Ice Cream Flavors And Texture : Short Wave July is National Ice Cream Month — and Sunday, July 18 is National Ice Cream Day (in the US)! Flavors range from the classics — vanilla and chocolate — to the adventurous — jalapeño and cicada. But for some people, including ice cream scientist Dr. Maya Warren, flavor is only one part of the ice cream allure. So in today's episode, Emily Kwong talks with Short Wave producer Thomas Lu about some of the processes that create the texture of ice cream, and how that texture plays into our enjoyment of the tasty treat.

You can follow Thomas on twitter @thomasuylu and Emily @emilykwong1234. Email the show with suggestions or thoughts at ShortWave@NPR.org.

The Joy Of Ice Cream's Texture

The Joy Of Ice Cream's Texture

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The average American eats more than 22 pounds of ice cream an frozen treats a year. Westend61/Getty Images/Westend61 hide caption

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Westend61/Getty Images/Westend61

The average American eats more than 22 pounds of ice cream an frozen treats a year.

Westend61/Getty Images/Westend61

The average American eats more than 22 pounds of ice cream and frozen treats a year, according to the International Dairy Foods Association (we at Short Wave don't think that's nearly enough!).

Flavors range from the classics — vanilla and chocolate — to the adventurous — jalapeño and cicadas. For ice cream scientist Dr. Maya Warren flavor is only one part of the ice cream allure.

"It is such a sensation experience because it's not just about the flavor itself," she says. "Some ice cream products might have more air, some might have less air, some might have a little bit of a coarser texture, some might have a little bit of a kind of a weaker texture. Some may have a fuller texture."

A lot of the texture develops during a process called dynamic freezing--when the ice cream mixture is, basically, churning and freezing at the very same time.

Each individual component or step in the making of ice cream changes its microstructure — and ultimately what we taste and feel in our mouths.

Emily Kwong talks with Short Wave producer Thomas Lu about some of the processes that create the texture of ice cream, and how that texture plays into our enjoyment of the tasty treat. Be sure to catch our episode about brain freeze, too!

Ice Cream In A Bag Recipe:

Ingredients:

  • One gallon-sized zip bag 
  • One quart-sized zip bag
  • One cup of half & half (or equal parts milk and cream)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1.5 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 cups ice
  • ⅓ cup kosher salt (or ice cream salt--the bigger the grain, the better

Recipe:

  1. Mix the half and half, sugar, and vanilla extract together
  2. Pour this mixture into the quart size bag and seal, making sure to press out the air. Set aside.
  3. Fill the gallon size bag with 3 cups of ice, roughly half the bag
  4. Sprinkle in the kosher salt 
  5. Place the smaller bag in the larger bag. Again, press out the air and seal.
  6. With a towel or oven mitts, hold the bag and shake for about 10-15 minutes. Check the ice cream mixture periodically to make sure it's firming up. If not, add more ice and salt.
  7. Once the ice cream mixture is firm, or close to ice cream consistency, your ice cream in a bag is ready to enjoy

You can follow Thomas on twitter @thomasuylu and Emily @emilykwong1234. Email the show with suggestions or thoughts at ShortWave@NPR.org.

This episode was reported and produced by Thomas Lu with help from Rebecca Ramirez, edited by Gisele Grayson, and fact-checked by Indi Khera. The audio engineer for this episode was Gilly Moon.