Dairy Products

A variety of different ice-creams in cones

Ice cream

We Australians love our ice cream, with its many delicious creamy flavours. Children and adults alike love to lick it as it drips from a cone. Or vigorously scoop it from a bowl until barely a drop remains. Or smother it with rich chocolate sauce for the ultimate indulgence. Or just enjoy it on the side of a cake or sweet pie. Such fun.

With our climate and abundance of milk, it’s not surprising that Australians are among the largest consumers per capita of ice cream in the world. And, it’s reassuring to know that ice cream is not just a delectable treat, but a real food that’s a great energy source with a place in a healthy diet.

Long before the invention of the freezer, ice cream was a sensation loved by all who ate it. The ancient Chinese and Arabs enjoyed a delicacy of whipped and frozen cream or milk while the Romans delighted in snow mixed with fruit, cream and honey. Today we still wouldn’t be without it.

Types of ice cream

There are several types of ice cream:

Regular ice cream

No less than 10% milk fat.

Reduced-fat ice cream

Approximately 7% milk fat.

Low-Fat Ice Cream

No more than 3% milk fat.

Soft-Serve Ice Cream

Similar in composition to reduced-fat ice cream, soft-serve is aerated and frozen immediately before sale to make a frozen but fluid ice cream.

Dairy Gelato

Strictly speaking, gelato always has some dairy component or else it's a sorbetto (sorbet) or granita. More generally, 'gelato', a word derived from the Italian 'congelato' meaning 'frozen', refers to a gamut of frozen ice desserts ranging from granita and sorbetto to semi-freddo. 

Making ice cream

This wonderful cold and creamy substance comes in many forms and there are many secret and coveted recipes.

Around 70% of the ingredients in ice cream are derived from milk. The mix may also contain other natural ingredients such as sugar and fruit. Small quantities of stabilisers, flavours, colourings and emulsifiers may also be added to enhance flavour, texture or appearance.

There are no added preservatives as ice cream is preserved naturally by freezing. As it freezes, the mixture is whipped and blended to give its smoothness.

The whipping blends air with the ice cream. This increases its volume and reduces the kilojoules per serve. It also helps to give ice cream its structure and a warming mouthfeel.

Commercial ice cream

There are seven steps involved in making commercial ice cream:

Step 1
Milk, cream, milk solids, sugars, modifying agents and flavourings are blended together in stainless steel vats. 
Step 2
The mixture is homogenised under high pressure. This involves forcing the mixture through a fine nozzle in a stainless steel valve, helping to create the desired texture as milk fat globules become uniform in size. 
Step 3
The mixture is then pasteurised by heating at 82-85°C for 15 seconds and then rapidly cooled to eliminate potentially harmful bacteria. 
Step 4
The mixture is left to stand for 4-24hrs so that ageing occurs. In this process the fat globules solidify and the viscosity increases. Flavours or colourings are added during this time. 
Step 5
The mixture is then frozen at about -7˚C and beaten (or ‘agitated’, to use the technical term). The process adds air in small cells while it creates a texture similar to whipped cream. 
Step 6
The ice cream is then moulded and packaged. 
Step 7
The packaged ice cream is frozen at around -25°C to allow the ice cream to harden. 

How to make ice cream at home

 A commercial ice cream maker is not necessary to make ice cream in small volumes at home. You can successfully make ice cream at home my beting the mixture several times during the freezing process.

‘Stir freezing’ is conducted using an ice cream machine with the beater working constantly. It whips in air while the mixture freezes.

‘Still freezing’ is the method of stirring the mixture by hand a number of times during the freezing period to achieve a smooth texture.

Alternatively, the partially frozen mixture can be transferred to an electric mixer or food processor. It must be processed quickly a couple of times and returned to the freezer in between.

Some common faults that can occur...

An icy texture is often a result of the mixture containing less than 30% of solids (sugar, fat and non-fat milk solids), or ice cream that has thawed and been refrozen.

A gritty or sandy texture (lactose crystallisation) is caused by too many non-fat milk solids and not enough water.

A fluffy warm sensation is caused by excessive air and not enough ice and icy sugar solution. The ice cream appears light and lacking in coldness.

A coarse texture results from a reduced milk fat content in the ice cream. There are fewer but larger fat globules to separate the ice crystals and the ice cream tastes colder than usual.

See our Quick Vanilla Ice cream recipe.

Nutrition Information

Ice cream ingredients

Several essential ingredients go into this delicious treat. 

