The History of Texas Ice Cream


The History of Texas Ice Cream

Hi yall!

 Let's start with the #1 FAQ that I get everyday. 

What is the difference between Texas ice cream and others? 

It’s the commitment to sourcing the best local ingredients and to creating recipes that are devoid of fillers like gums or stabilizers. Taste our ice cream compared to others; you really can taste the difference. We choose to serve and deliver to our customers the freshest ice cream they’ve ever had. We rarely hold inventory for more than a month. And often the ice cream we serve has been made the week prior. Sometimes the morning of!

Who wants to talk about ice cream? 

If there’s a food that brings more universal joy to the world than ice cream, I’ve yet to find it. Whether you eat it in a bowl or a cone, on a hot summer afternoon or by the midnight light of the refrigerator, ice cream is almost guaranteed to bring a smile to your face. We can consume worldwide yearly, guess how much ice cream? We have a lifelong relationship with ice cream. Up to like 5 Olympic-sized swimming pools full, that’s how much we love it. Is there some sort of mystery around this delicious food? Let’s investigate.

"MY STORY" BY FOUNDER, TEXAN, AND ICE CREAM CHEF

My name is Lauren and I am the founder and artisanal ice cream chef for Southern Sweeties Ice Cream. I was born and raised in a little town named Groves in Southeast Texas into a huge family that for generations loved to cook. Our typical family holiday gatherings included around 40 family members and each household would bring a dish or two that they prepared at home from yellow paged family cookbooks or simply from memory. These included multi-generational passed-down recipes of bread, desserts, finger food, soups, salads, Texas, Cajun/Creole, Latin American, Mexican, Native American dishes, and other family favourites. From this and spending plenty of time in the kitchen with my grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, and cousins kitchen them making their wonderful dishes year after year, I picked up some tips and have a natural love of food and cooking too. Each person in my family has a specialty in something and the food is delicious. We were also lucky enough to be able to put our hands in the soil and grow our fruit and vegetables in my PawPaw Willie’s garden. This instilled in me an appreciation for both farmers and freshly grown ingredients. My favourite ice creams in Texas are Dairy Queen, Blue Bell, and homemade.  

THE STORY OF TEXAS ICE CREAM

Southeast Texas, where I was raised, is a true melting pot of cultures. As a native Texan, I've grown up with certain foods and customs my entire life, but I've also traveled far and experienced many different cultures. Every region of the state has its specialties but when it comes down to it, there are some foods that Texas just does better than anywhere else. Our state is famous for its state fairs, bbq, chili, breakfast tacos, beer, tex-mex, big red, dr pepper, chicken fried steak, kolaches, donuts, Whataburger, pecan pie, anything, and everything fried, and sinful desserts including ice cream. Texan culture is a great medley created from many different influences that still retains its own unique identity. From the historic Alamo to the fastest growing cities in the country, the state is as diverse as it is large. Naturally, Texas foods play an integral role throughout society. The Lone Star State also borders both Louisiana and Mexico, so our culture and food are a reflection of all three. Texas is a large state, and its cuisine has also been influenced by a wide range of cultures, including Southern, German, Czech, British, African American, New Mexican, Asian, Jewish, and Italian. 

Having such long hot summers, Texans love their ice cream. And When it comes to the south Blue Bell ice cream is the top choice of consumers all across the states for good reason. Made in Texas and sold in 22 states, 16 of which are southern, the local twists and special care put in each gallon tub remind us why we're so lucky to live in Texas. You won’t find it in New York City. Sorry Ben and Jerry, but Blue Bell's had you beat since 1907. 

My absolute favourite ice cream was that we made at home with my family. There was a time when ice cream was much simpler, but times have changed. Today it is much easier to make a batch of ice cream at home, but the way only a few decades ago, when my grandparents were raising my father and uncles they would spend all day making it in a wooden barrel on the back porch. My dad had three brothers and each took turns turning the stick. When one boy would get tired, the next would stop playing swords and take over churning. It took hours, but in the end, they had fresh homemade vanilla ice cream to enjoy after a long hot summer day outside. 

