The Science of Ben & Jerry’s-Style Core Ice Cream

Well pals, I may have outdone myself this time. I decided to emulate the ever-wonderful Ben and Jerry. Aren’t they just the best? Ben & Jerry’s ice cream is definitely the greatest part of any evening in. (If you don’t believe me, Yahoo Food is helping make this tradition even more decadent with wine pairings!) And the new core ice creams are my favorite addition to the repertoire so far. Tell me you’ve had a chance to try the cookie butter varieties.

But guess what?! I did an article for the Small Batch Column over at Food52 where you can create your very own Ben & Jerry’s core ice creams at home! So be sure to head on over there to learn all about it. I created a brownie batter core in the middle of butterscotch vanilla and salty chocolate pretzel ice creams.

Before you run to the store so that you can create this sweet treat, I wanted to explain a bit about the magic behind this recipe (because what would a post be without science?). This recipe uses a no-churn tactic so that you can do everything at home. I recently did a post about sorbets and explained everything you wanted to know and more about ice crystal formation. But if you haven’t had a chance to check it out, I’ll give you the quick version.

Basically when something freezes, the water molecules begin to move very slowly and eventually crystallize to create a solid. Those crystals will continue to grow as long as there is available liquid water around it. When ice crystals grow large, the texture becomes very coarse and unpleasant. In fact, if there is enough water, the food will become completely solid, like a rock, such as ice!

In order to create a nice and creamy texture, we want to prevent the ice crystals from growing any larger than they have to. In order to do this, we have to literally get in between water molecules so that they do not interact with each other. An ice cream machine is extremely effective at this by introducing air into the ice cream mix during churning. Air will physically separate the water molecules forcing its way throughout the mix. Commercially, this is called overrun.

Additional tactics in play with ice cream are sugar and fat. The sugar binds water in the mix and prevents complete freezing whilst fat works similarly to the air. Milk fat is distributed in the mix creating an emulsion. That milk fat is very unfriendly with the water and inhibits it from moving around by keeping it in its place.

This no-churn recipe uses the two ingredients of sweetened condensed milk and heavy whipping cream to emulate its ice cream machine counterparts. The sweetened condensed milk is very high in sugar forming that first level of ice crystal growth protection. And of course a ton of sticky sweet flavor. The heavy whipping cream adds the fat into the recipe while whipping it mimics the churning process by introducing some air to the mix. These techniques will help you beat the heat this summer and bypass that tricky ice cream machine once and for all. (Though if space is the issue you have with buying an ice cream machine, check out Claudia Wu’s solution!)

Now that you know the always-important science of the recipe, please head over to Food52 for the full story and step by step instructions!

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