Melted ice creams, the destroyer of pleasant sunny days, are a problem as old as the frozen treats themselves. Fortunately, a team of Japanese engineers has the solution. Strangest of all, the story of this dessert development began with the massive tsunamis and earthquakes that struck Japan six years ago.
The Biotherapy Development Research Center in the Japanese city of Kanazawa has developed a new breed of popsicle ice creams that reportedly don’t melt on swelteringly hot days. Their secret lies in the use of polyphenol liquid extracted from strawberries.
The discovery was actually made by chance, as first reported by Japanese daily newspaper Asahi Shimbun. It started as part of an effort to help farmers in the Miyagi Prefecture affected by the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami that sparked multiple meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. These disasters hit the local area’s agriculture, especially strawberry farming. To help rejuvenate the industry and put the fruit to good use, the researchers asked a pastry chef to create a new type of confectionery using polyphenol from strawberries.
However, the chef kept complaining that the cream instantly solidified when strawberry polyphenol was added. This information got back to Tomihisa Ota, professor emeritus of pharmacy at Kanazawa University, who had a sudden moment of genius: These properties could work wonders for foods that melt.
“Polyphenol liquid has properties to make it difficult for water and oil to separate so that a popsicle containing it will be able to retain the original shape of the cream for a longer time than usual and be hard to melt,” Ota told the Asahi Shimbun newspaper.
And so the “unmeltable” popsicle ice cream was born. The ice cream is being sold around Kanazawa, where it appears to be standing up to the area’s 28°C (82.4°F) summer heat with no problem. The researchers even claim that the ice cream can withstand the heat of a hair dryer for a considerable amount of time.
This development is not the first time foodies have created an ice cream that’s especially resistant to melting. A theme park in the UK also peddled “unmeltable” ice cream as a promotional offer a few summers ago. Scientists have also been working hard to push the boundaries of ice cream science. A recent study in the Journal of Dairy Science (seriously) found that higher fat contents in ice cream do not make them any tastier. In fact, most people can’t even tell the difference between fat levels in vanilla ice cream.
What a time to be alive.