What you need to know National Soft Serve Day and how to celebrate
This post will cover the following topics:
What is soft serve ice cream? History of Soft Serve – Improvements through Innovation – Make Healthy Soft Serve at Home – National Soft Ice Cream Day
What is Soft Serve?
Soft ice cream, more commonly known as soft serve, is a frozen dessert that is similar to ice cream but softer and less dense due to air incorporation during the freezing process. Technically, most soft serve is not ice cream.
In order to be ice cream here in the United States, a product must meet two criteria:
1. Ice cream must contain a minimum of 10% dairy milkfat.
2. Ice cream must have no more than 100% overrun and weigh no less than 4.5 lbs. per gallon.
Overrun is the amount of air whipped into the soft serve base during freezing. More air whipped (aka high overrun) results in lighter and fluffier the texture. Soft serve has around 35% overrun. A product with low overrun will be more dense and heavier (think Ben & Jerry’s or Haagen-Dazs).
The FDA regulates the amount of overrun in ice cream in order to protect you the consumer. Regulations prevent manufacturers from producing and selling an ice cream product that is mainly air instead of cream.
In the US, supermarkets do not sell packaged soft serve. You can find it at cafeterias, fairs, carnivals, amusement parks, restaurants and specialty shops.
History of Soft Serve
Soft serve has been sold commercially since the 1930s in the United States.
Although the inventor is still debated, the earliest makers were John F McCullough and his son. They already sold hard ice cream, which lead to experimentation.
They decided that ice cream served at higher temperatures had more flavor. At that time, ice cream was served at 5°F (-15°C). In order to serve ice cream at higher temperatures, they had to change their recipe (or formula). After trial and error, they determined 6% butterfat ice cream served at 18°F (-7.8°C) resulted in the best tasting product (1).
Improvements through Innovation
Temperature does affect the way you perceive. However, it is not the only secret to the creamy, fluffy soft serve soft-serve you know. The real secret is air. The amount of air whipped into the ice cream mix makes the ice cream fluffy (while also saving cost for manufacturers).
Frozen desserts are beautifully complex emulsions. Ice cream type products are homogeneous mixtures of air, sugar, fat globules, and ice crystals. Without the fine distribution of air, the texture would be grainy.
Frozen desserts are homogeneous mixtures of air, sugar, fat globules, and ice crystals.
Emulsifiers help ensure the product is properly mixed for a guaranteed great product.
Celebrate with 1-ingredient Healthy Soft Serve at Home
Soft serve is delicious. You can make a similar product at home with just 1 ingredient and it is healthy. Detailed instructions + variations are on the recipe page.
- 2 ripe bananas
1. Put bananas freezer and freeze until solid (at least 2 hours). Remove banana from freezer and slice into 1 inch thick pieces. Remove peel.
2. Transfer the bananas to a very strong blender and blend until smooth and creamy. This will take a few minutes. Start the blender on the lowest setting and work up to high. If the motor seems to be struggling, stop and pause for a few seconds. The blender may be very loud since the bananas are frozen. If the mixture is stuck on the sides, pause and use a spatula to scrape the bananas back down. Within a few minutes, you should see a thick, creamy ice-creamy mixture in the blender.
3. Stop the blender and add additional ingredients (if desired) into the blender. Pulse the blender quickly to stir the ingredients all together.
4. When everything is mixed, serve immediately. Top with a sprinkle of sea salt and nuts (if desired).
At this point your banana ice cream is more like soft serve. You can serve it on a cone with toppings or eat in a bowl. It is very soft so eat quickly. Enjoy!
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 242Total Fat: 1gSaturated Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 3mgCarbohydrates: 62gFiber: 7gSugar: 33gProtein: 3g
National Soft Ice Cream (or Soft Serve) Day
The history of this national holiday is hard to find. No one knows why we celebrate it, but here we are. You can celebrate your love of both hard and soft ice cream on different days!
Final Thoughts on Soft Serve
Soft ice cream, more commonly known as soft serve, is a frozen dessert that is similar to ice cream.
Technically, soft serve is not ice cream because of its high overflow and low butterfat levels. On the other hand, due to the air and butterfat level it is softer and less dense, giving us the delicious product we know as soft serve.
Go ahead and enjoy! Happy Soft Ice Cream Day!
Question? What else would you like to know about soft serve and/or ice cream?
(1) Smith, Andrew F. The Oxford Companion to American Food and Drink. Oxford University Press, Inc. Oxford. 2007.
TITLE 21–FOOD AND DRUGS. CHAPTER I–FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES. SUBCHAPTER B–FOOD FOR HUMAN CONSUMPTION. PART 135 FROZEN DESSERTS. https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cdrh/cfdocs/cfcfr/CFRSearch.cfm?CFRPart=135&showFR=1
Overrun calculations. https://www.uoguelph.ca/foodscience/book/export/html/1750.
Margaret Thatcher Invented Soft-Serve Ice Cream. https://www.bonappetit.com/people/article/margaret-thatcher-invented-soft-serve-ice-cream
The Margaret Thatcher Soft-Serve Myth. https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/the-margaret-thatcher-soft-serve-myth.