Ice Cream Expert Guesses Which Ice Cream Is More Expensive | Price Points

In this episode of 'Price Points', Epicurious challenges ice cream expert Jeni Britton Bauer to guess which one of two ice creams is more expensive. Jeni breaks down vanilla ice cream, chocolate ice cream, strawberry ice cream, coffee ice cream, mint chocolate chip ice cream, and birthday cake ice cream. For each flavor, Jeni looks at, smells, and taste tests before guessing which ice cream costs more. Once the prices are revealed, she explains why.

Released on 8/29/2018

Credits

Starring: Jeni Britton Bauer

Transcript

00:00
I'm Jeni Britton Bauer and I'm an ice cream expert.
00:02
(upbeat instrumental music)
00:06
I'm gonna have to go back here again.
00:07
(upbeat instrumental music)
00:15
Okay, it looks like we have a vanilla ice cream,
00:19
actually it looks like a vanilla bean ice cream,
00:21
which means that there are the little specks
00:24
from the inside of the vanilla bean pod in the ice cream
00:27
that is probably adding a little bit of flavor.
00:29
So let me tell you what I look for
00:31
when I'm tasting ice cream.
00:33
You can evaluate all ice creams on these
00:35
four sort of facets of ice cream;
00:36
flavor, texture, body, and finish.
00:40
Flavor is what you taste on your tongue
00:43
and also experience in your nose, right?
00:46
Texture is the fineness between your tongue
00:49
and the roof of your mouth of the ice cream.
00:51
Or grittiness, right?
00:52
And so ice cream can run that whole spectrum.
00:54
Body is kind of like the elasticity of the ice cream
00:57
or how it rolls into a ball, how it scoops.
01:00
And then, of course, we're left with
01:02
the finish of the ice cream,
01:04
which is, after a few minutes,
01:06
what's still left on your palate?
01:08
Just visually, our sample A is brighter white.
01:13
It definitely has flecks of vanilla in it.
01:16
And B is a slightly darker white, if you will.
01:20
It's darker in color and that could be for a few reasons.
01:22
It could be because it has more vanilla in it
01:25
and more of those specks or even more vanilla extract.
01:28
It could also be the dairy.
01:29
You know, what the cows are fed.
01:31
When it starts to melt, the ice cream,
01:32
you can start to see the butterfat
01:34
kind of rising to the top and you can
01:37
see it almost as, like, a sheen
01:39
and I'm definitely seeing that over here.
01:41
Like, a little bit of that sheen from some butterfat.
01:43
If I had to guess at this point,
01:45
although it could be wrong,
01:46
I would guess that our sample B would have
01:48
a little bit more butterfat in it.
01:50
I'm ready to taste these flavors,
01:51
and vanilla is one of my favorite flavors so I can't wait.
01:56
Oh, I can tell just by touching the ice cream,
01:58
this one has got a pretty high overrun.
02:01
Overrun is the word we use for air content.
02:04
You have to have a little bit of
02:05
air in ice cream to make it feel creamy.
02:08
Alright, let's go.
02:12
Now, let me tell you how I taste ice cream.
02:15
Because it's all about scent, use the air
02:17
that you can fill up in your face
02:19
and, like, scent it with what's on your tongue.
02:21
I mean, like, it's about breathing.
02:25
It's very sweet, ice cream is sweet.
02:27
Maybe that's a little bit of fructose in there,
02:28
maybe it's just some cane sugar,
02:32
which is a little bit more sucrose
02:33
and those are very sort of top-note sugars.
02:36
Vanilla is everywhere, it's a fairly top-note vanilla.
02:39
I don't get a lot of smokiness
02:41
and my palate is definitely coated with
02:44
a decent amount of butterfat.
02:46
And now our B.
02:49
Just putting my spoon in, it feels definitely denser
02:53
and maybe a little heavier.
03:00
A very different vanilla over here.
03:03
B has, I think, a little bit more butterfat in it.
03:05
I think there's a little bit more
03:06
complexity to this vanilla.
03:07
It's a really beautiful ice cream.
03:09
If I had to guess which one is more expensive,
03:12
I'm gonna go with B.
03:14
I feel like it's got more cream in it.
03:15
The vanilla might be a slightly higher quality vanilla too,
03:18
more of those notes in it.
