Ice cream: how it's made & 5 light recipes

Ice cream: how it’s made & 5 light recipes

The ice cream is a real passion : it is one of the most popular products from both the big and the little ones. And nobody manages to give it up , especially in summer.

But can ice cream and diet get along ? The answer is yes, provided you do not abuse it, to choose not only a quality product, which does not abound too much in fats and calories and which has been made with genuine ingredients. In fact, with a few small tricks, ice cream can become a “reward” that breaks the monotony of the diet, certainly improving your mood.

It is a healthy and nutritious food , made with milk, sugar and eggs, to which fresh fruit, chocolate or other ingredients are added. The first distinction to be made is that between the artisan and industrial ice cream .

The artisanal one is made with fresh raw materials, has less fat and incorporates less air, because the continuous mixing that serves to make it become creamy is usually done by hand. So, if you want to give yourself a break that is greedy but also healthy, it is always good, as far as possible, to choose a homemade ice cream. Alternatively, always read the packaged ice cream labels well , to know the ingredients and their origin.

We tell you all about ice cream: how to understand if it is of quality, how to choose it and how to insert it in your daily diet.

A bit of history: when was ice cream born?

Establish with certainty when the ice cream was born and, above all, where, it is practically impossible . According to some, in fact, its origins date back to the Bible : Isaac, by offering Abraham goat’s milk mixed with snow, invented the first ice cream in history. Others, however, identify the ancient Romans as “fathers” of ice cream: the Roman elites, in fact, used to close their dinners with the “nivatae potiones”, real cold desserts.

The success of ice cream, however, only came in the sixteenth century. In particular, it is Florence to claim the invention of ‘modern’ ice cream, which first uses milk, cream and eggs, and which should be by the architect Bernardo Buontalenti.

But another great father of ice cream was also a Palermo gentleman, Francesco Procopio dei Coltelli. Moving to the court of the Sun King, in fact, he opened the first coffee-ice cream shop in history, the still famous Procope coffee.

The modern life of this product begins in the late eighteenth century, when the Italian Filippo Lenzi opened the first ice cream shop in the United States . While, the first industrial ice cream on stick was born in Italy in 1948. In the 1950s, the first cone with industrial waffle arrived, the famous Cornetto.

From the 60s-70s onwards, in fact, there is no longer any obstacle in the diffusion of this food: thanks to the freezers that were spreading in every home , ice cream became part of the food.

How ice cream is made

How ice cream is made

Homemade ice cream is made up of 3 main components: water, air and fat. The fatty part is given by foods such as cream, milk and eggs, which are all ingredients rich in water. During production, then, continuous mixing incorporates a certain amount of air bubbles into the ice cream. Only in this way will you have a soft and creamy ice cream.

To make it, we start with the most liquid components: water, milk or cream and invert sugar (a mixture of glucose and fructose obtained from sucrose that is also found naturally in fruit, such as grapes). Then the slightly pasty ingredients are added, such as condensed milk and eggs.

In a second step, this mix is ​​heated to make the ingredients mix well. Once the mixture reaches 35-40 °, solid components are added, such as sugar (sucrose), dextrose, milk powder, cocoa powder (obviously only in the case of creamy chocolate ice creams), stabilizers and emulsifiers. At this point, pasteurization follows, which is mandatory by law.

Homogenization, maturation and freezing

The following phases are those of homogenization with mechanical stirring , ripening and freezing .

During maturation, a crucial phase, milk and egg proteins absorb the water present in the dough: in this way the formation of ice crystals is avoided.

But it is the batch freezing phase in which the ice cream really becomes the ice cream we know and love: in this phase, in fact, the passage of the present water from the liquid to the solid state takes place. A fundamental phase, which also depends on the cooling speed : this in fact determines the size of the ice crystals. The size of the ice crystals, in turn, will determine the creaminess and consistency of the ice cream: the smaller the crystals the more the ice cream will be creamy.

What are semi-finished products

In artisan ice cream, compound ingredients, also called semi-finished products, can be used: a mixture of ice cream components prepared with industrial methods. The majority of Italian ice cream parlors make use of the so-called ice cream bases: the quality, in this case, is established by the individual ingredients, as well as by the production and conservation processes. Furthermore, it is allowed to use emulsifiers instead of pasteurized eggs, in order to give a soft consistency to the product.

