The word “neutral” is one of the most frequently used in the artisanal ice cream shop setting.
But, how many people know what that word means? And, above all, how many people who work with artisanal ice creams really know the use and characteristics of these products which are on the market in both semi-manufactured and other preparations?
In everyday practice, the term “neutral” indicates, generically, a powder or paste that does not have any particular colour, odour or flavour and, as a result, is called neutral.
Apart for this generic classification, a “neutral” represents one or more additives used in foods with different functions which can be summarised, in the case of artisanal ice cream, basically as follows:
This is the mechanism that reduces the surface tension that water exerts on fat molecules allowing them to become soluble. The function of emulsifier neutrals, which are mono- or di-glycerides of fatty acids (E-471) or different esters of the same acids (E-472), is to allow this mechanism to be checked, improving the solubility of the fat and the personality of the ice cream. Evidently these neutral ingredients are only and exclusively needed in the presence of fat molecules. In the past egg yolks were used as they contain lecithin which is an ideal emulsifier.
This is the term that refers to the ability of a product to stabilise the “activity of water”, that is to say, to bond to one of its molecules so it is not free in the food, altering its characteristics. The neutrals are generally very complex chain polysaccharides that, other than stabilising the water present in all ice cream, also have a densifying and gelling function which gives the food its best personality. Among the most widely recognised and used are locust bean gum (E-410) and guar gum (E-412).
The correct use of the neutrals will always be related to the type of ice cream we prepare and the production method we adopt in our ice cream shop. A neutral for sorbets will not be the same as a neutral for ice cream with nuts or chocolate, such that we use one neutral or another according to whether we are working warm or cold.
Normally, being expensive products, proper knowledge of each one is basic to improving our final product and making our business profitable.