Post by Ginny Fahs, The Salt at NPR Food (8/1/13)
When Dippin’ Dots emerged in 1987 with the slogan “Ice Cream of the Future,” its liquid nitrogen-blasted pellets seemed about as cutting edge as ice cream could get.
But ice cream has come a long way since then. Now, ice cream revolutionaries are updating our notions of ice cream texture and flavor with bioengineering and sheer chutzpah. Welcome to the new future of ice cream.Lunar Ice Cream
Haagen-Dazs’ Ice Moon spherical delights were created for the 2012 Christmas season by design team Doshi Levien. And if they’re any indication, the moon fares much better in ice cream than in cheese. The Full Ice Moon cake consisted of macadamia nut brittle ice cream and raspberry sorbet, separated by meringue and positioned on a pistachio biscuit base. The Harvest Ice Moon treat, meanwhile, featured salted caramel and vanilla ice cream with salted caramel sauce and crispy chocolate as a base. What looks like a rough, cratered mini-moon may be a small step for ice cream, but it’s one that could become a giant leap for ice cream cakes. For their limited release, the cakes cost $58, and were available only at Haagen-Dazs shops throughout France, Belgium, Amsterdam and London.
Wikipearls look like big doughnut holes, but they have ice cream on the inside. Inspired by grape skins, Harvard bioengineering professor David Edwards set out to find ways to serve food in edible casings that would eliminate plastic packaging. When he applied his Wikicell technology to ice cream, the result was Wikipearls: Ice cream balls wrapped in a delectable skin. Wikipearls currently come in three flavors: mango with a coconut skin, chocolate with a hazelnut skin, and vanilla with a peanut skin. Right now, Wikipearls are only available for purchase at the small Wikibar shop in the heart of Paris. But they’ll be making their first appearance in the U.S. later this year, Edwards says.
Why should there be one flavor of ice cream per bite when there could be two? “Flavor release” ice cream was developed by Elizabeth Fenner in 2011 when she was a graduate student at the University of Missouri. Fenner used micro-encapsulation technology — coating the flavor compounds with a tiny dissolvable polymer — to make an ice cream that starts as vanilla and then about four seconds later turns to cherry. This ice cream isn’t commercially available yet, but Fenner has said she wants to try to refine the idea. Fenner is now a product development specialist at Yogurtland, so we can only hope there will be a frozen yogurt variation on the way.
It only takes a minute for a milky mixture to meld into ice cream beneath a cloud of frigid nitrogen “smoke.” Liquid nitrogen ice cream technology can quickly freeze an ice cream base with any add-ins, turning a liquid into a solid as if by magic. Parlors that specialize in this quick-freeze ice cream made to order have been sprouting up across the U.S. — from Smitten in San Francisco, which the Salt profiled in April, to the Sub Zero Ice Cream chain, which has 27 store locations nationwide from Washington to Florida. The new texture of this ice cream — denser, harder, richer — and freshness make it an intriguing twist on traditional frozen treats.
Ice cream need not be limited to sweet flavors, we’re learning. The “ice cream without limits” approach is the philosophy of Humphry Slocombe in San Francisco. Owners Jake Godby and Sean Vahey pride themselves in — and are famous for — their outside-the-box ice cream flavors that utilize raw ingredients like meats, cheeses, nuts and vegetables. Get a load of some recent picks: sweet summer corn, strawberry black olive, even foie gras and boccalone prosciutto. Here’s to hoping that in the future Humphry Slocombe will prove that we can eat only ice cream and still hit all the major food groups.
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