Industrial ice cream

The industrial ice cream is made many months before its consumption . For this reason, it is done with already prepared ingredients and raw materials such as powdered milk, concentrated fruit juices, and often also flavoring, additives and stabilizers.

This type of product is also called blown . In fact, it is produced with the introduction of air, during the freezing phase, up to 100-130 percent. For this reason, it is often soft and light.

Differences between ice cream and sorbet

In some areas of Italy we speak indifferently of ice cream and sorbet , as if they were the same thing. But, in reality, they are two very different products:

  • The sorbet is made with a water base, to which sugar and fruit are added. It does not contain other fats. Ice slowly and has a different consistency of ice cream, given by the ice crystals, which do not mix completely with the other ingredients. Being free of milk, the sorbet is particularly suitable for people with lactose intolerance .
  • The ice cream instead is made with a base of milk or cream, to which are added the eggs (according to the taste). It is therefore more caloric, but also the processing is completely different. In addition to mixing the ingredients as in the sorbet, in fact, there are the different phases that we have already talked about such as pasteurization, maturation and freezing.

Ice cream, a nutritious product

Unlike what many think, ice cream is not a food to be completely eliminated from a healthy diet.

Especially in the case of artisanal production, it has different qualities in nutritional terms.

  • It is a product with a good level of high biological value proteins : those of milk and eggs, in fact, are rich in essential amino acids, easily digestible.
  • The fats contained come from milk , to which are added those of vegetable origin contained in fruit and cocoa: they represent about 10% of the total of an artisan ice cream and 12-15% of the industrial one.
  • As for sugars , they are mainly lactose and sucrose, with a level that is around 20% of the total. These are fast-absorbing and readily available sugars, especially useful for the nervous system and red blood cells.
  • Do not underestimate the contribution of vitamins , such as A and B2, to which fruit ice cream is added to those typical of the different fruits used.
  • In addition, the ice cream contains several mineral salts, first of all the calcium contained in the milk, but also phosphorus and sodium.

If you use some care, then, you can avoid eliminating this greedy and refreshing product from your life .

Ice cream is a food that you can taste even when you are on a diet, just knowing how to choose the right one and eat it in moderation.

Ice cream: which one to choose

However, given the incredible variety of ice creams and ice cream parlors , with very different tastes, qualities and prices, it is normal that you can have somewhat confused ideas on how to choose the best product. Craft or industrial?

Industrial ice cream: the tips to buy it

When you decide to eat a packaged ice cream, the first thing to do is to check the packaging. Before putting your choice in the supermarket cart, check that there is no formation of frost or ice crystals; their presence tells you that the product has undergone temperature changes .

If you have chosen a cone , once discarded, feel its waffle . If it is a little soft , it means that the internal waterproofing, which is usually done by industries with chocolate “sprinkled” inside the cone, did not take place correctly and the ice cream came into contact with the wafer, softening it . This does not compromise the healthiness of the product , but it certainly makes it less crunchy and tasty.

Also pay attention to the degree of sweetness : if it is too sweet on the palate, it could mean that sugar has been used in greater quantities to mask the quality deficiencies of the other ingredients!

Craft: how to recognize the best?

To recognize quality homemade ice cream there are technical parameters that you too can learn to understand which are the best products on the market. Here are what they are.

  • Appearance matters. Beware of the mountains of ice cream that overflow from the trays: all that ice cream that remains outside the refrigeration system without melting , informs you of a possible use of an excessive amount of hydrogenated vegetable fats , which resist higher temperatures.
  • Yes, to the colors, but in moderation. The bright and natural colors of the fruit tend to go out a bit with the low temperatures, therefore the particularly intense ones could be the result of artificial colors.
  • Temperatures. The perfect ice cream should not be neither too cold nor hot . In fact, an excessive cold on the palate is a sign of a poor incorporation of air, therefore an imbalance of the recipe. Likewise, an ice cream that looks more like a mousse , may have received excessive air incorporation or contained a high dose of fat and / or thickeners .
  • Consistency. The right consistency is what it usually makes you feel the “body” of the ice cream on the tongue : too light a cream, for example, was probably made with less milk or cream than it should have been . Water prevails and therefore also the feeling of cold.
  • Eye to the crystals. Ice creams are a mix of ingredients that, over time, lose their perfect balance. The presence of ice crystals is an indication of not fresh ice cream or of keeping it at the wrong temperature.
  • Sharpen the taste buds. The recognizability of different flavors is synonymous with quality. Ice creams that are not truly artisanal are prepared with common bases to which only the aroma corresponding to the desired taste is added. Which is why they all tend to look alike .
  • You don’t have to be thirsty. Ice cream must refresh you , almost quench your thirst. If you feel thirsty after eating it, it was probably made with vegetable fats other than cream .