03:20
So let's see.
03:21
(suspenseful instrumental music)
03:24
There ya go, yes, $1.90 a pint versus 6.99 a pint.
03:28
So there are many reasons an ice cream
03:29
can cost a little bit more or a lot more.
03:32
If it's a higher cream ice cream,
03:34
it's gonna be more expensive because there's
03:36
only a little bit of butterfat in every gallon of milk
03:38
and you've gotta concentrate that
03:40
to make a really good ice cream.
03:41
Most ice creams that are more expensive
03:43
are gonna have a lower quantity of air.
03:45
Air is free, of course, so it makes something
03:47
a little bit less expensive.
03:48
One way to know what you're getting
03:50
in your ice cream is to compare calorie counts.
03:53
Your higher calorie one would usually have
03:55
a little more butterfat in it and less air.
03:58
I always think that it's not the place in my week
04:00
that I wanna skimp on calories.
04:02
It's actually the place that I wanna look for
04:04
more calories because a few more calories
04:06
in a scoop makes a big difference.
04:07
If vanilla is your favorite flavor,
04:09
you might not have to pay more
04:11
or very much money to have a great scoop.
04:14
Of course, a flavor like vanilla,
04:15
which has been around forever and ever and ever
04:17
is gonna have some efficiencies built in to the system.
04:22
Okay, we've got chocolate to taste now.
04:24
Clearly we're gonna notice color first in chocolate.
04:28
A is a darker color and B is a lighter color chocolate.
04:32
It could mean that A has more cocoa or chocolate in it,
04:36
but it could also mean that we're
04:37
working with different kinds of cocoa.
04:39
A Dutch-processed cocoa is gonna appear darker,
04:42
but actually taste sometimes a little bit lighter.
04:44
In chocolate, it's a little bit different.
04:46
It can be tricky because a lower butterfat
04:48
but higher cocoa ice cream can actually be
04:51
a richer chocolate experience.
04:53
If there's a chocolate ice cream
04:54
with a lot of butterfat in it,
04:55
you're probably not gonna get as much chocolate in it.
04:57
And butterfat can also be a barrier to flavor
04:59
when you want that sort of bitterness in chocolate.
05:01
If you add a lot of cocoa powder to your cream and sugar,
05:05
you can dry out your ice cream.
05:07
Often, ice cream makers will not add as much cocoa
05:10
simply because it dries it out and makes it too dry.
05:12
Unless you really know what you're doing.
05:14
The science of this ice cream is getting
05:16
that aspect of it right.
05:17
And then the other reason, of course,
05:18
that an ice cream maker might not use as much cocoa
05:20
is because it's a very expensive ingredient.
05:23
When you scoop an ice cream, you'll get striations
05:26
and it sort of almost looks like feathering.
05:28
So when I'm looking at the ice cream,
05:30
I can often but not always tell air content by
05:33
the amount of space between the feathers of the ice cream.
05:36
They both look like they have maybe about
05:38
the same amount of air content in them.
05:39
So I'm ready to taste these ice creams
05:41
and see how they bloom.
05:43
I'm gonna make a bit of a guess and say that
05:46
B might have slightly less cocoa in it,
05:49
slightly less of that chocolate flavor,
05:51
so I'm gonna go with that first.
05:52
Let's see.
05:55
It's a nice almost kind of a slightly dark
05:58
but kind of milk chocolate.
05:59
Very clean ice cream, it's sweet of course,
06:03
all ice cream is sweet.
06:05
But, you know, ice cream is sweet in different ways
06:07
depending on what kinds of sugar it contains.
06:10
You can get very, very almost kind of cotton candy sweet
06:12
if you have a lot of fructose in there,
06:14
but this is just a very clean ice cream and not too sweet.
06:17
Okay, ready for A.
06:21
Also very rich, very fudge-like.
06:24
I don't know if you can see, I mean,
06:26
it almost has no air in it.
06:27
It's almost like a tureen.
06:29
Chocolate does that to ice creams.
06:30
I mean, both of these samples have a richness
06:34
to them even before you taste them.
06:40
Very chocolately.
06:42
I don't wanna smile because I feel like
06:43
I'm gonna have chocolate all over me.
06:45
This one is all about the chocolate.
06:47
Without question, it just keeps blooming
06:48
and going from a chocolate perspective.