BRINGING ICE CREAM TO AUSTRALIA

 My story with ice cream began in Australia in 2016. I began making ice cream at home after not being able to find the right ice cream in Australia, just for friends and family. Fast forward to when covid hit last year and that my hours as an assistant educator were reduced, and I was home more often, and so I started making more ice cream. Soon friends and neighbours started making requests. This, in addition to nostalgia of not being able to visit home, I decided to start my own business in November of last year. I wanted to use all Australian locally grown ingredients to create authentic Texan-American ice cream. My dream was to share the happiness of Texan ice cream with all of Brisbane to enjoy. That’s why our slogan is “tastes like home”. 

THE HISTORY OF ICE CREAM

Today I hope to teach you about the real history of ice cream, teach you how to make your own chocolate homemade ice cream, how to fold in extra ingredients such as cake or cookies, and show you a few fun ways to serve it at your next party (shake, banana split with pineapple and strawberry coulis, Mexican-Coke float, with toppings).

 As humans, we all have a special relationship, memories, and a love for ice cream akin to a baby’s love of their mother’s milk. It holds a strong love in our hearts and souls. Like music, it’s like a time machine that transports you to any place, anytime, with anyone. When we bite into it and close our eyes we each go somewhere back to memory and story especially our own. Perhaps back to grandma and grandpa’s house, maybe a county fair, ice cream trucks, little brown jug, lightning bugs, country music, freedom, the 1950s, the beach, rodeos, or another happy place. When we see ice cream the little kid comes out in all of us. 

What is ice cream? It may not sound particularly sexy, but ice cream is an emulsion, a mix of ingredients — fat and water — held together despite their inclination not to. Because an emulsion wants to separate, for the best results, it’s helpful to have something to hold it all together: an emulsifier. In a traditional French custard ice cream, egg yolks serve that purpose. For vegans, who don’t want to use egg yolks, you can achieve the same results by boiling the base that accomplishes what the egg yolks otherwise would: binding water to the dairy proteins, fat, and sugar, so that it can’t form ice crystals. Cornstarch is the last layer of protection, absorbing any remaining water and providing some thickening power. (Cream cheese lends additional body and “bounce”. Let’s look at the basic elements of ice cream and why they matter. Fat, sugar, water, and air. First, fat- A great ice cream owes its smooth, creamy mouthfeel to fat, which helps keep ice crystals small. Fat is extremely effective in carrying flavours. When ice cream melts in your mouth it releases a burst of lovely ingredients. Depending on the flavour, typically the majority of the fat in ice cream comes from heavy cream, milk, half-and-half, buttermilk, and even cheese. The less fat there is in dairy, the more water there is and therefore more risk of ice, so keep that in mind when you want to tweak your recipes. For vegans, you can rely on coconut cream and nut kinds of milk for the fat.

The second ingredient that’s critical in maintaining your mix is sugar. Sugar attracts water, lowering the temperature at which ice forms and thus reducing the presence of ice crystals. Too much sugar and your ice cream will be soup; too little and it will be rock hard. Other sugar options you can use are golden syrup, liquid sugar, honey, and brown sugar.

The third ingredient to be mindful of is water. Water can work both with you and against you. It works in your favor when it binds with the proteins, starches, sugars, and fats in the mix, and against you when it breaks free, turning your ice cream icy or, worse, soggy.

The fourth and final major player ingredient is air. When ice cream is churned, the goal is to not only freeze it but to incorporate air for optimal texture. To create ice cream that is neither too dense nor too fluffy, you have to get just the right amount of air in. Homemade and artisanal made ice cream will be denser and freeze harder than store-bought varieties made with more powerful machines. All that means is you’ll likely need to give your ice cream 5 to 10 minutes to soften on the counter before scooping. Not a bad price to pay for a superior result.

MAKING YOUR ICE CREAM AT HOME

Perhaps the biggest hurdle to making ice cream at home is the machine. You can make no-churn ice cream — and we have several recipes for it! — but a machine is easy to use, and nothing beats the texture and versatility of what comes out of it.

