Today (Sunday, July 15) is National Ice Cream Day, so this was the perfect weekend to settle a debate that began on the 4th of July: Which ice cream is better, Blue Bell or Braums? As planning got underway, Paula threw out Baskin Robbins as a contender as well, so with our field of hopefuls set, The Great Ice Cream Debate was on.
To keep this an “apples to apples” (as it were) test, we only tested basic (as basic as possible) vanilla and chocolate of each brand.
In what was clearly a blessing from God on our endeavor, the party began with a sudden intense rainshower followed by not just one, but TWO rainbows!
It was a complete bow, too.
Back to the ice cream: while we’re not exactly America’s Test Kitchen, I tried to be reasonably scientific about it. So I created score sheets for everyone. Judges could award up to 5 cones in each of 3 categories: taste, texture, and flavor (which referred to the vanilla or chocolate-ness of the ice cream as opposed to overall flavor). There was also a place for comments.
We also chose teams at the beginning, because I thought it would be fun to see if our perceived favorites turned out to be the one we liked the best. I wanted it to be a blind taste test, but this method was a little awkward…
So I sent all the tasters to the dining room and stayed in the kitchen to secretly fill bowls with different brands. (Each brand had its own bowl design to help avoid confusion on my end.) Once everybody had rated their samples, Laura traded out the bowls for me so I could taste, too.
It was kind of amazing just how different three different brands of the same flavor of ice cream can taste. The debate was lively, but in the end we crowned a winner. Here’s a rundown of the results:
We began with vanilla, operating on the theory that it would be like a wine tasting where you go from white to red–though in this case, it was white to brown.
Taste rated a solid 3 cones with several mentioning an aftertaste. The texture ranking was all over the board, from 2 to 4 cones and comments ranging from “very smooth” to “too creamy” and “too fluffy.” Flavor averaged 3 cones with one comment of “flavor too strong.”
This one got the highest taste score, with several judges awarding 5 cones. More than one mentioned it was sweeter than the others. As with the Baskin Robbins entry, texture varied from 2 to 5 cones. Texture seems to be a very personal preference. Flavor was noted as “blander” than the rest.
Three judges awarded this one 5 cones for flavor; the rest gave it 4 cones. Texture was described as “creamy” and the flavor as “not overpowering.” Several judges from both Team Baskin Robbins and Team Braums gave this their highest scores, making Blue Bell our Vanilla Champion
You might think the winner of one category has an advantage, but not so fast. In the chocolate category, Blue Bell scored a mere 3 cones on taste, with one judge describing a “metallic” note. It didn’t do so well in texture, either, with comments of “grainy.” The flavor was described as “strong” and with a decided “cocoa flavor.”
The most expensive option got varied marks for taste, which was described as more of a “richer” “bittersweet chocolate” taste. The texture mostly rated 4 cones and the flavor was “very, very chocolate” which seems a bit much for several judges, although three did give it a 5 cone rating.
Judges couldn’t agree on the taste, with ratings from 2 to 5 cones, but it averaged 4 cones for its creamy (or “fluffy” texture). It also scored well in the flavor category, with the chocolate described as “not prominent” but a “good chocolate flavor.”
When all the results were tallied, Braums was the winner! Unfortunately, it went home to a judge’s freezer before I remembered to hold the awards ceremony so you’ll just have to imagine it wearing its medal. Let’s see, that’s one win for the team from Brenham, Texas and one for the team from Tuttle, Oklahoma, and as for the team from Canton, Massachusetts . . . well, better luck next time!
Once business was out of the way, we could add toppings: bananas, hot caramel, hot fudge, brownies, whipped cream, cherries… or all of the above!
And in the end, we all agreed:
Of course, there are other brands out there: Blue Bunny, Breyers, Ben & Jerry’s, just to name a few. (Why do they all start with B?) We may have to do qualifying heats and then hold a (wait for it) Super Bowl championship. It’s a sticky job, but somebody’s got to do it.
Who makes your favorite ice cream? (And are you sure about that?)