06:50
This one's also a very nice chocolate,
06:53
it's a little more about the dairy aspect of the chocolate.
06:57
Neither one of these seem like
06:59
they have stabilizers in them.
07:00
A stabilizer is an ingredient that
07:02
ice cream makers will often use to
07:04
thicken an ice cream, to hold water,
07:06
and to build stability so that an ice can
07:08
melt and refreeze without losing quality.
07:11
Both of these are melting so cleanly.
07:14
I don't get any of the sort of stickiness
07:16
that often stabilizers will bring.
07:17
So I would say that both of these are
07:18
very, very high-quality ice creams.
07:20
This one's going to have clearly
07:22
a lot more chocolate in it than this one.
07:24
If I'm guessing, I'm gonna go with A
07:27
is the more expensive of these two ice creams.
07:31
Mostly because it has so much more chocolate.
07:34
So let's see.
07:35
(suspenseful instrumental music)
07:38
Yep, yep, but not too far off.
07:41
The more cocoa, the more chocolate that's in the ice cream,
07:45
the more expensive of course it's gonna be.
07:48
So when you're picking out a chocolate ice cream,
07:50
the best thing you can do is start with your preferences.
07:52
Do you like milk chocolate or do you like dark chocolate?
07:54
Another interesting facet of chocolate ice cream,
07:57
especially a dark chocolate ice cream,
07:58
it will often have lower fat content
08:02
so it's a different situation with the calorie content.
08:05
If you're talking about an expensive chocolate ice cream,
08:07
it's lower in fat but still at a higher price point.
08:10
It's probably because it has a lot of cocoa in it,
08:12
which is an expensive ingredient and displaces that fat.
08:16
Don't just go by color, go by what you like
08:18
and what the flavor is that you want to
08:21
experience in your chocolate.
08:24
Okay, it looks like we've got some strawberry ice creams.
08:27
Strawberries, like some other fruits too,
08:30
are a water-soluble scent,
08:32
which just means that the scent in strawberry
08:35
will adhere to the water that's already in the ice cream.
08:38
The cream and the milk contain a lot of water.
08:41
The really complicated thing about making
08:42
strawberry ice cream is that you can't add
08:44
that many strawberries to it without making it very icy.
08:46
So ice cream makers are always grappling with
08:48
how much strawberry before the whole thing becomes icy.
08:52
We want it to taste like strawberries,
08:54
but we also want it to taste like cream.
08:55
So this will be interesting.
08:57
Similar colors are happening between the two.
08:59
A is a little lighter in color than B but not a lot.
09:03
Color can really affect what you perceive when you taste it.
09:08
You can get a strong strawberry flavor
09:11
and not get a strong pink color,
09:13
so a lot of time ice cream makers will add,
09:14
like, a little bit of pink coloring
09:16
or maybe even, like, just some beet juice
09:18
to bring up that color a little bit.
09:20
I mean, both look, well, pretty creamy.
09:24
Yeah, I kinda wanna get in and try them.
09:27
I'll start with A this time.
09:28
Little sticky, that could be a sugar,
09:30
it could be a stabilizer.
09:33
When I was growing up, strawberry was my favorite flavor,
09:37
so I don't think I've ever met a
09:38
strawberry ice cream that I don't like.
09:39
I taste a lot of strawberries,
09:41
they're very clean strawberries.
09:42
I feel like there's a little bit of a mouth-watering finish,
09:44
which a lot of times comes from stabilizers so we'll see.
09:48
Alright, let's go with B.
09:49
Color is a little more pronounced here,
09:51
it's a little pinker, definitely very dense.
09:54
Yeah, this one's a denser ice cream.
09:56
A little maybe less air.
09:59
You know, it's funny because you can't always
10:01
smell ice creams while they're frozen,
10:03
but strawberry is one that you can I guess
10:05
because there's a lot of scent going on
10:07
in the air here before I even try it.
10:11
That's an interesting strawberry ice cream.
10:14
I'm gonna have to go back here again.
10:20
It almost has, like, a yogurt scent to it.
10:24
I don't understand what's happening with this one.
10:27
It almost tastes like a candy.
10:28
Strawberry bubblegum is what it is.
10:30
It's a strawberry bubblegum flavor,
10:32
so they're clearly using a flavor
10:34
in here which I will just say,
10:35
having worked with strawberries all my life,
10:36
is completely unnecessary.
