Last week, Vice President Joe Biden stumped for Wisconsin Democratic Senator Russ Feingold in Southeastern Wisconsin when he made what he may not have realized is a political gaffe here. Stopping to scoop cones at Kopps Frozen Custard in Glendale, Biden asked, “Where’s the ice cream?”
An employee reportedly informed the vice president that the shop served custard, not ice cream.
Biden’s mistake illustrates a really good point. Most people don’t know the difference. That strikes me as somewhat odd, because I sense most do grasp the difference between ice cream and other frozen treats like, for example, sherbet or granita.
In the interest of clearing up the confusion, here’s a primer:
Let’s start with the misunderstood frozen custard. It’s not soft serve ice cream. But it is unmistakable from any other type of ice cream once in your mouth and belly. It’s much richer than ice cream, made with egg yolks in addition to cream and sugar and contains more milk fat. Its extra creaminess also comes from a different churning process.
From the folks at WiseGeek:

“Frozen custard gets its creaminess from a higher percentage of butterfat compared to standard grade ice creams. In order to be considered a true custard, the mix must contain at least 10% butterfat, but it’s not unusual to see butterfat percentages as high as 18% or more. The beaters inside the chamber of a frozen custard machine turn much more slowly than those in a soft-serve ice cream or frozen yogurt machine. This slow churning prevents excessive air from being mixed into the custard as it freezes.”

Various regions stake claim to serving the first custard — Chicago and New York among them. But I’ve never seen a concentration of custard stands and devotees as in Southern Wisconsin. There are three local stands within a bike ride or walk from my house alone. (It’s a true mystery why our city keeps appearing on lists of the healthiest places to live.)
And now, for comparison, let’s discuss Ice Cream. Epicurious’ food dictionary describes Ice Cream as such:

“…ice creams with solid additions must contain a minimum of 8% milk fat, while plain ice creams must have at least 10% milk fat. French ice cream has a cooked egg-custard base. Ice milk is made in much the same way as ice cream, except for the fact that it contains less milk fat and milk solids.”

So, there you have it. Custard is denser and richer than ice cream or other frozen treats. Perhaps the White House staff can bone up on regional culinary specialties next time Biden travels, lest they want to endure another classic Biden blunder.

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