Ice creams and hot summer days seem to go together perfectly, until you realise the heat of the latter is turning the former into a melting mass of deliciousness oozing down the side of your cone.
Luckily for us, scientists have discovered a naturally occurring protein that can be used in ice cream to make it more resistant to melting than the ice creams we enjoy today. According to researchers at the Universities of Edinburgh and Dundee in Scotland, the protein, which is called BslA, will allow ice cream to stay frozen for longer by binding together the air, fat and water in the product.
Not only will this make ice cream more impervious to things like heat, but the researchers say it also results in a super-smooth consistency. The protein, which can be made inside friendly bacteria, adheres to fat droplets and air bubbles, making for a more stable ice cream mixture that prevents the development of ice crystals.
While it's not often you hear people complaining about the 'grittiness' of their ice cream, BslA will supposedly give ice cream a smoother texture, more akin to the velvety appeal of luxury ice cream brands. Mmm.
What's great about this from a health perspective is that brands will no longer need to bump up any actual creaminess to deliver more perceived creaminess. The researchers say BslA will let manufacturers make ice cream with lower levels of saturated fat, resulting in fewer calories. Ice cream isn't ever going to be a health food, but if this protein can make it melt-resistant, smoother and better for you, heck, we're all for it.
And aside from helping us enjoy healthier ice creams at a more leisurely pace, it's possible the discovery could even pose benefits to the environment. Greater melt-resistance in ice cream means manufacturers won't need to deep freeze their products as much, easing pressure on the supply chain (and its inevitable energy requirements) that has to keep the product frozen every step of the way before it ends up in your mouth.
Sure, melt-resistant ice cream won't save the planet all on its lonesome, but every little bit helps, right?
"We're excited by the potential this new ingredient has for improving ice cream, both for consumers and for manufacturers," said Cait MacPhee of the University of Edinburgh's School of Physics and Astronomy, in a press release.
The scientists estimate that ice cream made with BslA could be available within three to five years, so we won't have too long to wait before trying it out for ourselves.