Ice cream which flavors to choose

Medium fruit cone120/130 cal
With cream base180/190 cal
Yogurt ice cream150 cal
Chocolate ice cream250 cal
With the addition of whipped cream, dried fruit or cocoa300 cal

Ice cream on a diet, how to manage it

That dieting ice cream is forbidden is a false myth: even those who must or want to lose weight can add it, however, considering it a sort of “greedy exception”.

It can be eaten as a mid-afternoon snack , choosing an ice cream with a lower calorie content. One of the most important aspects, from the point of view of calories, is precisely the chosen taste.

100 grams of ice cream, in fact, can vary between 100 and 300 calories.

The fruit ice-creams exhibit a lower amount of fat that is in calories, because they usually are produced without the addition of cream .

A medium fruit cone contains between 120-130 calories : among the various options, it is strawberry, lemon and blueberry that has the primacy of the least caloric tastes.

Instead, a cream-based ice cream instead contains between 180 and 190 calories : in this case it is the stracciatella that has the primacy of the ice cream which is less fat, while the hazelnut and coffee ice cream are more caloric.

In terms of taste, a yogurt ice cream may be the alternative that comes closest to creams, but with a decidedly lower calorie intake (150 calories per 100 grams). It is chocolate that is the most caloric taste, with around 250 calories. If you add whipped cream, dried fruit or cocoa to this, you can even reach 300 calories.

Snack ice cream for children: can you?

Nutritionists explained to us how to insert ice cream in our daily diet.

We can make the summer snack even more appetizing and appreciated by enriching it with an ice cream.for example, that a fruit salad with ice cream could be a perfect snack. Alternatively, ice cream is also allowed, if included in a food education program that includes the consumption of fruit in the other meals of the day and a reduction of other desserts “.

But are the choice of the dishes to be served to our children for lunch or dinner conditioned by the fact that they have eaten an ice cream? “It must be considered that ice cream brings a certain amount of simple sugars and therefore we must try to reduce them in the rest of the day . In particular reduce the consumption of carbonated sweetened drinks if you intend to eat ice cream “.

Types and tastes for children

As for the choice of flavors , “a cream ice cream has a percentage of fat that can be double that of fruit that has more carbohydrates. The presence of proteins is also relevant for those contained in milk. Those of fruit are less caloric. The presence of fruit I consider it not very relevant from the point of view of content in vitamins and polyphenols. In short, you cannot think of giving fruit to our kids by choosing the fruit flavor ”.

And compared to the choice of the type , explains the doctor, “There are no big differences in nutritional terms. We can say that industrial products are generally safer in terms of hygiene. There are some artisan ice cream parlors which for their part pay particular attention to the choice of fresh or organic raw materials.

Ice cream at the table

Ice cream is a dessert par excellence . Whether it is fruit, chocolate or with another base, it is the perfect dish for when you want a little sweetness or want to end the meal with a flourish. Often accompanied by fruit, as in fruit salad with ice cream , or with a slice of cake , such as carrot cake, but also as a filling for biscuits. In addition, for some years, it has also been used in combination with savory dishes, especially chocolate.

The recipes with ice cream

even experts are convinced that ice cream is a “prize” that you must not give up, even if you are on a diet. For this reason we suggest you some light ice cream recipes to brighten up your summer days.

Try following recipes: a lot of taste and few calories will make your daily nutrition more fun.

1 – Homemade yogurt ice cream without ice cream maker
Homemade yogurt ice cream without ice cream maker

Total calories: 893 kcal / Calories per person: 223 kcal

Ingredients for 4 people:

  • 500 g of Greek yogurt or very hard
  • 5 tablespoons of acacia honey (I 5 tablespoons of agave syrup)
  • 1 egg white


Dilute 5 tablespoons of acacia honey in a little warm water to obtain a syrup, or simply use 5 tablespoons of agave syrup.

