One Scoop of Chocolate and One Scoop of Science, Please!

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A young boy, no older than 6, stood outside of the grocery store. His eyes never left the tasty treat nestled between his sticky fingers. Melted chocolate ice cream covered at least half of his face, resembling a poorly applied mud mask, and his shirt was splattered with massive drips of the dairy dessert. I watched with concern as he gnawed at the cone, causing more and more melted chocolaty bliss to ooze down his fingers and arms.

As I watched him enjoy his enormous ice cream cone, I began to think about ice cream’s chemistry. It is a frozen substance that still maintains a soft and smooth texture. What makes this delectable dessert so perfectly designed??

It turns out the most important factor in keeping this dessert so smooth is ice crystals. The size and dispersion of these ice crystals dictate the smoothness or graininess of the ice cream – The smaller and more evenly dispersed the crystals, the softer and smoother the texture.

One of the creamiest and most delicious bowls of ice cream you can enjoy is liquid nitrogen ice cream. With an extraordinarily low boiling point of -196 degrees Celsius (or -321 degrees Fahrenheit), it is capable of freezing ice cream from liquid to solid in about 15 seconds. With such a low temperature and fast freeze, large ice crystals are unable to form, producing extremely soft and smooth ice cream.

Dippin’ Dots actually uses liquid nitrogen in the production of their products as well. They flash freeze their ice cream into small beads by dripping the ice cream into liquid nitrogen.

Other important ice cream design factors are fat content, sweeteners, and air content. Ice cream companies have perfected the ratios of these ingredients in order to produce an addicting dessert.

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