Yesterday we made history at my resort, Lifestyle Resort Da Nang, in Vietnam.
We made the first ever batch of Liquid Nitrogen Ice cream in front of our kitchen and service staff, preparing them for next week when we will make it LIVE in front of our guests at the table, every night of the week.
Ice cream is usually a slow and laborious process, with lots of concerns about controlling bacteria and getting the custard just right. With this technique, the product becomes silky smooth, and can be made in a snap without stabilisers, gums and emulsifiers.
OMG! Healthy ice cream? Sort of. It can be.
I won’t bore you with the usual yada yada of the background and history behind using super-chilled liquid nitrogen.
I could tell you all about the history of condensing nitrogen gas, the medical applications, the cool scene in the Wesley Snipes and Sly Stallone movie ‘Judge Dredd’ where they cryogenically freeze the two guys with a massive cap of liquid nitrogen. Sterling stuff.
I could even carry on about three starred chefs and University Science lecturers with their funky tricks and recipes. But I won’t.
I prefer to just tease you with the above so I can cut to the chase and let you know that making this type of ice cream at the table in front of guests is one of my favourite culinary hobbies, and something that gets everybody swooning with joy when they experience it.
Like all processes and technologies, it has its share of naysayers.
Mainly those who haven’t tasted it. Sometimes even those who are scared to try it or worried about the risks.
Worse still, there are some who are even afraid that by acknowledging this as possible, relevant and tasty, the great unwashed will abandon their cheap mass produced frozen dairy treats and demand the simple, natural ingredients that make up Nitrogen ice cream.
Actually, no – I don’t think that’s it.
They’re more worried that their years of classical training and the expensive Italian sorbet machine will no longer be required, or that they’ll be judged inferior to a couple of us new-age monkeys combining fresh produce in a bowl in front of the diner.
Here are a few simple facts about using liquid nitrogen to make your favourite frozen treat – and about the ice cream itself
- This is the most natural ice cream possible. The liquid nitrogen boils back into gas at 196 degrees below zero and dissipates into the atmosphere leaving no trace in the food.
- The colder and faster that dairy products are chilled, the smoother it will be. This is because there is little or no lactose crystallisation. This is a fact. Liquid nitrogen ice cream is smoother than conventional ice cream.
- Conventional methods are made smooth by use of gums, chemicals, food additives, stabilisers and emulsifiers. All the numbers, codes and chemical names that you don’t understand but see anyway on the side of your commercial ice cream pack. I bet your wouldn’t spoon into those if they didn’t taste or look like ice cream. Now you don’t have to.
- Ice cream made with liquid nitrogen can be delicious when made without custard or chemical additives – so it can be as simple as fresh milk, fresh cream and sugar or favourite sweetener. Oh – and your favourite flavour(s).
Liquid Nitrogen? That’s quite a mouthful.
To abbreviate, we refer to it as LN2.
The chemical symbol for nitrogen is N, the gas is referred to ‘in Science’ as N2, and we add ‘L’ to the front as abbreviation for ‘Liquid’, hence ‘LN2’.
Yes, it’s a sloppy abbreviation, but we’re kind of cool with using it. OK, no more ‘cool’ puns. Noted.
Vegetarian? Vegan? No problem. We can make LN2 ice cream with soy milk or coconut milk instead of milk or cream.
Macrobiotic? belt some nuts or wheat into it. Sorry bud, there’s no helping you. Follow the vegan path, or use nut milk
Diabetic? Sugar hater? No worries. Can use isomalt, honey, aspartame, fructose or any other sweetener as no cooking is required.
Traditionalist? No worries mate. Make your Creme Anglaise, get your lightly whipped cream, and make your ice cream with the usual steps, swapping the ice cream machine for a bowl and some liquid nitrogen. And mutter in some European language about ‘bloody avante garde cooks’ like me. I won’t be offended. Much.
Normal ice cream takes around 20 minutes to freeze in an ice cream machine. Liquid nitrogen ice cream takes as long as four minutes and as little as one minute. Remember what I said about speed of chilling being a major factor of smooth silky texture. BINGO! Come in spinner!
But what about the chemicals? Umm….. what? Are you on DRUGS? Nitrogen makes up 78% of the air we breathe. If you don’t like it, stop breathing. The process also eliminates all of the unnatural stuff you have to add into the food to make it freezer-stable and smooth.
But it’s dangerous. Why? Oh yes – it’s so cold. 196 degrees Celsius below zero. yes, it is. But deep fat fryers are 190 degrees C above zero. And I don’t see people cutting back on Fries, spring rolls and crumbed seafood due to the potential for injury. Keep it safe. Keep it sane. Keep it sensual. Sorry. Consensual.
But it’s dangerous because it can explode if you enclose it in a canister. People could die – staff that handle it need training. Yes. And deep fryers explode if they get to 200 degrees C, or if you drop water in them. Your point is?
But my guests/friends/family are alcoholics and prefer a drink to ice cream. GREAT! LN2 actually freezes alcohol. You can turn their favourite cocktail, spirit or alcoholic drink into a funky sorbet that will have them staggering around like loons. Alcohol and high sugar content normally softens ice cream. LN2 allows these to be used in higher than normal amounts when making ice cream.
But the equipment is expensive. Ah yes. That old chestnut. If we are talking about a bowl and a whisk, then yes, they can be. Try a budget kitchen shop instead of that designer outlet.
If you’re talking about the specialised liquid nitrogen storage and transport container, it’s called a dewar. They range in cost from $250 to $1200 depending on size. About a quarter of the price of an ice cream machine.
But…..the ingredients. You need to pay for the nitrogen. SURE you do.
And then you have to worry about death, taxes, public transport fares, electricity, gas, internet fees, the gym or the doctor, and possibly even a parking ticket, a fine, a takeaway lunch or the $6 coffee at Starbucks.
No shit Sherlock. Life is all about paying through the nose for everything. It’s the Capitalist way.
but you’ll be relieved to know that Liquid Nitrogen costs only about 50 cents to $1 a litre. And if you use it, then you don’t need to thicken with eggs or additives, so your net cost drops – for a far superior product.
But…but….but….people don’t like to see really fresh food made in a highly visual and exciting way because they are boring naysayers and critical warts on the skin of society. OK then, make it in the kitchen and keep it in the freezer. Make more portions and dramatically reduce your cost. And it tastes better than normal ice cream.
But…but….but…... Yup. No more rebuttals.
Just try it and you’ll see.
Check out the first ever nitrogen ice cream made in Vietnam at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XzVhoUNt73Y
At Life Resort Da Nang, we offer 28 flavours and build our long term repertoire from there.
Follow us on twitter @LifestyleDanang to see what we are up to from day to day.
Thanks for reading, questions welcome.