Science Never Tasted So Good—Especially On a Hot Summer Day!
Milk Makes It Creamy and Delicious
Milk or cream are necessary ingredients in our favorite frozen treat—ice cream! We all scream for ice cream that gets its smooth, creamy texture from milkfat. In fact, the USDA requires at least 10 percent milkfat must come from milk or cream for a treat to be called an ice cream.
The milkfat in ice cream gives ice cream its creamy, rich taste and smooth, luscious feeling in your mouth. The creamiest ice creams have about 16 percent fat.
Can You Guess the Top Four
Most Popular Flavors of Ice Cream?
The Air in There
Did you know that an important ingredient in ice cream is air? When ice cream is stirred and mixed, tiny air bubbles get mixed in with everything else. These air pockets increase the volume and make the ice cream fluffy. It makes it easier to scoop, too!
According to “The Secret Science of Ice Cream” on the American Chemical Society webpage, the solid ice crystals, liquid syrup, and air make ice cream a combination of all three states of matter! This is just one of the cool secrets you can discover at www.acs.org.
The air is one reason why the ice cream rises to the surface in an ice cream float. Two other components in ice cream also cause it to float—ice cream has a lot of fat, which floats, and ice crystals which float.
Soft serve has even more air than regular ice cream. The machine mixes in the air during freezing, which is what makes soft serve soft!
The air in ice cream can also explain why ice cream isn’t as good if you refreeze it after it gets soupy. When ice cream melts, the liquid ice cream fills up the air pockets. When it refreezes, there are fewer air pockets, so the ice cream is less airy and fluffy. Plus, when the original tiny ice crystals melt, refreezing ice cream will make larger ice crystals which makes the ice cream too crunchy.
Thanks to Your Taste Buds, It Tastes Great!
Your taste buds send messages to your brain to tell it if what you are eating is sweet, sour, bitter or salty. Your taste buds are located on your tongue. Stick out your tongue while looking in a mirror—those bumps on your tongue are called papillae and most of them contain taste buds.
Microvilli are the specialized hairlike structures located at the surface of taste buds in microscopic openings called taste pores. The microvilli detect dissolved chemicals ingested in food, which leads to the sensation of taste. Your nose also plays an important role. The way food smells is conveyed to the brain through your olfactory receptors, and that also affects the way you experience tastes.
The average person has around 10,000 taste buds. Your taste buds get replaced about every two weeks. That’s twice as fast as your skin, which regenerates approximately every four weeks.
Uh Oh, Brain Freeze
Have you ever gotten a brain freeze from eating ice cream? Why does that happen and what can you do?
The roof of your mouth has lots of nerves. When cold ice cream comes into contact with these nerves, it causes blood vessels in the brain to dilate, giving the short headache also known as an ice cream headache. If you get an ice cream headache, you can try to relieve it by running your tongue around the roof of your mouth or drinking some warm (not hot) water.
We All Scream for Ice Cream!
The average American eats about 22–23 gallons of ice cream each year. The U.S. is the leading producer of ice cream in the world, and about 9 percent of all cows milk in America is used to make ice cream!
The love of ice cream is not recent, it goes back—way back! The emperors of the Tang Dynasty in China were first recorded enjoying a frozen milk treat between 618 and 907. But the Chinese may have been enjoying a type of ice cream made with milk, rice and snow even further back, about the second century BCE. Alexander the Great reportedly liked nectar and honey flavored snow back in the fourth century BCE.
President George Washington spent approximately $200 for ice cream during the summer of 1790, according to the records of a New York merchant. Dolly Madison is said to have served strawberry ice cream at the second inaugural ball of her husband, President James Madison, in 1812.
In 1984, President Ronald Reagan designated July as National Ice Cream Month and the third Sunday of the month as National Ice Cream Day. In the proclamation, President Reagan called for all people of the United States to observe these events with “appropriate ceremonies and activities.”
Adding salt to ice lowers its freezing point, which makes it colder than ice on its own. This is key to helping the milk and cream mixture freeze. By shaking it, you’re helping all parts of the mixture freeze evenly, which gives the ice cream its smooth texture!