Flavor bases add dimension and depth to ice cream

By Jennifer Chaffin

When making ice cream, manufacturers have a choice: flavor or flavor base? Or even both?

It sounds as though they’d be pretty much the same thing, but while both add flavor and color, there are significant differences:

Flavor: A flavor is a one-or two-dimensional addition to ice cream. It provides a flavor enhancement to the dairy mix,and also can add color.The advantage of a flavor is low usage, often under 1%of volume, which means there’s room for other “star” ingredients such as sea salt caramel, or lemon cookie pieces, for example. Flavors are ideal for a “loaded” ice cream concept and take up a smaller footprint in both storage and shipping.

Flavor Bases: On the other hand, a flavor base brings a third dimension to ice cream. Like flavors, they add unique flavor and color. The difference is that they have a higher usage, between 5% and 10%, affect ice cream’s texture by adding bulk ingredients, and create viscosity that can change the ice cream’s melting. Sweeteners in flavor bases can make the ice cream sweeter or change the perception of sweetness. They also can add fats to create different flavors and texture, such as creamed coconut or chocolate liquor.

Flavor bases also can involve specialty ingredients, adding more complex flavor delivery and texture:

  • Eggs are in flavor bases for French vanilla or custard, adding a richness and creaminess for a unique flavor profile.
  • Fruit can appear in flavor bases as puree or juice, adding small particulates, seeds and color.
  • Dairy, such as cheese, sweetened condensed milk or buttermilk add complexity to the dairy mix. Sweetened condensed milk also does duty to make caramel-flavored bases when cooked with sugar and water.

A cheesecake-flavored ice cream is a good example of how both flavors and flavor bases can be used. If made with a flavor base as well as a flavor, it will contain the components of a cheesecake —cream cheese, lemon juice, sugar —along side the flavor.

And for a standalone case of the ultimate flavor-base experience, consider a Chocolate French Silk ice cream. This base contains chocolate liquor,butter, sweeteners, salt,chocolate and vanilla flavors as well as stabilizers. The ice cream it creates is different from a chocolate-flavored ice cream or a cocoa powder-flavored ice cream: its texture is unique because of the chocolate liquor,butter, stabilizers, and sweeteners. It is softer, melts without a drip and has more of a mousse consistency. The salt enhances the chocolate notes, and the chocolate and vanilla flavors round out the ice cream.

Flavors and flavor notes work well separately and together to allow for complex ice cream creations.