10:38
Strawberries are very strong in scent
10:40
and they will permeate all of the cream.
10:42
Okay, so here's my guess.
10:44
I would guess that this one's gonna be more expensive
10:47
because it seems like it's got a lot of tricks in it.
10:49
It's got some kind of acidity happening in there
10:52
that's, like, thickening and I don't know
10:53
if it's yogurt or something else,
10:55
and then on top of it some other flavor.
10:56
It's very, very dense.
10:58
If I have to guess, it's somebody who's trying
11:00
to make really good ice cream and it's just not very good.
11:02
Here we go.
11:03
(suspenseful instrumental music)
11:06
Oh, good grief, it's perfect, right?
11:08
Look at this, 10.27, now if that isn't evidence
11:11
that not all expensive ice creams are worth it
11:15
than I don't know what is.
11:16
Too many extra bells and whistles
11:18
or whatever just aren't necessary.
11:20
A is plain-tasting, it's very simple.
11:24
With some of these sort of standard classic flavors,
11:26
you get the efficiencies of the system
11:28
that just can't be really beat.
11:30
Where you can't make every ice cream,
11:31
I think, for $2.99 a pint,
11:33
clearly this strawberry is a good one.
11:37
Okay, it looks like we've got some coffee ice cream.
11:40
One of the reasons that I can tell that this is coffee
11:42
as opposed to chocolate is its' color.
11:45
It's a warmer tan than, like,
11:47
a milk chocolate or a chocolate would be
11:49
and then also because our sample B
11:51
actually has coffee grounds in it.
11:53
I will tell you that they will continue to bloom
11:55
even while they sit in the ice cream.
11:57
This is a great example of when you look at
11:59
the ice creams they look different.
12:01
This one, A, looks a little like what we call
12:04
in the business wee call it soggy.
12:07
It just doesn't have the creaminess factor
12:09
that this one has.
12:11
Around the perimeter, the B sample is starting to melt
12:13
and I can see some of that butterfat sheen,
12:16
which I'm definitely not getting already in our A.
12:19
That butterfat is gonna carry so much of
12:21
that scent to your nose.
12:22
When you experience a good coffee ice cream,
12:26
I think that it tastes like coffee smells.
12:28
To achieve that, we can steep coffee beans
12:31
right in the milk and cream,
12:32
and that's the best because then all of that scent
12:35
actually adheres to the butterfat.
12:36
Butterfat melts below body temperature
12:38
so even when it's frozen all of those notes of coffee
12:41
will bloom into your nose just like a chocolate actually.
12:44
So let's get in and try it and see what we discover.
12:48
So I'm going with B first.
12:51
Well it's a little airier than I
12:52
thought it would be, honestly.
12:53
It's very light but it smells very rich.
12:57
And even before I take a bite I can smell it.
13:01
It really tastes like a bag of coffee.
13:03
Smells, and that's really important,
13:04
the flavor and the scent is all there.
13:07
Okay, so the interesting thing about sample A
13:10
is that it's looked exactly like this since it came out,
13:13
which is, like, a little sort of flat.
13:17
I can just tell by bouncing it around
13:19
that this is very, very stabilized ice cream.
13:24
Do I have to eat this? (chuckling)
13:26
It's very airy, too.
13:30
Not very much coffee coming off of it.
13:32
Alright, here goes. (chuckling)
13:35
The first thing I notice is that it's very sweet.
13:37
It has notes of caramel, which tells me
13:40
that somebody is using flavorings.
13:43
This is nothing like opening up a bag of fresh coffee.
13:46
Like, it's not even close, it's not even in the ballpark.
13:49
I would say this the exact reason
13:52
to spend more on ice cream.
13:52
If you're a coffee lover you wanna spend
13:55
more on coffee ice cream because it should
13:59
really shine in ice cream.
14:01
I mean, the ice cream platform is a great place for coffee.
14:03
Okay, so I'm gonna say that B is
14:05
the more expensive of the two,
14:07
and that A is the less expensive.
14:10
So let's see.
14:11
(suspenseful instrumental music)
14:14
Yep, it's about right.
14:17
$9 versus under $2, that's a big price difference.
