I am an unabashed fan of Haagen Daz ice cream, not because of its fancy name, but because it is by far the best tasting ice cream available in the supermarket. The reason it tastes better than any of its competitors is the absence of certain “natural” ingredients that all other so-called “quality” ice creams contain.
The ingredients of which I speak are the additives that allow the product to maintain its shape even though it may partially melt after it leaves the manufacturer and before it is placed in the supermarket freezer. In short, these ingredients are added to cover up for sloppy handling of the product. The result, though, is an oily or greasy coating on the tongue to which most people have become accustomed as part of their regular ice cream experience.
Real ice cream, I learned many years ago when I began cooking my own custard and hand-cranking home-made French vanilla ice cream, has a short list of ingredients: milk, cream, eggs, sugar, and vanilla. That’s all. The list of ingredients on a Haagen Daz carton does not vary much from that simple recipe. But be prepared to see many other items on cartons of other ice creams.
Here is my list of “things to look out for” in so-called “quality” ice cream, along with a little information about each one (the sources for this information can be found in the hyperlinks):
|“Corn syrup is a food syrup which is made from the starch of corn (called maize in some countries) and contains varying amounts of maltose and higher oligosaccharides, depending on the grade. Corn syrup, also known as glucose syrup to confectioners, is used in foods to soften texture, add volume, prevent crystallization of sugar, and enhance flavor.”
|“Guar gum is a fiber from the seed of the guar plant.
Guar gum is used as a laxative. It is also used for treating diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), obesity, and diabetes; for reducing cholesterol; and for preventing “hardening of the arteries” (atherosclerosis).
In foods and beverages, guar gum is used as a thickening, stabilizing, suspending, and binding agent.”
“In hydrofracking, guar gum is used to thicken water, which allows it to move grains of sand underground more effectively than water alone would.”
|“Xanthan gum is a substance used in making some foods and medications. It has different effects in these products: It can add thickness, keep textures from changing, and hold ingredients in place.
Xanthan gum is produced by fermenting a carbohydrate (a substance that contains sugar) with Xanthomonas campestris bacteria, then processing it.”
|“Carrageenan is a common food additive that is extracted from a red seaweed, Chondrus crispus, which is popularly known as Irish moss. Carrageenan, which has no nutritional value, has been used as a thickener and emulsifier to improve the texture of ice cream, yogurt, cottage cheese, soy milk, and other processed foods.”
|“Soy lecithin is a fatty substance that is extracted from soy beans. It is a common food additive that helps oil and water mix, and also works as a lubricant, an anti-foaming agent and a wetting agent.
The primary purpose of soy lecithin is as an emulsifier in food products. Salad dressings, spreads, chocolate and other fatty processed foods contain soy lecithin to keep the oil from separating from the other ingredients. Non-stick sprays contain soy lecithin as a lubricant, and bakers use soy lecithin on their dough to prevent stickiness.”
If you need a graphic illustration of how these additives affect the ice cream, put equal amounts of Haagen Daz and another brand of ice cream into separate bowls and let them melt at room temperature. You will see that the Haagen Daz melts into an actual liquid, resembling eggnog. The others will be gooey, lumpy messes that are neither liquid nor solid. Is that what you want from your favorite dessert?
Other ice cream brands may be more popular, less expensive, or offer cleverly named flavors, but they can’t beat the taste or mouth feel of good old Haagen Daz. I hope the Nestle company can maintain the purity of this superior product. Otherwise, I’ll have to go back to hand cranking my home-made French vanilla ice cream.