Milk fat gives ice cream its smoothness and creaminess: the higher the milk fat content the richer the ice cream. It is added as cream, butter or pure milk fat.

Non-fat milk solids, nutritional milk proteins and lactose (milk sugar), give body to ice cream and help develop its smoothness. Other milk solids include vitamins and essential minerals such as calcium. Too much non-fat milk solid causes a ‘sandy’ texture due to the formation of lactose crystals.

Cane sugar (sucrose) or glucose syrups are added to ice cream to give sweetness. Sugar enhances flavour. It also lowers the temperature at which ice cream freezes and melts to well below the freezing point of the water. This makes ice cream easier to eat as, once taken from the freezer, it melts quite quickly.
Flavourings add the fun to ice cream. Although vanilla is the most popular, chocolate, fruit, nut, toffee and liqueur flavours are also favourites.

Stabilisers and emulsifiers, approved by FSANZ, are referred to as the modifying agents in ice cream. And no, they’re not preservatives. Ice cream is preserved naturally by freezing. Stabilisers, such as gelatin and vegetable gums, increase the viscosity of ice cream by controlling the size of ice crystals. They give a uniform consistency and control the melting rate. They also change the growth and size of ice crystals to help give the ice cream a smooth texture.

Emulsifiers, such as lecithin from egg yolks or synthetic glyceryl monosaturates, improve the whipping qualities of the mix by ensuring that the milk fat remains evenly distributed.

The amount of air in the ice cream? That’s the ‘overrun’. The overrun helps achieve the desired texture of the ice cream. At most, it can cause the volume of the ice cream mix to double.

Colourings, often added to improve the appearance of the ice cream, are also regulated. They must not exceed the level prescribed by FSANZ.

Nutrient Content

Proximate Composition of Some Australian Ice Creams

Type per 100g 
Standard Vanilla 2.1  5.9  11.5  447  52 
Reduced-Fat Vanilla 1.9  1.5  16.0  351  51 
Gelato  2.2  2.6  26.9  570  36 
Source: NUTTAB 2010 – Australian Food Composition Tables: Food Standards Australia New Zealand, Canberra

For more information on the health and nutrition benefits of dairy foods visit our Health pages.

Using Ice Cream

Ice cream in its many forms and flavours adds delight to food in many ways - from a simple side dish to special occasion ice cream cakes.


Then there’s Affogato, a very simple yet most creative use of ice cream. Place two scoops of a favourite ice cream in cocktail glass or small bowl. On the side, serve two shot glasses - one with a liqueur to complement the ice cream flavour, the other with a shot of espresso. Pour coffee then liqueur over the ice cream and scoop up the creamy mixture… a taste sensation! 

*Cheats Affogato may be made with good quality instant coffee sprinkled on top of the ice cream and adding a shot of whisky*. 

Create your own flavours

Create a signature ice cream with these flavour combinations: 

  • Maple and pecan or macadamia. 
  • Caramel and fresh date. 
  • Rose water, chopped Turkish delight and flavoured toasted almonds. 
  • Roughly chopped praline. 
  • Chopped fresh mango and passionfruit pulp. 
  • Fresh raspberries and chopped baci chocolate. 
  • Dried chopped figs and muscat or sauterne wine. 
  • Orange rind and orange blossom water. 
  • Orange, lemon and lime rind. 
  • Cinnamon stick and mixed spice. 
  • Lime rind and passionfruit pulp. 

Ways to serve ice cream

  • Brownie Sandwich. 
  • Sandwiched between shortbreads. 
  • Sandwiched between thin wafer biscuits or Florentines, sprinkled with icing sugar. 
  • In a tall glass with fresh, cooked or soused fruits. 
  • Moulded as a terrine, and then sliced. 
  • As the perfect partner to hot apple pie. 
  • Sandwiched between two choc chip cookies or brownies for dessert. 
  • Premium ice cream in tiny waffle cones. 
  • Layered ice cream terrines. 
  • Giant ‘Coupe Glace’ or ice cream sundaes. 
  • Layered between puff or filo pastry or shortbread. 
  • Crumbed in cake crumbs, almonds or pistachios frozen and flash deep fried. 
  • Balls of hard frozen ice cream, dipped in chocolate and then refrozen. 
  • With Greek-style sour cherries in syrup and crisp almond bread. 
  • Home made cinnamon ice cream with rich fruit mince and shortbread. 
  • Poached peaches with vanilla bean ice cream and crushed raspberries.