14:22
Sample A, you can really feel the sort of
14:26
chewiness that the stabilizers bring
14:28
and it's a stringiness almost to the ice cream,
14:31
whereas over here the flavor is beautiful
14:35
and when you get it on your palate,
14:36
it melts in just the right way.
14:38
So I feel like it's, you know, a better made ice cream.
14:42
When it comes to reading ingredient labels
14:44
on an ice cream pint,
14:45
that's an important indicator of quality.
14:47
You can really read the quality on the ingredient label.
14:50
If, toward the bottom, you're looking at
14:52
a lot of different kinds of sugars,
14:53
ingredients that you don't recognize,
14:55
mono and diglyceride, polysorbate 80,
14:58
those kinds of ingredients,
15:00
then it can be an indicator that it's a lower quality
15:02
ice cream because better ice cream makers
15:05
don't need all of those stabilizers and emulsifiers
15:07
and just wouldn't use them.
15:10
Well it looks like we've got two completely different
15:13
versions of not just mint chocolate chip,
15:15
but green mint chip because even though
15:18
our sample A is very pale in color,
15:20
it's still a green.
15:21
You know, maybe it indicates that
15:23
it's made with fresh mint leaf.
15:25
And then we have our more traditional green mint chip
15:28
with that bright, mint-green color.
15:30
This one looks a little bit marshmallowey
15:33
and marshmallowey indicates the sort of stable form,
15:36
meaning that there's stabilizers here.
15:39
Not necessarily a bad thing,
15:40
and I can smell the mint on there.
15:42
A has far fewer chocolate chips than our sample B does,
15:46
which seems to be positively loaded with chips,
15:48
which is pretty fun.
15:49
So let's jump into tasting.
15:52
Let's see.
15:56
I'm not getting mint just by smelling it.
16:01
Very interesting.
16:02
I'm trying to break out of my nostalgia
16:04
and get to what I think about the flavor, right?
16:06
Because I have an idea of what I
16:07
expect this to taste like and it doesn't.
16:10
It's a little bit salty, which is interesting.
16:12
Just a little bit of grit.
16:13
I think it's pretty high in butterfat.
16:15
I even see little specks of what I think are fresh mint.
16:19
So I think it's a fresh mint ice cream.
16:24
Yeah, it's very marshmallowey.
16:25
With a flavor like this especially,
16:27
that's not necessarily a bad thing.
16:28
These are nostalgic flavors.
16:30
You know, there's something about the texture
16:31
that kinda plays into that as well.
16:32
Like a slumber party, you know?
16:34
It just, like, takes you right back.
16:34
Alright, here we go.
16:38
It's got a really bouncy, almost chewy body.
16:41
I'm not a huge fan of this mint.
16:43
It's got more of, like, a toothpaste quality.
16:46
I'm going to guess that our expensive version
16:49
is version A because it's a fresh mint,
16:52
because it has a few extra bells and whistles.
16:54
High-quality ingredients assembled maybe not in a
16:56
perfect way but I do think that every ingredient
16:58
in here is a high-quality ingredient.
17:00
I think B is gonna be far less expensive,
17:02
but I don't think it's a terrible ice cream.
17:03
It's kind of like a, you know, preference thing.
17:05
Like all ice creams, actually.
17:07
So let's see.
17:08
(suspenseful instrumental music)
17:11
$11 versus $2.13, there ya go.
17:15
Our $11 ice cream probably involves more handwork,
17:18
you know, fresh mint, which is challenging,
17:20
I know 'cause I've done that many times.
17:21
I mean, just getting the spiders out of fresh mint
17:23
can be, like, challenging in its' own self.
17:27
Okay, when you got a big, huge pile
17:29
of fresh mint in your kitchen that somebody
17:31
picked out of a garden for you,
17:33
you have to wash them and literally get the spiders out
17:36
because there are spiders in mint.
17:38
Anyway, it's a nostalgic flavor,
17:40
so if you love that sort of candied green mint
17:44
and that's your preference you go for it
17:47
because this is really something special.
17:49
Our sample A is a different kind of
17:52
mint chocolate chip or green mint chocolate chip.
17:54
It's a fresh mint, it's got some good chocolate in it,
17:58
clearly some decent, quality dairy.
18:01
I would say that this is absolutely worth the money.
18:06
This is really fun.
18:07
Two flavors that are so different from each other.
