There are “national days” for just about everything, but July 21st ranks among the best of them. In 1984, Ronald Reagan declared the third Sunday of July as National Ice Cream Day as a gift to the American people. In fact, the whole month of July is National Ice Cream month! (Thanks, Ronald Reagan!)
This year, National Ice Cream Day falls on Sunday, July 21st.
Sure, there are many ways to indulge in the celebration, but there is one way in particular to stay extra cool this National Ice Cream Day, combining the culinary arts and chemistry with sub-zero Liquid Nitrogen.
There’s more to Liquid Nitrogen ice cream than its mesmerizing effect of hovering fog. What does Liquid Nitrogen actually do to the food it comes into contact with?
What makes the technique of using Liquid Nitrogen so special, is that it transforms the molecular structure of ice crystals, making them super-fine. Since they are shrunken down to a microscopic size, they aren’t even noticed. Have you ever dipped into a large tub of ice cream that’s been in the freezer for too long? Chances are, it has formed large ice crystals on the surface. Ice cream that is too icy is not pleasant to eat. By flash-freezing with Liquid Nitrogen’s subzero temperatures (around -320 degrees Fahrenheit) the outcome is a velvety smooth texture. When it comes to fresh Liquid Nitrogen ice cream and store-bought ice cream, there is hardly any competition.
Liquid Nitrogen combined with foods that have a lot of air makes this process possible. As a liquid, Nitrogen has a high viscosity and is actually very dry. It can be mixed with foods without making them wet. When used with foods like popcorn, cereal, Cheetos, and whipped cream, it fills every niche. When deconstructing solid foods, it freeze-dries the molecules and they can be crushed into a powder. If fruits were squished as-is, they would become a liquid mush. Freeze-drying allows fruits and herbs to be cracked into tiny solid pieces.
The process of molecular gastronomy is the concept that combines science with culinary arts, and Liquid Nitrogen is a common tool. This intricate, inventive way of cooking uses chemistry to deconstruct molecules of foods through dehydration and freezing to reconstruct food into a new culinary creation.
Types of molecular gastronomy include:
– Spherification: reconstructing foods into tiny beads
– Gelification: transforming liquids into solids
– Emulsification: changing the structure into a light foam
– Sous Vide: evenly cooking meat in a water bath
To celebrate National Ice Cream Day at Rocky Mountain Air, we experimented with Liquid Nitrogen gastronomy by pulling out our own Liquid Nitrogen to enjoy some homemade ice cream! We had fun whipping up some cherry espresso bean ice cream and adding various toppings for our employees to cool off and enjoy.
Several months ago, we held a company event with one of our customers that specializes in molecular gastronomy, The Inventing Room. Their inventive eats utilize Liquid Nitrogen to transform ice cream, exploding whipped cream, snack-foods, and so much more. Rather than consumption, it is a sensory experience.
For National Ice Cream Day, look up your local Liquid Nitrogen ice cream shop and test the science of this tasty treat for yourself!