Friday, September 16, 2011

Review: Breyers "Smooth & Dreamy Vanilla Baked Apple"

Today's review is for Breyers "Smooth & Dreamy Vanilla Baked Apple," just one of the flavours in their line of light ice creams that claim to be "1/2 the fat of regular ice cream" due to the use of some fancy-pants cream press system (whatever that means). Not sure if I buy the pseudo-scientific mumbo-jumbo, but the nutrition information shows that this ice cream is indeed lower in fat than regular ice cream: in fact, while our previously reviewed Island Farm Black Forest Cake ice cream has 15% of your daily recommended fat intake per 1/2 cup serving, Vanilla Baked Apple has only 5%, so 1/3 the fat of this particular regular ice cream. Not bad!

Also of note is that it is actually labelled as "ice cream", which means it has the ingredients to qualify for such a label. This is important because more than once I have been careless in my reading of the package and have ended up buying "frozen dessert" products which, compared to ice cream, can be just plain nasty and full of plant oils.
I know when I dream, I dream of Breyers
My last experience with Breyers was rather unpleasant (it was one of those "frozen dessert" scenarios that we ended up washing down the sink) so I would normally be hesitant to try another one of their products. However, since the label clearly says "ice cream" and because vanilla baked apple sounds kind of awesome, we decided to give it a go. Let's open 'er up and take a look at what we're working with.
Holy freezer catastrophe, batman! Yes, this is what it looked like when we opened it! Ack! Either the consistency of the swirl in the ice cream wasn't substantial enough to hold up to being frozen, or somewhere along the line this thing got thawed and refrozen. Or something else that would compromise it. I remember working for a grocery store that will remain unnamed where pallets of ice cream were left outside the freezer for up to an hour at a time, and you have to think that this sort of thing might affect the product.

But not to be put out, we decided to try it anyway, even though it looked ugly as heck. There are some nice vanilla bean specks in the ice cream portion, and the baked apple swirl looks well proportioned so as not to be either overpowering or underwhelming, so despite the freezer damage, once scooped it looked promising.
By now, J and I have both sampled this ice cream more than once in our quest to finish off the carton and make room in the freezer for future purchases, and I think I can safely say that we still don't really know what to think of this flavour. I guess we can start with the positives.

Even though this is a "light" ice cream, it doesn't appear to have any artificial or synthetic sugars, like Splenda or aspartame. While these can be great for diabetics, I find they leave a really nasty aftertaste that I just can't ignore. It also has a really nice texture for not being full fat. Sometimes low fat ice creams will be extremely hard or almost granulated, and this was definitely neither of these things.

But the taste... There is something weird about it, and we just can't figure out whether it's coming from the vanilla ice cream or the baked apple swirl. You know how I mentioned artificial sugars and the weird aftertaste? Well even though this thing doesn't have those notorious offenders, it kind of tastes like it does. There is something chemically-tasting in there that just doesn't sit well. It's not like it tastes bad but it's not great either.

The vanilla ice cream part is pretty standard (is the chemically taste coming from here?) and as stated before, the texture doesn't scream diet product, which is a good thing. The baked apple swirl (or is this the offending party?) is a bit caramel-y but you can also taste some tartness, presumably from the dried apple flakes cited in the ingredients. Seriously, if it wasn't explicitly in the ingredients, I would've assumed there were no actual apples in this product, as they are more like bits of apple dust than fruit. We shared some with my parents this afternoon, and while my father said he thought the flavour was overpowered by cinnamon, the rest of us couldn't actually taste any cinnamon at all. Weird. Both my parents thought the flavour was pretty awful, and we both decided that the more we ate, the less we liked the taste.

What really hurts this ice cream, in our opinion, was the lack of texture. While the texture of the actual ice cream part was nice and creamy, the fact that the swirl was, if anything, slightly gritty in texture was pretty disappointing. It would have been a huge improvement if there had been any discernible apple pieces or chunks in there, like an apple strudel filling or something similar. But no, instead we get drippy caramel-like substance and apple dust. Fabulous.

So what's the final verdict?

Recommend to a friend? What we would actually recommend is to get a nice apple pie and top it with a low fat (or if you're not concerned about calories, full fat) vanilla ice cream scoop. As far as imitations go, this one just doesn't cut it.
Repurchase? J: Maybe one more time if it was in better condition to re-evaluate it. B: No thanks, I'll pass.

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