18:10
I'm not even sure how they could be in the same category.
18:13
One is very yellow with chocolate swirl,
18:18
maybe some other chocolate pieces in it.
18:20
It's looks like we have a nonpareil,
18:22
the little spherical sprinkles hanging out over here.
18:29
Maybe it's like a cupcake or something like that.
18:30
I'm gonna pick it up and examine it a little closer.
18:33
That sort of sheen on the surface of when it's melting,
18:36
you can kinda tell that there's some butterfat in there.
18:40
Alright, let's examine our very white ice cream over here,
18:44
which is not melting at all. (chuckling)
18:46
So that indicates a cocktail of stabilizers and emulsifiers.
18:49
I think I should just go in and try it
18:51
because I don't know what else I'm gonna glean
18:52
from just looking at them.
18:53
Alright, let's look at some body happening here.
18:57
Definitely got some body on this ice cream.
19:02
Wow, I just ate something that I did not like.
19:06
Those wax candies that you, like, open up
19:08
and pour in your mouth from, like, the '70s,
19:09
if you ate the wax, almost what it felt like.
19:13
These blind tastings are really difficult when
19:15
I can't figure out what's in that,
19:17
but if it's on the label and I'm expecting it,
19:19
then it's a different experience.
19:21
Okay, now I'm interested because it looks
19:25
like there's some, like, chunks.
19:28
I don't know what it is.
19:29
This is very marshmallowey.
19:31
I mean, this is like marshmallow cream here.
19:36
Oh, clearly it's a piece of cake.
19:40
What we have here are two flavors of
19:42
ice cream that have mix-ins in them.
19:44
They're about the other stuff,
19:47
nuts or candies or in these cases sprinkles
19:50
and little bits of cake.
19:52
B, very highly stabilization.
19:54
The flavoring isn't terrible and I will tell you
19:57
that I believe that my own children
19:59
would probably love this flavor. (chuckling)
20:01
Gosh, I'd be hard-pressed to figure out
20:05
which one of these is gonna be more expensive.
20:06
I think that it's A and I think that's because
20:10
there's a lot going on.
20:11
It has lots of different things in it,
20:13
but I think the base of the ice cream is mint.
20:16
It tastes like a cake.
20:17
B, I think is going to be our less expensive ice cream.
20:19
It seems like it's cheaply made.
20:21
I mean, it's definitely full of stabilizers.
20:22
It's just got a few pieces in it.
20:23
They're very cookie-cutter kind of cut.
20:26
I feel like it's more of an industrially made ice cream.
20:28
So should we check?
20:30
(suspenseful instrumental music)
20:34
Okay, so 5.99 and 1.13.
20:37
This one is definitely worth about a 1.13 a pint.
20:41
I think it's like a birthday cake flavor
20:42
and, you know, there's something super fun about that.
20:44
I think if you're looking for birthday cake,
20:45
maybe you're looking for something like this
20:47
and there's nothing wrong with that.
20:49
That's just fine.
20:49
It's in these sort of fashion flavors and novelty flavors
20:53
that ice cream makers' personalities really come through.
20:56
We can do a lot with ice cream,
20:58
we can scent and flavor our sort of base of the ice cream
21:01
and then we can add swirls or jams or sauces, crunchy bits,
21:06
all sorts of different things that you can do
21:07
and you can tell a story that way,
21:09
and I think clearly this ice cream maker did that.
21:10
And, actually, that's kind of where all of our
21:12
popular flavors start out anyway.
21:14
To a kid, a flavor like birthday cake is gonna seem
21:18
like a creative kind of almost gourmet flavor.
21:21
I think in some places, paying, you know,
21:23
1.13 a pint for a birthday cake flavor
21:26
is absolutely acceptable, perfect,
21:28
and exactly what you might need.
21:29
Quality ice cream can be very labor-intensive
21:33
and very expensive to produce,
21:36
but you should get what you pay for
21:39
and ultimately it's about your preference
21:42
and that's the only thing that matters.
21:44
May I also suggest while I'm at it,
21:46
eat it from a cone.
21:47
You get to go on that journey with it all the way
21:49
to the bottom and it is a wonderful way to eat ice cream.
21:52
It's a wonderful way to get to know somebody else better
21:56
and be in the moment with them.
21:58
So enjoy ice cream and have a great summer.