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|Dibs Bite-Sized Ice Cream Snacks have dibs on dessert-lovers craving convenience.|
|The low-carb craze ain't what it used to be, but it's not altogether gone, either, as sales of Breyers' CarbSmart will attest.|
|Science of ice cream|
For its manufacturers, the science of ice cream matters a lot, reports Science News. To satisfy the population's unceasing demand for the sweet stuff, companies are constantly on the lookout for ways to make better-tasting ice cream that lasts longer, costs less and is more nutritious than current varieties.
Besides cream, ice cream has just a few essential ingredients: mainly sugar, milk solids, ice crystals, air and flavorings. Sugar makes the dessert sweet, but it also serves another important purpose. In the freezer, plain cream turns into a solid that's hard as a rock. Sugar lowers the mixture's freezing temperature, making it much softer.
The highest quality ice cream varieties have the fewest ingredients, tend to have the least air (15 percent to 20 percent), which makes them denser, and the most butterfat (14 percent). Regular ice cream is 60-62 percent water and 10 percent butterfat. Air is pumped into ice cream near the end of the manufacturing process, after the basic ingredients have been mixed together and cooled down but before fillings, chunks and other flavorings go in.
As the concoction freezes in a huge container, large blades spin the creamy goo around and scrape ice crystals off the sides of the container. For high-end brands with lots of butterfat, the process is enough to prevent iciness. Some companies churn their ice cream slowly and for a long time, a process that helps fat globules stick together and produces a creamy texture.
Economy brands that skimp on richness and are churned more quickly, however, have to add extra ingredients. Emulsifiers, for example, keep fat suspended throughout the final product, and stabilizers control the growth of ice crystals.
In the battle against ice crystals, one recent avenue of research has focused on molecules called antifreeze proteins. Found in certain types of fish and plants that live in extremely cold environments, these proteins prevent ice crystals from forming, which keeps the organisms from freezing to death. Speculation is they could do the same for ice cream in the future.
In the meantime, many companies are trying hard to make ice cream that is both yummy and healthy. In its traditional form, ice cream is loaded with calories and fat, which carries the flavor and produces the smooth texture. All that fat, however, is a problem when it comes to obesity, diabetes, heart disease and other weight-related illnesses. It’s difficult to create a low-fat version of ice cream that tastes as good as the real thing. Once you start taking out fats, water content can shoot up to 70-78 percent.
|Indulgence in Europe|
According to the latest research from Euromonitor International, private label manufacturers are increasingly focusing on single, traditional flavored ice creams, so Western Europe manufacturers are opting to increase differentiation for premium products by introducing new lines featuring unusual combinations of flavors. Known as the “premiumization of flavor,” these artisanal ice creams are aimed at a more demanding consumer, willing to pay a higher price for more sophisticated products.
Chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, lemon, traditional “turrón” and coffee are the most popular artisanal ice cream flavors in Spain, and cookie-flavored ice cream is gaining in popularity. In France, consumers prefer chocolate, vanilla and fruits of the forest. Vanilla remains the most popular ice cream flavor in the UK, followed by chocolate and its variants (such as double chocolate chip), which accounted for a 26 percent share of volume sales in 2004. In Italy, the most popular artisanal flavors are nuts, chocolate, coffee, lemon, strawberry and stracciatella. Belgians favor vanilla, chocolate, mocha and caramel.
Ice cream is associated with pleasure and experimentation of flavors. This new concept of mixed sensation-based pleasure is reflected in the names of recent introductions, such as Nestlé Schöller’s (Germany) new Schokolade Orange, a chocolate and orange ice cream refined with spices for a unique exotic taste. Evoking sensuality and pleasure are Frigo’s Cornetto Love Passion (hazelnut-stracciatella and tiramisú-cinnamon, nut and herbal flavors) in Spain, or Unilever’s Seven Sins intense pleasure in the Netherlands.
According to a recent survey conducted by the Italian Ice Cream Trade Assn. (AIG), relatively unusual flavors, such as pink pepper, chili and nutmeg, are increasing in popularity, with nuts and chocolate also being confirmed among the most in-demand. However, some exotic flavors introduced just a few years ago such as kiwi, papaya and coconut, reportedly are declining.
A further trend in Western Europe is the increasing importance of fruit flavors, which are perceived as healthy as well as pleasurable. In the Netherlands, a new Orange Fresh flavor of the brand Solero was launched. The formula contains 50 percent fruit and only 4 percent fat.
|Defining ice cream|
USDA’s specific rules define what can and can't be labeled "ice cream." To bear the "Meets USDA Ingredient Standard for Ice Cream" stamp, it has to contain at least 10 percent milk fat and a minimum of six percent non-fat milk solids, and a gallon must weigh at least 4.5 pounds.
The range of milk fat (sometimes referred to as butter fat) used in ice cream can range from the minimum 10 percent to a maximum of about 16 percent. Most premium ice creams use 14 percent milk fat. Higher fat content leads to better, richer taste and a creamier texture. Ice cream makers don't go higher than 16 percent because it would be costly and highly caloric.
The recipe for ice cream is simple, but in scientific terms, it's complicated stuff. Ice cream is a colloid, a type of emulsion — a combination of two substances that don't normally mix together. Instead, one of the substances is dispersed throughout the other. In ice cream, molecules of fat are suspended in a water-sugar-ice structure along with air bubbles. The presence of air means that ice cream is also technically a foam, according to HowStuffWorks.
In addition to milk fat, non-fat milk solids, sugar and air, ice cream also contains stabilizers and emulsifiers. Stabilizers help hold the air bubble structure together and give the ice cream a better texture. Although gelatin was originally used as a stabilizer, xanthan gum, guar gum and other compounds are used today. Emulsifiers keep the ice cream smooth and aid the distribution of the fat molecules throughout the colloid. Egg yolks once were used, but ice cream manufacturers now tend to use other chemical compounds. These stabilizers and emulsifiers make up a very small proportion (less than one percent) of the ice cream.
|An ice cream diet?|
New research shows that ice cream — when eaten as part of a healthy diet — may actually melt away fat, helping you lose extra pounds faster than if you had abstained. Aficionados will be happy to know that Prevention magazine developed The Ice Cream Diet. A dish a day helps you: keep bones strong; burn fat more efficiently; lower high blood pressure; crush cravings; ease PMS symptoms; fight colon cancer; stop bingeing; cut stroke risk; boost immunity; and prevent kidney stones.
Women get 1 cup and men get 1 1/2 cups of ice cream every day. You'll still drop pounds, because your treat is factored in to a nutritious diet that totals 1,500 calories a day for women and 2,000 calories for men. Since you'll be cutting 300 to 500 calories from a typical daily intake, women can lose up to 30 lbs. and men as much as 50 lbs. in a year.
To keep calories in check, you'll need to choose a reduced-calorie ice cream. But don't say yuck just yet. There are some great choices that meet the diet's guidelines of 125 calories or less per 1/2-cup serving and at least 10 percent of calcium's daily value of 100 mg per serving.
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