people meet up after school, courting couples linger over a dish of their favourite ice cream and families enjoy sensational ice cream sundaes smothered in sweet sauce and a generous topping of nuts.
But the tide is slowly turning here in the UK, with sales of real dairy ice cream increasing as we become more aware and discerning about what we eat. All the fat used in dairy ice cream must be dairy fat, milk or cream - although this can also include milk powder. But do read the labels - I recently bought some organic ice cream which contains stabilisers guar gum, xanthan gum and locust bean gum. Artisinal ice cream made from just milk, cream and sometimes eggs, flavoured naturally and completely free of stabilisers and additives, will have a much better flavour and texture. It's true - premium quality ice cream does cost more - but it tastes sooooo much better, I think it's well worth the extra expense.