Experiments, Inexpensive and Versatile, STEM Resources

Introducing Science through making Ice Cream

We’ve had some unusually HOT days this fall, which made for a great excuse to make and EAT some of my favorite dessert – ice cream!

This turned out to be a really fun activity to do with the kids and I highly recommend using SCIENCE as your next excuse to make and eat ice cream with your children!

The recipe that I used is a NO CHURN ice cream recipe, but honestly I modified it greatly and didn’t follow the instructions completely (that part was by accident… haha)! If you do want to follow a recipe, this one by Lemons and Zest is great and it’s the one I modified!

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of Heavy Whipping Cream
  • 1 – 14 ounce can of condensed milk
  • 1 – 15 ounce package of Oreo cookies (smashed) – we used mint flavored
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • a pinch of sea salt

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Instructions:

This is where you can follow the steps outlined in the Lemons and Zest blog link above (which is the best way to ensure you get adequate air whipped into your cream) OR you can do what I did…

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1. Put the oreos in a gallon zip lock bag and smash the cookies up into large crumbles.

My kids are super into princesses, so I made it fun by allowing them to hit the cookies with their magic wands and saying “bibiddi bobiddi boo” to transform the cookies to ice ready ingredients.
2. Next open up the condensed milk and measure out the heavy whipping cream. Here I showed my kids how both were liquids but one was more ‘viscous’ than the other. The heavy cream was more viscous (has less resistance to flow) than the thicker condensed milk.

If your children are a little older than mine, you can introduce measurement by observing the size of the measuring cups.

Then this is where I made my mistake and altered from the recipe…

3. Mix the condensed milk and the heavy whipping cream together for several minutes until it gets fully incorporated. Mine was creamy but light in texture. I used a stand mixer but you could also use a hand mixer. I added about 1 tsp of vanilla for flavor gradually followed by a pinch of sea salt.

As the liquids started to change texture, I explained the blade of the mixer was whipping millions of tiny bubbles into the mixture to make it ‘lighter’.

The amount of air in your ice cream is important – the structure of the mixture has an impact on it’s taste. This is why I suggested following the recipe above when mixing the cream and then adding the condensed milk gradually instead of using my method… You will have much more control over the amount of air whipped in. My husband actually thought that the ice cream was just a tad too rich… that’s probably because I mixed both the cream and condensed milk all at one time.

I also introduced the word ’emulsion’ since ice cream is an emulsion (two or more liquids that come together that do not normally mix). In this case, it the fat particles being spread throughout the sugar, water, and ice with the air bubbles. You can find more information on the Amercian Chemical Societies website.

The sea salt helps lower the freezing point of the ice cream so that it gets colder faster.

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4. I then folded in the Oreos and then poured it into a freezer safe container (I used a metal loaf pain).

5. We froze ours for about 5 hours but the recipe says it must be froze for at least 4 hours. We served it on sugar cones and talked about how the ice crystals inside the ice cream melt from the warm air outside the freezer so we have to lick it quickly!

Conclusion:

I have to say that this was definitely one of the more fun and tasty experiments we’ve done at home!

Do I think my 4 year old will remember what an emulsion is or what viscosity means? She might, but probably not. Do I think my 2 year old will remember that air bubbles caused the mixture to get ‘lighter’? She might, but probably not.

While they may not remember those specific details, I do know that they understand that making ice cream is scientific and experimental! And most importantly science is FUN! I also know that I’m building their science vocabulary so that they won’t be intimidated once they see words like emulsion or viscosity someday. And they might even remember this little experimental activity and it will help them visualize what those words mean in their science classes.

Science is all around us! Being curious about even simple things like making ice cream, can expand our minds in ways we would have never imagined! If it wasn’t for science, would ice cream even exist???

Let me know if you try this experiment at home and how it went!
Sugar cone cheers to all of you!

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Disclaimer: Lemons and Zest is a food blogger from Cincinnati, Ohio that I follow. I have no relationship with her or her blog and I was not compensated for this post. As always, all opinions are 100% my own.

4 thoughts on “Introducing Science through making Ice Cream”

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