Every ice cream lover has one big complaint about the dessert – why does it melt before I’m finished eating? Well, your prayers might have been answered as scientists have come up with a way to make ice cream melt slower and last longer.
A couple of researchers from Great Britain have managed to discover that BslA, also known as Biofilm Surface Level A, a naturally occurring protein can prevent ice cream from quickly melting in hot temperatures once added to the usual recipe of the icy treat.
And there’s a bonus benefit too. It turns out that the protein also has some properties which reduce the number of ice crystals that cover ice cream when kept in the freezer for long periods of time.
Cait MacPhee, the study’s lead researcher and expert from the University of Edinburgh (Scotland), gave a statement announcing that she and her lab partner, Nicola Stanley, “are predicting that you should be able to eat an ice cream cone without the ice cream dribbling down the side”.
BslA is efficient because it gives air bubbles and fat droplets more stability when added a food mix. The researchers have no safety concerns as multiple Asian countries are already using the protein, adding it to various dishes. A notable one is Natto, a traditional soybean meal that people eat at breakfast.
MacPhee went on to explain 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 essentially makes BslA act as a water repellent.
But what happens if some other bug shows up and decides to attack the good microbial communities in the environment? Absolutely nothing. They bounce off the water repellent before they even have a chance to get to them. MacPhee is highly impressed with the tactics of these organisms and mentioned that they’ve adopted “a pretty clever strategy”.
But even though MacPhee and Stanley may go down in history as the team that revolutionized ice cream, the lead researcher had to admit that the discovery was kind of a happy accidental. When the duo first started examining the microbial communities which produce BslA, searching for a way to make better ice cream was not at all on their list of things to do.
The two researchers simply wanted to investigate how well this naturally occurring protein behaves.
However, things took a turn when they realized that microbial communities form the above mentioned film “because there is an interface between the colony, which is wet, and the outside environment, which is air, essentially”.
Once they stumbled upon this discovery, they knew right away that the protein has the capacity to stabilize air bubbles. And that’s not all. It also stabilizes mixtures of oil and water, and coats solid surfaces. MacPhee informed that having all of these three (3) things is the very definition of ice cream.
MacPhee and Stanley then started using lab equipment in order to make some vanilla ice cream, except they replaced the emulsifier with BslA. They concluded that the resulting product melts much slowly than typical ice cream and keeps ice crystals off of the dessert.
If approved in the United States, you can except to find BslA enhanced ice cream on the market in three (3) or five (5) years.
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