Do you know why Haazen Daaz new Five campaign is such a brilliant idea? Five ingredients are all you really need to make most flavors of ice cream. Five simple ingredients:
real flavoring: see vanilla beans, zest, coffee beans, cardamom pods
Oh and, sure, a pinch of salt will amp up the flavor balance on most ice creams. For chocolate ice cream you'll need some combination of cocoa and chocolate (or butter and chocolate) so that is more than five but you get the point.
Ice cream relies on a certain amount of fat for its creamy taste. The fat can be composed of egg yolks, cream, milk or half and half and every chef has a recipe they prefer. For a long time I was stuck on Claudia Fleming's ratio of one cup cream, three cups milk and twelve yolks, but the amount of sugar she calls for was too high for some flavors.
Gritty or icy tasting ice creams may not have a high enough percentage of fat, they may contain shards of fruit that attracts ice molecules when freezing, or they may have melted and refrozen to give it a strange texture. Companies like Ben and Jerry's add emulsifiers to the ice cream so that you'll have a fairly scoopable product the minute you take it out of the freezer. If you've ever wondered why Haagen Daaz is always rock hard, it's because there are no emulsifiers in the product. Emulsifiers for the most part aren't creepy or bad or gross like other additives to processed food. Some are made of seaweed.
Some people add things like milk powder or gelatin to ice creams or sorbets to improve the texture. Gelatin affects the sorbet or ice cream base while spinning and prevents the formation of ice crystals. You can "cheat" the natural formula by reducing the fat content and adding gelatin to ice creams to prevent the crystallization that happens when not enough fat is present in a base. You can also cheat by adding a couple tablespoons of alcohol, which will keep the ice cream softer.
I like to keep my ice cream pretty simple and only booze it up if I'm going for a boozy flavor. Ice cream can be deceptive with all those additives. You can't taste gelatin in a product, though you can sometimes taste milk powder if the ice cream is a pretty weak flavor.