What is artisanal ice cream?
There are an enormous number or products displayed and sold on the market under the name artisanal ice cream, as there is no specific standard that establishes any criteria or set characteristics.
In reality, any establishment that has a small laboratory can present itself to the public as “artisanal”, many times based on a growing and determined industry of semi-manufactured products that are diminishing and disparaging the image of artisanal ice cream in the world by pursuing only increased sales and profit.
In the last 20 years well-known brands that we will not mention have been pushing the idea of an artisanal ice cream that is quite artificial, progressively spreading commercial products well beyond the criteria of genuineness and naturalness that belong to the true artisanal ice cream tradition.
But, how can we recognise and distinguish between an authentic artisanal ice cream and any other?
We all relate to the external world through our senses and according to the perception and sensitivity we have for things. When evaluating and tasting food, our neuro-physiological senses (smell, taste, sight) and the knowledge we have about what we are eating are fundamental.
Every food item has properties known as organoleptic, which are those properties that activate the senses of a person as it comes near them and which trigger neuro-hormonal reactions.
Smell, colour and, secondarily, flavour work to activate the cerebral archetype of what we are eating, allowing us to recognise and define what is artisanal.
When evaluating a good ice cream, we must never forget that this represents a mixture of a number of ingredients with different organoleptic properties that produce a completely different food product on the food map; to flavour we must also add the mouthfeel of creaminess and the typical texture of this type of food.
We will try to define the concepts:
A good artisanal ice cream, above all related to the low temperatures at which it is kept, will never give off a strong smell. Placing the nose up close to it, we will perceive a moderate aroma that fits with the flavour we have chosen and, in the case of cream, the typical smell of whole milk dairy products.
Any aggressive smell indicates the use of artificial flavours or the organic breakdown of the raw ingredients used.
A good artisanal ice cream will have attenuated colours as the result of the mixing of those colours. Both the sugars and the dairy products needed in any type of ice cream have a neutral colour that naturally reduces the intensity of the colours of the other raw ingredients.
For example, a strawberry sorbet, even when made up of 50% strawberries, will see the colour of its strawberries softened in relation to the water and sugars we add. An ice cream with intense colours will always have been made with artificial colourings.
A good artisanal ice cream is the result of a mixture of ingredients with their own flavour characteristics. The flavour of the main ingredient will predominate in relation to the taste one has chosen without forgetting the typical flavours of the milk in the cream, for example.
Sensations of rancidness or fermentation indicate the organic breakdown of the basic raw ingredients.
Flavours come close to the natural ones of each ingredient present in the mix and any increase in flavour shows the use of artificial flavourings. Sweetness and acidity are also prominent in the balance of the final flavour of every ice cream.
A good artisanal ice cream must combine basic organoleptic characteristics, a good creaminess on the lips, tongue and palate will allow us to appreciate what is called texture.
Proper texture has these characteristics:
- A creamy feeling without fattiness
- A welcome coldness, but not iciness
- A feeling of body without chewiness
- A moderate rate of melting
- A firm structure
- An absence of grittiness
- An absence of aeriform markings
- A restrained volume