With or without the sprinkles and chocolate sauce, America's favorite ice cream … is vanilla.
But what makes plain vanilla really great plain vanilla? Consumer Reports tasters put the most popular vanilla ice creams to the test.
A specially trained "sensory team" blind-tasted 19, for flavor, texture, and appearance.
Amy Keating with Consumer Reports says, "An excellent vanilla ice cream should have definite dairy flavor, balanced by real vanilla. And it shouldn't be overly sweet, and it should have a creamy, smooth texture."
Several of the samples were not so great. For instance, Target's Market Pantry Vanilla Bean had an "airy, gummy" texture, and the vanilla was just "basic."
Topping Consumer Reports' taste test? Ben and Jerry's vanilla. Tasters say it's "rich, dense, and creamy," with a complex vanilla flavor. It's about a dollar a half-cup.
Another one to go nuts over? Häagen-Dazs vanilla is "full, dense, and creamy," with "big dairy flavor." It also runs about a dollar a half-cup.
Keating goes on to say, "Well, it's not surprising that the top-rated ones were really high in fat. But there very good ones that we tested that have about half the fat and are lower in price, as well."
Many of these ice creams can be had for about a third of the price of the "excellent"-rated brands. But … would they get the same response?
A boy replies, "Please, can I have some more ice cream?"
If you are inviting over a gang for ice cream, a good choice is Kirkland Signature Super Premium from Costco.
At 30 cents a half-cup, it's one-third the price of Ben & Jerry's or Häagen-Dazs. But buy it for a crowd. It's sold as two half-gallon containers.