The use of sweeteners in ice cream increases product acceptability, making it sweeter and enhancing the flavour. They increase the viscosity and total solids of the mix and therefore improve both body and texture. Excess sugar makes the product soggy and depresses the freezing point; the ice cream then requires a lower freezing point and a lower hardening temperature. Insufficient sugar results in an ice cream with weak and coarse texture. Sugars are among the cheapest source of solids and are used at levels between 10-16% of the total mix, depending on the fat content, the process used and the type of product required. Some authorities state that poor ice cream is obtained when less than 12% sugar is used.

The commonest sugar used is sucrose. Dextrose hydrate is less sweet than sucrose and 1┬╝lb of dextrose is equivalent in sweetening power to 1lb of sucrose. Its presence tends to retard the crystallization of sucrose and can therefore be used to improve texture. However, it has a greater depressing effect on freezing point than sucrose and it is preferable to restrict its use to 25% of the total sugars. Lactose is also less sweet than sucrose and is present in milk, the serum solids of milk contain about 50% lactose. When present in significant concentrations, lactose may tend to separate out as crystals large enough to impart a sandiness to the ice cream. Its use should therefore be limited to less than one twelfth of the total amount of free water, including the lactose present in the serum solids.

Corn solids are also available and contain varying amounts of sugar and total solids, depending on the type of syrup. They are obtained by the hydrolysis of starch and contain dextrins which tend to raise the freezing point of the mix. They should not be used at high levels in excess of 25% of the total sugar content and tend to give a heavier, firmer body to the ice cream.

Invert sugar is sweeter than Sucrose and lowers the freezing point; it should not be used above 30% of the total sugars. Other sweeteners can be used but care should be taken as many of them, honey for example, have very characteristic flavours which may not be acceptable.

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