Ice cream is a dessert that brings many people joy when they eat it and sorrow when it melts while they’re eating it. And so scientists have invented the slow melting ice cream.
Researchers from Scotland think they’ve found a way to stop ice cream from melting – apparently ice cream will last longer in hot temperatures if manufacturers add a newly identified naturally occurring protein known as “BslA”.
As if that wasn’t enough, the protein has also been shown to reduce the amount of ice crystals that form on the ice cream when we keep it in the freezer for too long.
Cait MacPhee, lead researchers and field expert from University of Edinburgh, gave a statement to CBS News saying that she and her colleague “are predicting that you should be able to eat an ice cream cone without the ice cream dribbling down the side”.
BslA works by making air bubbles and fat droplets more stable within a food mix. Its safety is guaranteed as Asian countries are already adding the protein to various dishes, including Natto, a traditional soybean meal that’s served at breakfast.
MacPhee explained that microbial communities “protect themselves by producing this protein and that protein goes to the outer surface of this community and makes a film that we dubbed a bacterial raincoat”. This basically turns BslA into a water repellent.
She went on to add that if any other bugs show up in the environment and decide to attack the friendly microbial communities, they are unable to get to them because they will bounce off. MacPhee is very impressed with the organisms and said that they have a fairly clever strategy.
The discovery is more or less of a happy accident as MacPhee admitted that when she and Nicola Stanley, Wall of the University of Dundee, first started looking at the microbial communities responsible for producing BslA, looking for ways to improve ice cream was not one of their objectives. They were simply interested in finding out how well the naturally occurring protein behaves.
But the two researches soon learned that microbial communities are able to form the film because of the existing interface between the outside environment (which is air) and the colony (which is wet). Once they realized this, they instantly knew that the protein can stabilize air bubbles.
But at the same time it’s also responsible for stabilizing a mix of water and oil, and has the capacity to coat solid surfaces. MacPhee explained that this combination – having water and oil mixes, having air bubbles, and having solid surfaces – is exactly the one that defines ice cream.
To prove their theory, the research duo made some vanilla ice cream in the lab and replaced the usual emulsifier with BslA. After examining the product, MacPhee concluded that it melts at a much slower rate and that it prevents ice crystals from growing as quickly.
Oddly enough, the researchers did not taste their ice cream, so MacPhee did not have a definitive answer to what the BslA enhanced ice cream tastes like. However, she believes that the protein doesn’t change the taste and texture of the dessert because its structure is mostly the same.
If approved, the protein will be added to ice cream products as well as chocolate mousses and salad dressing in about three (3) to five (5) years.
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