Ice Cream Stands the Test of Time, Food Science Prof Says

Ice cream. It’s the snack that draws fans from the youngest children to the oldest seniors, and it has stood the test of time.

When ice cream manufacturers want to learn the craft, they turn to University of Guelph food science professor Doug Goff.

Goff teaches the University’s long-running “Ice Cream Technology” course and is regarded as the leading Canadian expert on making ice cream. A professor at Guelph since 1987, he has 40 to 50 manufacturers, suppliers and regulators sign up for the week-long course each year.

To Goff, that interest shows the enduring popularity of the frozen treat, especially during the summer months.

“Part of the appeal is obviously the taste, which is sweet, creamy and cold,” he said.

“But ice cream has always had a social appeal, bringing back memories of good times. It may remind people of birthday parties or sitting in a park on a hot summer day. “

Despite the low-fat, low-calorie movement, ice cream continues to be the dessert of choice for many, said Goff.

“In my view, it’s all about portion size. There’s room in a healthy diet for ice cream, but maybe not for three scoops each day.”

Goff grew up in Nova Scotia and his father was in the ice cream business, so he was used to having several flavours of ice cream in his family’s freezer. He now sees changes he could not have imagined 40 or 50 years ago.

“Ice cream can be a very traditional product, but we’re seeing tremendous improvements in ingredient and manufacturing technology, presentation and flavours,” he said.

“There are hot and spicy flavours, such as jalapeno or wasabi, and vegetable ones, such as green bean, corn, beet or sweet potato. I’ve seen fish flavours, and met an ice cream maker in Sonoma, California, who made red and white wine ice creams. I’ve tried many of them, but maybe the most surprising one I tried was a blue cheese ice cream.”

He always looks to vanilla as the standard for judging ice cream. For him, there is more to ice cream than flavour.

“You have to consider a range of factors, including fat content, fat structure, air content, the size of ice crystals and the ingredients used. I believe you should be able to tell an ice cream flavour blindfolded.”

Like some people, he occasionally makes ice cream at home, although he says the quality is lower than industry-made.

“You can make an ice cream with good flavour, but you can’t replicate the smoothness with a home freezer. If you do make it at home, make just a small amount that you can eat within a week, and if you let it get a little warmer and softer before you eat it, it seems smoother,” he said.

He remains convinced the appeal of the frozen snack will endure.

“There are a lot of emotions attached to ice cream. The love for it spans all generations.”