Ice cream is so special that it doesn’t get just one day in its honor, but all of July is actually National Ice Cream Month.
It’s hard to imagine that eating ice cream would ever be a bad idea (unless you're lactose intolerant), but according to Jeni Britton Bauer of the Columbus, Ohio-based Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams, there are ways to improve upon the already amazing experience of eating ice cream.
Whether you crave a classic like vanilla or prefer something more unique in your cone, Britton Bauer said following these nine tips will ensure a great summer ahead.
1. The ice cream is too cold
It’s understood that ice cream is best served cold — very cold. But if it’s too cold, the flavor will be compromised. The problem with ice cream getting when it's super chilly is that the coldness will freeze out the dessert's flavor profile. “You won’t taste anything. It will just be very brittle and very hard,” said Britton Bauer.
The alternative — ice cream that's just begun to melt — is better because it allows you to really taste the desired flavor profile without compromising mouthfeel.
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"As it starts to warm, you get new flavors coming out," she said. "The ice cream gets slightly sweeter because you are able to perceive (the taste) better as it’s slightly warmer.”
2. You don't truly savor the flavor
Before diving in, taking a second to experience the scent and texture of ice cream is very important. Britton Bauer said one could consider it like tasting wine.
“Ice cream is cold, and when you put it into your mouth, it sort of wakes you up,” she said. “If you pay attention, you can find these beautiful nuances.”
According to Britton Bauer, ice cream is a perfect carrier of scent. “We can load it with scent and, as you lick it, as soon as your tongue hits it, (the) scent will be released into your nose.”
That first lick is the moment notes of coffee, chocolate, sweet basil, vanilla and other aromas will be most apparent.
3. You're eating too much at once
There’s nothing wrong with enjoying a lot of ice cream, but Britton Bauer said it's important not to overwhelm the tongue in one sitting.
“What happens is that your tongue gets cold," she said. "And then you end up not really being able to taste it.”
She recommended eating a scoop at a time for maximum enjoyment: “It’s around a half cup, or enough for one cone. If I want to eat more, I’d go back for a second scoop, rather than one giant scoop.”
4. To cup or to cone?
Sure, it all comes down to personal preference, but the vehicle in which the ice cream is delivered will have an impact on how the ice cream is enjoyed.
“Ice cream is made to be licked,” said Britton Bauer, who is firmly on Team Cone. Having a cup does have its advantages: If you put it in a cup, you can put it down and come back to the treat a bit later. But Britton Bauer said it's more important to have one continual stream of eating ice cream. “You need to stay with it. Cones are wonderful. They make you a little vulnerable and open you up to the moment in a way that I don’t think cups can,” she said.
If cones aren't an option at all, then spoons are OK ... just avoid metal, if possible.
“Metal transfers heat, which will melt the ice cream,” she said.
5. You didn’t store it well
If you buy lots of pints, keep in mind that where ice cream is placed in the freezer will impact how long its taste and texture remain fresh.
“You want it to be in the coldest part of your freezer,” said Britton Bauer. If not, the flavors from other foods around that mint chocolate chip may end up seeping into the dessert. “It will start to pick up other flavors from the air of your freezer.”
Whether it's a tub or a pint, consider adding a slip of wax paper on top of the ice cream that's left to cover it completely. That extra layer will help protect the ice cream from absorbing the scents around it.
6. You got brain freeze
Brain freeze will ruin even the best scoop pretty quickly. It’s just so uncomfortable.
“Clearly, slow down!” Britton Bauer said. Ice cream makers care about what they make and they want you to taste it, too. “If you eat it too fast, you aren’t tasting it!”
Basically, time is the best remedy for brain freeze, so it's best to try and avoid it in the first place.
7. You put it in the microwave
When a craving hits and that ice cream in the freezer is as hard as a rock, it's always tempting to nuke for just a few seconds ... but are we ruining our ice cream?
“Only do that if you are going to be serving the whole container," said Britton Bauer, who added that it should be microwaved in 10-second (or shorter) increments.
"Part of the ice cream is going to get melted and if it’s refrozen, it won’t be the same," she cautioned.
Ice cream is made to be melted a bit and then it can refreeze (like it if thaws a bit during the trip home from the grocery store), but if you do that several times, you'll get into trouble. “It’s just not going to be good. You are going to get crunchy ice crystals," said Britton Bauer.
8. You limited your options
When it comes to toppings, mix-ins and even food or drink pairings, Britton Bauer believes that experimentation is always a good thing.
“It’s good with basically everything," said Britton Bauer. “Just a little bit of ice cream at the end of the meal is such a beautiful thing. You can find an ice cream that goes with anything.”
Britton Bauer enjoys her ice cream with a glass of cold brew or a low-alcohol beer since the ice cream "washes away the butterfat and cleans your palate for the next bite.”
9. You wasted your leftovers
Maybe your ice cream has already melted, but that’s not a reason to ditch it entirely. That creamy goodness can have a host of new uses. “You can make French toast out of it," suggested Britton Bauer. “Just use the melted ice cream as the milk part of (the custard)."
Depending on the flavor of the ice cream, you can also use it as a bread pudding base or just turn it into a milkshake with more ice.