Ice Cream improvement underway thanks to Avalanche research

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ice cream crystals
Photo - Gizmodo.com.au

Ice cream has been around for a millennia, evolved for centuries, and has been marketed for decades, and now – as you reach for your favourite scoop – the legacy rests in your hand. If you’re anything like me, and have an insatiable love for ice creams, this sure is going to be a good news for you.

Avalanche experts are researching on how ice cream structure will change when stored in the household freezer. To carry out the study, several experiments were performed where samples of ice cream were scanned with an X-ray machine and ice crystals were examined to ascertain the main reasons for the avalanche formation.

Nestle has also joined hands with the study to reveal and research the actual conditions under which ice crystals combine and grow. When the crystals get big enough in size they change the texture of the ice cream and change when eaten.

Scientists at the Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research in Davos, Switzerland, studied the reasons for the ice crystal formation. They use X-ray tomography machines which can take the images of the tiny particles at sub-zero temperatures.

Previously, we could not look inside ice cream without destroying the sample in the process,” Nestle food scientist Dr. Cedric Dubois said.

According to recent publications in the journal Soft Matter, Nestle is finding ways to combat slow degradation of an ice cream’s taste. Just like some foods, the structure of the ice cream is the main source of its taste.

Chewy feel

Dr. Dubois said the research uncovered that white frost of ice crystals found on ice cream forms as a result of the temperature changes it undergoes while being transported, sold and stored.

“Most home freezers are set at -18C, but the temperature doesn’t remain constant,” said Dr Dubois. “It fluctuates by a couple of degrees in either direction, which causes parts of the ice cream to melt and then freeze again.”

During the study the time lapse images of the ice crystals of few microns were collected which were under observation at several temperature fluctuations. It was observed that water froze to form crystals which affected the shape of the ice cream and made it chewy becoming more hard to scoop, icy than required and taste getting faded.

The study revealed the “life cycle” of the crystals when triggered to merge and enlarge and then finally modify the texture of the ice cream.

Dr. Dubois said: “We already know the growth of ice crystals in ice cream is triggered by a number of different factors. If we can identify the main mechanism, we can find better ways to slow it down.”

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