Mix the honey or agave syrup with the yogurt and place the mixture obtained in the freezer for an hour.

After the rest time, blend it with a mixer together with an egg white, in order to obtain a creamy consistency.

Put in the fridge for another hour. Blend again and leave to rest in the freezer for another hour.

Repeat the steps one last time.

When serving, lightly stir the ice cream with a spatula. Serve with honey, dried or fresh fruit, or with agave syrup, raspberries and fresh mint leaves.

2 – Strawberry and light vanilla ice cream
 Strawberry and light vanilla ice cream

Total calories: 582 kcal / Calories per person: 97 kcal

Ingredients for 6 people:

  • 600 g of strawberries already cleaned
  • 100 g of sugar
  • 2 vanilla beans
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice


Put the strawberries in the mixer glass with the sugar and lemon juice and blend. Cut the vanilla pods with a knife, extract the seeds, dissolve them in the strawberry smoothie and blend again.

Transfer the mixture to a container and let it rest in the freezer for about 1 hour. After the time, go back to the mixer to break the ice crystals and put in the freezer for 2 hours. Repeat the step again in the mixer and let it rest for 2 hours. Blend the mixture one last time and place in the freezer.

Take the ice cream from the freezer a few minutes before serving, gently hold it to make it creamier and decorate it to taste with fresh mint leaves

3 – Lemon sorbet
 Lemon sorbet

Total calories: 622 kcal / Calories per person: 104 kcal

Ingredients for 6 people:

  • 4 large lemons
  • 150 g of sugar
  • 300 ml of water
  • 1 egg white

For the seal:

  • mint leaves to taste
  • the grated zest of an organic lemon


In a saucepan, boil the sugar with the water, stirring occasionally. Add the grated peel of a lemon and cook for another two minutes, until boiling again. Remove from the heat and let cool.

Squeeze the lemons and add the juice to the syrup. Strain and freeze for four hours, then stir again and add the beaten egg white.

Divide the mixture into six glasses and place in the freezer for another four hours. When serving, garnish with two mint leaves and a little grated lemon zest.

4 – Watermelon sorbet
 Watermelon sorbet

Total calories: 252 kcal / Calories per person: 126 kcal

Ingredients for 2 people:

  • 400 g of clean and seedless watermelon
  • 120 ml of cold water
  • the juice of a 1 lime or a lemon
  • 1 egg white
  • 30 g of sugar


Heat the water with the sugar and stir constantly, until it is dissolved, let this syrup cool completely.

Cut the watermelon into cubes and blend it to obtain juice. Squeeze the juice from the lime and combine it with that of the watermelon, stirring.

Whisk the egg white until stiff, add the now cold syrup to the watermelon juice and finally the egg white, incorporate it with slow movements from the bottom to the top, so as not to disassemble it.

At this point, pour the sorbet into the ice cream machine and wait about 30 minutes.
If you don’t have an ice cream machine, put everything in the freezer for at least 6 hours and after every hour mix everything to break the ice crystals or better still blend for a few seconds with an immersion mixer.

With this method you will be able to obtain a creamy sorbet like the one obtained with the ice cream machine.

Serve chilled with lime or lemon slices.

5 – Citrus sorbet
Citrus sorbet

Total calories: 1056 kcal / Calories per person: 132 kcal


  • 3 ripe bananas
  • 4 blood oranges
  • 6 lemons
  • 1 untreated orange
  • 70 g of sugar


To prepare the candied peel, peel the untreated orange trying to exclude the white part.

Cut the peel into thin strips and cook for about half a minute in a saucepan with two glasses of water. Drain them, place them on paper towels and dry them. Repeat this operation a second time, which helps to remove the acidity and makes the orange peel less bitter.

Place the zest in a bowl and prepare the syrup for candying.

Pour 50 ml of water with 50 g of sugar into a saucepan, add the zest and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring often.

Turn off and let cool.

Pour the juice of the oranges and lemons, the remaining sugar and the sliced ​​bananas into the blender and blend everything.

Pour the sorbet into the molds and place it in the freezer for about an hour.

Before serving, turn out the sorbet, divide it into glasses and decorate with the candied peel and a little fresh fruit.

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