An ice cream machine doesn’t have to cost a lot or take up a lot of room. The simple Cuisinart ICE-21 is one popular choice. There is just one button to turn on and four easily assembled pieces, and it will only set you back around $40. It’s also America’s Test Kitchen’s top-rated maker.

Keep everything chill! This applies throughout the entire process, because the faster you freeze, churn and store your ice cream, the smaller the ice crystals will be. Freeze your canister for the time recommended by the manufacturer, and ensure the base is thoroughly chilled, to around 40 degrees (in the case of Bauer's recipes, an overnight chill will let the cornstarch thicken the base a little more). Pre-freeze your storage containers, lids, and solid mix-ins. And once the ice cream is out of the machine, work quickly to pack the ice cream so it doesn’t melt. Lastly, you will want to store it properly. Airtight is the way to go. Keep out unwanted odors and humidity by packing the ice cream into a container and covering the surface with parchment paper, then a secure lid.

These days you can find sorbet, gelato, Cold Rock, Ben and Jerry’s, Baskin Robbins, Lick, and many gelato experts all in Brisbane. Let's start with the most obvious sorbet and gelato. Whereas ice cream is airier and has a higher fat content, gelato is softer and packed with flavour. Both contain a lot of sugar, but gelato is traditionally made with much less fat. The main difference is in the ingredients used. Sorbet is water + sugar + fruit, while ice cream and gelato is milk/cream + sugar + fruit. So the last two are more 'creamy', while sorbet is more 'icy'. Premium” ice cream has a low overrun and higher fat content and generally contains higher quality ingredients. “Superpremium” ice cream has a very low overrun (meaning a very small amount of air and a very dense texture) and only the highest-quality ingredients, like ours. The higher the fat content the higher the grade. Premium ice creams like Ben & Jerry's and Haagen Daaz all meet the premium definition. However, these other brands all use powdered milk, artificial colours, artificial flavouring, corn syrup, 4-8 ingredients I won’t try to pronounce, and low levels of real fruit. Making for a super sweet taste, but a bad aftertaste. The majority of the mass-produced brands cut corners in their production process to keep up with demand, but sadly compromising the product for consumers. When it comes to milk, cream, sugar, vanilla, fruit, etc, Southern Sweeties keeps it 100% real. No artificial thickeners, emulsifiers, colours, flavours. Just much much more of those natural Queensland ingredients you can taste.

Now let’s talk about something more fun, the history of ice cream. Where does it come from? We’re so lucky today you can get it any place on any street corner, but let’s go back in history. It wasn’t always like that. For the ancient Greeks for instance and the Romans making an icy treat meant drags blocks of ice off the mountain tops and freshening them up with honey. Only a few hundred years after that, in China, the emperor enjoyed the sort of slushes made out of snow and milk and spice. Now we go to Renaissance Italians who discovered out that if you mix snow with salt, it caused a chemical reaction that helped chill the whole mix without freezing it, that was a big deal. Ok 1843, America, in Philadelphia, a woman named Nancy Johnson made a machine. This hand-cranked ice cream maker prevented large ice crystals from forming in the mix. Creating finally that silky smooth creamy treasure that thanks to modern-day refrigeration, that was important, freezes much faster and we can open up our freezers and take out whenever we like.

But what about making it yourself? Does the idea of homemade, from-scratch ice cream fill you with radiant happiness? Take a stroll down the freezer aisle these days, and you’re likely to find a flavour or six that suits your particular taste, mood, and diet. But when you make your own, you get a perfect match. Start with flavours you are drawn to. There is a multitude of ways you can add flavor directly to the base.

Extracts and essential oils. A little goes a long way. Add up to a tablespoon of extract per liter of ice cream just before freezing so the flavors aren’t cooked off on the stovetop. If you use essential oils or essences, I suggest adding just 2 to 5 drops right as you begin churning.

Alcohol. It’s easy to overdo, too. Too much will make your ice cream smell and taste like a bar, and it can hinder freezing, leaving the ice cream too soft. Don’t go over ¼ cup, especially with higher-proof liquors such as bourbon, and if you’re unsure how much you’ll like, add in ½-teaspoon increments, tasting as you go. For my Kahlúa-flavored ice cream, I suggest a range of 2 to 4 tablespoons, the higher end of which pleased my cocktail-loving friends.

