The Structure of Ice Cream

Appears in
The Fundamental Techniques of Classic Cuisine

By French Culinary Institute

Published 2021

  • About

Scientifically speaking, ice cream is a foam and an emulsion that has been stabilized by the freezing of much of its liquid. According to food scientist Harold McGee in his book On Food and Cooking,

The structure of ice cream, when viewed under a microscope, reveals four phases. Even at freezer temperature, there is some liquid left, containing dissolved salt, sugars and suspended milk proteins. There are tiny ice crystals, composed of pure water, and there are solid globules of milk fat. Finally, there are air cells, which should be very small. Sometimes there is a fifth, undesirable phase, which are crystals of lactose (milk sugar), usually occurring with custards made from whole cream, which give a gritty texture to the final product. Each phase makes its own contribution to the character of the ice cream.