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When you think about it, an ice cream is actually quite a complex composition – it should be solid, yet soft, and should preferably stay that way while melting slowly. If you simply put a batch of cream in the freezer, you would not end up with ice cream, but with a block of hard-frozen, solid cream. The reason for the delicate nature of ice cream is ultimately a matter of food chemistry.
Lisa Valmorbida, owner of cult gelateria Pidapipo, trained and worked as a chef before deciding she wanted to specialise in something. Coming from an Italian family she grew up immersed in its culture and food and always loved gelato. She learnt how to make it from the best in Italy then brought it back to Australia. According to Lisa who gets her flavour inspirations from in season produce, desserts, art and even music, says the secret to authentic Italian gelato is,
“using the best produce, freshness of it being churned, correct levels of sweetness and fat content and temperature it is served.”
Sugar is used in ice cream and gelato recipes primarily as a sweetener but is also plays an important role in producing the right texture. This is because sugar affects the freezing point of foods. The higher the concentration of sugar, the lower the freezing point.
A low freezing point is important in ice cream and frozen desserts. It reduces the risk of large crystals of ice forming. Small ice crystals have a positive effect on the sensation in the mouth, and hence on the taste. So logically, the more sugar you use the softer the ice cream will be.
The best sugar to use is pure cane or caster sugar as this affects the taste and texture the least, and your mixture remains creamy and smooth – pretty much everything you’d want in an iced dessert.