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McGill students invent Frisson, the 'unfrozen' frozen treat of the future

Jonathan Khouzam and Karine Paradis pose with their team's creation, Frisson, in both almond-pistachio and hibiscus-ginger flavours. (Credit: Neale McDevitt/McGill University)

Jonathan Khouzam and Karine Paradis pose with their team's creation, Frisson, in both almond-pistachio and hibiscus-ginger flavours. (Credit: Neale McDevitt/McGill University)


Scott Sutherland
Meteorologist, theweathernetwork.com

Friday, July 11, 2014, 1:09 - Having your ice cream melt on the way home from the store really spoils the fun of such a treat, and refreezing it never gives you back the creamy texture that's at least half the reason for our enjoyment of it. Coming to the rescue for this summer stymie, a team of McGill University students has invented an ice cream that you don't need to freeze until just before you eat it.

Advances in ice cream science have created some amazing things over the years, but some of the most impressive have been in keeping it from melting into a soupy mess on us. Freeze-dried ice cream showed up in the '60s, giving the Apollo astronauts a 'frozen' treat to take into space. However, according to NASA food scientist Vickie Kloeris: "It wasn't that popular; most of the crew really didn't like it, so it isn't used any more." The development has gone on to become a novelty snack and something to take on camping trips, but it really didn't catch on otherwise. Dippin' Dots were invented in the '80s, giving us tiny flash-frozen spheres of ice cream that resist melting, so we can enjoy them while we walk around the mall. However, even according to the company website, it's not something you can take home and enjoy later.

The 16 members of Team Frisson (Credit: McGill University)

The 16 members of Team Frisson (Credit: McGill University)

The latest advance is possibly the best, though, and has the potential to create the frozen treat of the future. Frisson - French for 'shiver' - is an ice cream that can be stored on a shelf, at room temperature, and only needs to be frozen right before it's eaten. The problem with refreezing your standard ice cream comes from the fact that ice cream's texture is hard to come by, as it's a result of getting very tiny icy crystals as it freezes. In your freezer at home, that's not going to happen. It's going to freeze just like water in an ice-cube tray - into a solid block. The key to Frisson is the combination of natural sugars the team used in the mixture, and the addition of nitrous oxide (aka laughing gas). In order to enjoy this treat, you break the seal, letting air in to activate the nitrous oxide inside, reseal it, shake up the mixture of liquid and gas vigorously, and then put it in the freezer. The tiny bubbles produced by the activated nitrous oxide, along with the properties of the sugars, result in that familiar and so-loved ice cream texture.

So far, the team has produced two flavours of sorbet: almond and pistachio, and hibiscus and ginger. Perhaps the most amazing part of this - it appears to be a guilt-free treat that's appropriate for a wide range of restrictive diets.

"We meet a lot of requirements of people who are on restricted diets," said team leader Karine Paradis, according to the McGill Reporter. "Frisson is pasteurized, vegan, dairy-free, gluten-free, and it has zero cholesterol. It also has a high-fiber content which is very unusual for frozen deserts."

The only down side of this? Although Frisson took third place in the Institute of Food Technologist Students’ Association annual Food Product Development Competition, it has yet to pick up an investor, so it may be some time before it shows up on store shelves.

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