Ice Cream Machine / June 22, 2018 / Kailey Satterfield
It shares a lot with regular ice cream. In its purest form soft serve is basically just regular ice cream at a different point in its process, according to the University of Guelph. After the ice cream ingredients are mixed together, the university writes, a machine "both freezes a portion of the water and whips air into the frozen mixture." Ice cream is between 30 and 60 per cent air–without it, you’d crack your teeth on an ice cube made of dairy. At this point in the process, if the mixture is drawn into a cone, it’s soft serve. If it’s put into a tub and frozen until it’s even colder, it becomes ice cream. In a sense, soft serve is really just melted ice cream. In fact, one of soft serve’s originators, Tom Carvel, hit on the idea when he had to sell melting ice cream out of his broken-down shipping truck.
The difference is (partially) in the air. All ice cream is technically foam–at least that’s what chemists would tell you. "In ice cream–liquid particles of fat–called fat globules–are spread throughout a mixture of water, sugar and ice, along with air bubbles," writes Brian Rohrig for ChemMatters. The air bubbles are essential to giving ice cream its texture. In soft serve, writes Vanessa Farquharson for the National Post, "all that air leaves less room for dairy fat."