There are approximately 100 scientists world-wide who claim ice-cream to be their medium of choice. These chemists pursue not only new flavors, but also new textures. The number one goal is to eliminate the presence of freezer-burn and create a product that is revolutionary in a world where chains dominate and thirty-one flavors is the norm. While it may initially seem questionable to label this field as a science, especially a chemistry based science, it is surprising to discover just how scientifically precise your single scoop of vanilla (or double fudge sundae) can be.
Ice-cream chemists are constantly creating new and exciting ways to transform their dessert of choice from the cold concoction we all know to something currently unheard of. There have been numerous recent developments such as no-melt ice cream (presently found at ColdStone Creamery) and Hot ice cream (no not simply microwaved). The hot ice cream includes such ingredients as cream cheese, yogurt, vanilla bean, and methocel food gum SGA150 which helps the dessert keeps its gelatinous texture in increased temperatures. Methocel, short for Methylcellulose, is actually quite common in the culinary world, primarily because it does not dissolve when combined with hot water. CarboxyMethylCellulose (CMC), synthesized by the alkali-catalyzed reaction of cellulose with Chloroacetic acid, is employed in the food industry as a thickening agent whose primary function is to stabilize emulsions. This is of critical importance to ice-cream chemists because when a high concentration of CMC is present, the gel becomes thermoreversible thereby inducing a decrease in viscosity which would aid in baking by increasing gas bubble formation.
At first glance it may seem as if the familiar frozen dessert you’re ingesting is a simple treat, but the many scientists of the ice-cream niche of the food science industry are striving to eliminate the ubiquity of the flavor choices and cup vs. cone presentation. Ice cream is evolving, with the help of creative chemists and an alkali based cellulose agent. Perhaps soon the question will no longer be “one scoop or two” but “Hot or Cold.”