Bless you, University of Edinburgh and University of Dundee scientists, for working tirelessly to bring us a lighter, less-melty ice cream. Summer enthusiasts of the future salute you.
This miracle ice cream, which could reach the public in three to five years, would be made possible by a new ingredient: a protein calledBiofilm surface layer A, or BslA, which helps bind fat to water. The University of Edinburgh offers a more technical description:
Confidential data has been produced that shows BslA successfully stabilises a variety of multiphase systems, including…frozen confection; improved partial coalescence of fat droplets, and aeration, and inhibition of ice crystal coarsening.
In an interview with BBC Radio, lead researcher Cait MacPhee explained that the protein wouldn't stop the ice cream from melting entirely, but that it will slow the process down. "It will melt eventually, but hopefully by keeping it stable for longer it will stop those drips." She continued:
We add a protein. The protein comes from a bacteria, a bug, it's a friendly bacteria. And what it does is it keeps oil and water mixed…it also traps air bubbles, so it stops air from escaping, and it also coats the ice crystals in ice cream, and stops them from melting so quickly, but also stops them from growing.
She added that "by using this protein we are replacing some of the fat molecules that are currently used to stabilize these oil and water mixtures. So it can decrease the fat content. It shouldn't taste any different." AND, she explained, ice cream is so sugary because the product is so cold—making it hard to taste the sweetness. Slowing down the melting process means we can eat slightly warmer ice cream, and don't need as much sugar to maintain that same flavor. Miracle ice cream!
CBS News reports that BslA, a naturally occurring protein, is already being used in food in Southeast Asia. MacPhee told the news network that she and her team didn't set out to make a better ice cream, but it was a happy accident. Along with fellow researchers, MacPhee made BslA vanilla ice cream in the lab, but haven't tasted it yet. But, she said, the protein "shouldn't have an impact on the taste because there is very little of it in there at all."
We will happily taste test.
Danielle Wiener-Bronner is a news reporter.