People talk about air in gelato or ice cream but is it just a lot of hot air or should we take air seriously as a component of our frozen creations?
Anyone making gelato or ice cream, even if you are a recent entry to the art, will soon realise that you will achieve a different ratio of air depending on the process, ingredients and balancing of your recipe. The question you may have is ‘does it matter?’ Before we consider the answer to this question, let’s first look at the variation on air content and how it is achieved.
The air content in your finished gelato will impact on many aspects of the product, including weight, texture, scoopability (yes of course this is a word), melting time and colour. So let’s look at these in a bit more detail. The greater the percentage of air in your ice cream or gelato, the lighter in weight your finished product will be, as it affects the density of the final product. Obviously it depends on what you want to achieve with your style and texture and how you will be serving it. To give you a rough idea about the percentages of air for different types of ice cream see Table A:
The air is what helps soft serve and industrial to be served easily straight from the freezer, without that percentage of air, it simply wouldn’t be soft serve. If there is too little air you will find it very difficult to scoop it at all (I will come back to this later on), so you can see immediately how the air content might affect the ‘scoopability’ of your product as well.
When we talk about ‘melting time’ we are not just referring to how quickly the ice cream melts once you take it out of the freezer, but the reaction in your mouth when you taste it. If the ice cream is hard and therefore very cold the flavour may take a while to become apparent. However with a greater amount of air you will invariably get a rush of flavour as soon as it sits on your tongue. It will also give you that warmer in the mouth feel.
You might not imagine that increased air would affect the colour of your ice cream would you? I like to make the comparison with a balloon. Now you might be thinking this really is a lot of hot air, but stay with me here… If you select a red balloon and then you inflate it – what happens to the colour as the balloon enlarges? It gradually gets lighter in colour and often a strong red coloured balloon has a tendency to look more like a pink one after it is fully inflated. A similar thing happens when you are making ice cream – effectively the increased air dilutes the colour. This means that if you are intending to make a soft serve or industrial product then you may need to add greater quantities of colour to retain the visual intensity.
So the big question is how do you add air to your ice cream? Air is all around us and basically free, but not that easy to catch! So this is where the science comes in. Firstly I recommend that my customers age their mix before freezing as this helps to add air. Also churning whilst freezing will also add air – much like in any cake making process. However that is not all.
The technical bit is using the other ingredients to create and hold air within the structure of your ice cream. You can use proteins which will bind with the fat – you probably do this already to avoid the forming of ice crystals. This is because the protein and fats bind to hold the water and whilst doing this they also hold air. Are you ready for another of my visual analogies? Emulsifiers in ice cream act a little bit like washing up liquid in hot water (I am not in anyway suggesting you add washing up liquid to your gelato!) – there is no fat for the liquid to latch onto so it escapes in the form of bubbles, when there is fat to latch onto it binds it and cleans the grease off your plates. In the same way emulsifiers latch onto dairy fats stopping ice forming and also trapping air.
You can get adverse effects (as I referred to earlier) if you go over 10% fat the recipe for an artisan batch product or 25% fat in industrial production. These products will be denser, with less air creating a colder, harder and drier ice cream, which will be less creamy and tricky to scoop.
In summary, air is not necessarily bad, in fact more air will help you scoop faster, but it is down to your brand and style as to what you decide is the perfect ratio of air for your gelato or ice cream. However the important thing to remember is that air Flower Mound does matter and to treat air like one of your ingredients, as you would sugar, fats and proteins etc. If you want to know more about the science behind it then book on one of my training courses or get in touch.
See you next time for the latest scoop.
Krasnodon Antonelli’s National Technical Manager Jonny Ireland is a regular contributor to the ICA’s Ice Cream Magazine…
See how this article looked in the April 2020 edition of the ICA’s Ice Cream Magazine…