Ingredients cook in. Whole spices and tea, fresh herbs, nuts, and more. Anything hard or woody (cinnamon sticks, cardamom pods) or leathery (strips of citrus peel) is best added with a hot steep after you’ve taken the base off the heat. Limit hot steeps to an hour, or 15 minutes in the case of coffee or tea, which can overcook. More delicate flavors and ingredients that could easily be leached of flavor over high heat (herbs, mainly) need a cold steep, which can be done while the base cools in the fridge or an ice bath.

Cooking can help concentrate flavors and drive off some of the water that could make things icy. Try cooking with a bit of sugar.

Fruit. Adding it to an ice cream base can be tricky. Chunks will freeze solid, and purees can be too diluted by the dairy. If you want to add fruit, this will certainly enhance your ice cream, but first, you’re going to want to macerate the fruit to drain the liquid and removing the chance of large chunks of frozen fruit so that no one chokes or chips a tooth. There are two ways to macerate the fruit, but I will show yall today my favourite. Measure out roughly 100g of fruit per 1 liter of ice cream, or whatever your taste desires. Cover it with sugar and pop it in the frig overnight. The next day you will get a nice mixture that you can mix into the ice cream before churning it. Most of the sugar will sink to the bottom, you will want to pour it all into your mixture, all ¾ a cup. Remember that the more sugar and liquid that we add the tougher it will be for the ice cream to freeze, so keep that in mind

Mixins. the ideal amount of mix-ins is 1½ to 2 cups per quart of churned ice cream. The possibilities are endless, from cookies and cake to candy and nuts, edible flowers, herbs, teas, sauces, oils, and essences. Ice cream is never fully frozen, so take into account that many ingredients will dissolve or soften in it.

Sometimes the pieces are very small or need to be frozen, as when pouring in melted chocolate to freeze into little freckles in the last few minutes of churning. But most of the time, mix-ins should be layered in as you pack the ice cream to keep them distinct (when it comes to sauces) and from jamming up the machine.

Start by pre-freezing the barrel overnight. All you need is a pre-frozen ice cream machine, like this 2L Cuisinart maker, and a few ingredients. My recipe calls for 2 tablespoons of dissolved cornstarch (dissolve in warm water), 3 egg yolks, 3/4 cup cocoa powder (you can adjust this amount according to your taste), 2 cups of milk, 2 cups of cream, 3 dashes of salt, and a cup of sugar. Mix it up and put it in a stockpot on the stovetop on medium heat until it reaches 85C and then take it off. Let it cool. We then put the mix into a Tupperware container to go into the fridge until it cools down to a nice 4C. We then transfer the batch into the ice cream machine and turn it on. It will churn for about 25-30 minutes until thickened to a nice texture (soft-serve consistency). When you reach the thickness you want it’s time to transfer the ice cream into storage containers and pop it in the freezer until it freezes to -18C. If you would like to fold it ingredients like Oreos, M&Ms, chocolate sauce, caramel, or even cake and flowers, now is the time before freezing. You do this by slowly layering in the ice cream with whatever you want to add in. Serve at -10C.

 Homemade ice cream stays good for 2 months, but rarely will it last that long. Other fun ways to serve it include in a milkshake, banana split, a cake shake (if you're a fan of Portillos in Chicago), Mexican-coke float, banana split, a MyMy probiotic juice spider, in a waffle cone, or alongside your favourite warm apple pie. Have fun with it!

A few of the flavours that we look forward to offering in the future are Sun-Ripened Stupendous Strawberry, Memaw Kessel’s Butter Pecan, Mint Chocolate Cherry, Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Cup, Dairy Free Dark Cowboy Chocolate Banana with Cashew, Georgia Peach, Baton Rouge Three Berry w/Roasted Walnut, South Carolina Salted Caramel with Roasted Macadamia Nut, Ooey Gooey Cookie Dough, Honey I’m Home, and more.