Hold everything! Before you decide to mix and blend, swirl and crunch, there are some things you need to know about adding inclusions to frozen desserts. The fact is, there is more to including inclusions than simply adding standard ingredients into a frozen dessert base. For starters, the freezing process not only hardens frozen dessert mix, it impacts the texture and flavor release of the inclusions. Consequently, inclusion ingredients are often unique for frozen desserts.
Inclusions basically come in two forms: Particulates and variegates. Particulates range from chopped nuts to diced fruit and cookie bits to candy chunks. Variegates are a fancy word for sauce, with the most common variegates being caramel, chocolate and fruit syrups.
Many consumers view inclusions as added value, thus, it is important that inclusions be identifiable in the frozen dessert. If the ice cream says it contains brownie chunks, than the consumer should find exactly that. Furthermore, most consumers want to find a piece in every bite, or at least, numerous identifiable pieces in every scoop.
With that said, product integrity is very important. When you grind a candy like a peanut butter cup, one loses the continuity of the chocolate and peanut butter. This is precisely why miniature peanut butter cups are available just for frozen desserts. Indeed, many candy inclusions are formulated just for addition to ice cream.
Adding particulate inclusions into frozen novelties poses unique challenges as a result of novelty form and package. Single-serve cups are the easiest novelty to add chunky particulates to. This is because it is undesirable for inclusion pieces to extend out of precisely shaped novelties such as cones and sandwiches. This is not to say that adding particulate inclusions to frozen novelties is not possible; it just must be done carefully. Very small inclusions are your best bet.
According to Dairy Foods' columnists and ice cream industry gurus Bruce Tharp and Steve Young, when it comes to injecting syrups into novelties, there are restrictions related to novelty shape and size because the extrusion nozzle design and ice cream flow can distort the distribution of variegated patterns. However, these challenges can be overcome by selecting a relatively simple pattern injected close to the filling nozzle. For molded ice cream novelties, the injection of inclusions can be accomplished by using bottom-up fillers that have been introduced in recent years.
Another physical attribute to be aware of is color bleed, which is basically a smearing of an inclusion's color. Most of the time this is undesirable, but depending on the flavor and the effect, color bleed might be just the point of differentiation a marketer is looking for.
When it comes to flavor, if an ice cream claims to taste like tiramisu, it better. Don't think that just because you've added tiramisu pieces to the mix you are sure to deliver authentic tiramisu flavor to the consumer. It is often necessary to flavor the mix with whatever flavor the inclusion is to give consumers the flavor impact they anticipate in that first spoonful.
In general, you want to use ingredients formulated for ice ream, as they are typically highly flavored. One can only add so many particulates and so much variegate to flavor the product.
Once you get through appearance and flavor, there's that "T" word: Texture. The variable so often overlooked but so very important. Have you ever asked someone who does not eat tomatoes (but does use ketchup and loves marinara sauce), why? The response is usually texture.
When it comes to inclusions in ice cream, texture must be considered. No one wants the pecans in butter pecan ice cream to be soggy, or the strawberries in strawberry cheesecake ice cream to have ice crystals.
There are two primary considerations when discussing texture and inclusions. The first is how the inclusion's texture is affected by freeze temperatures. The second is how the inclusion's texture changes over extended storage at freezing temperatures.
All of these are important criteria to discuss with your supplier. One you may not want to discuss is inclusion usage level. Because you know as much as I do, the goal of the supplier is to sell inclusions, so they will suggest levels on the high end. What frozen dessert manufacturers need to do is some market research to determine consumer-preferred inclusion levels.
The optimum level of any combination of inclusions should meet or exceed consumer expectations. Tharp and Young suggest 10% total particulate inclusions and 15% variegating sauce, based on the weight of the ice cream, as good places to start.