About this Article
Written by: Stephanie Ego
Written on: March 1st, 2017
Tags: health & medicine, food & drink, water, lifestyle, material science, chemical engineering
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About the Author
Stephanie Ego is a senior studying chemical engineering at the University of Southern California.
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Volume XVIII Issue I > Engineering Ice Cream
When you put a spoonful of your favorite ice cream into your mouth, you are enraptured by blasts of flavor, its creamy texture, and coolness on your tongue. Ice cream makers have the same qualities in mind when they are formulating the recipe to their next frozen creation. But, more specifically they are mulling over which ingredients and mixing processes they should utilize to achieve these desired ice cream attributes. Advanced technology and research has allowed us to engineer ice cream in unthinkable ways, ranging from different flavors to controlling the size of fat globules and ice crystals.

A Short History of Ice Cream

The invention of ice cream is not accredited to any individual, but the icy treat’s origin dates back as early as the 12th century in Asia where they used snow to freeze their beverages. According to legend, Macro Polo, the famous 13th century merchant, returned to Italy with “water ice” recipes from the Orient. From here, the popularity of iced water inevitably spread throughout Europe, making its way into high courts and eventually the general population. People began experimenting with different ingredients and freezing processes to meet the public’s desires. For example, as early as 1530, people were freezing water using salt; and by the 18th century, cookbooks started including recipes that used milk, cream, sugar, and eggs, which are common ingredients we see in ice cream today [1, 2].
In the 19th century, the ice cream industry took off in the United States. This was made possible by inventions such as the hand-cranked ice cream freezer, mechanical refrigeration, and the direct expansion ice cream freezer that replaced expensive ice harvesting. At the same time, essential ingredients such as cream, eggs, and sugar became more available and new technologies such as the pasteurizer and homogenizer revolutionized the way ice cream was made [1].

Engineering the Perfect Scoop

Today, the basic process of making ice cream can be outlined into four steps as seen in Fig. 1: mixing the ingredients, pasteurization, homogenization, and adding flavors and freezing [2]. These processes have been modified to control microscopic (small-scale) and macroscopic (large-scale) properties of the ice cream; for example: flavor, sanitation, melting resistance, and texture.​
Figure 1: Process of making ice cream starting with mixing the ingredients, pasteurization, homogenization, and ending with the addition of flavors and freezing.