Liquid Nitrogen Ice Cream Recipe

A liquid nitrogen ice cream recipe - it uses a vanilla base, and makes a wonderfully creamy ice cream.

Liquid Nitrogen Ice Cream

This liquid nitrogen ice cream recipe is a bit of a departure for me - as anyone who reads this site regularly will recognize. I wasn't much of a science geek in college. At the time I was more interested in apertures than atoms, cyanotypes over cryogenics, and vignetting before viscosity. My interest in chemistry pretty much started and stopped in the photography lab. So, it is with a bit of wide-eyed wonderment and curiosity that I observe the molecular gastronomy movement. Watching what is going on is both exciting and intimidating - the laboratory is melding with the kitchen and vice versa. A whole new vocabulary of textures, tastes, and techniques is emerging and evolving.

A friend of a friend showed up at a recent cooking night with a hardcore, four foot tank of liquid nitrogen. What might one do with a giant tank of liquid nitrogen? LN2, for those in the know, btw. Make liquid nitrogen ice cream, of course.

Liquid Nitrogen Ice Cream - creamy!

I needed a play-by-play explanation. Apparently many school-aged kids make liquid nitrogen ice cream as part of elementary-school science lessons. My school however, never made it beyond shaking cream in a jar with a marble to make butter - the year after that we sprouted lima beans.

To make liquid nitrogen ice cream you start with an ice cream base in a metal mixing bowl. Fire up the mixer (Kitchen-Aid was in use here) at low-med speed. Pour the liquid nitrogen into the bowl a bit at a time as the mixer is running. It freezes up ever so creamy and beautifully.

Will I die if I eat it? I asked that. I also asked a host of other questions. Are those plumes of Halloween-looking smoke coming off the bowl going to gobble up all the oxygen in the room? Are we all going to go to sleep and never wake up? You really, really, need to be careful with this stuff - do your homework and really get up to speed on the proper way to handle it (some starter links below). You need to treat it as seriously as you would a deep fryer filled with hot oil and the like. You like your fingers, right? LN2 can cause them to shatter. Imagine what it could go if you got it in your eyes. Survival instincts aside, I savored every bite of the ice cream.

Liquid Nitrogen Ice Cream Recipe

There are lots of chefs playing around with LN2 in the kitchen. If jumping into the molecular gastronomy pond is something that piques your interest, liquid nitrogen ice cream seems like a good gateway recipe. Not sure if I see myself going down to the local welding supply shop to stock up on it, but I understand the allure.

There is an great eGullet thread on cooking with liquid nitrogen. It covers safety considerations, LN2 experiences, and input from people using it in their own kitchens. Also, be sure to read this materials sheet on liquid nitrogen.

One of the things I'm curious about and don't have a good (or well-founded) sense of, is how these "extreme" culinary techniques impact the nutritional or beneficial properties found in food. When I say extreme I mean the extreme fast freeze brought on by liquid nitrogen, or the chefs using lasers - that sort of thing. My sense is that these types of techniques are tough on (natural) ingredients. I have a good sense of what high temps can do to beneficial essential fatty acids (like those found in nuts or unrefined nut oils), or to the phyto-nutrients in fruits and vegetables - and it's not always pretty. I'd love to open this up for discussion.

I'll include the base recipe for my favorite vanilla bean gelato below, I suspect it would pair quite nicely with a tank of the cold stuff. Let me know.

Need more? Here are some links:

Material Safety Data Sheet for Liquid Nitrogen

- Mark Powell's Food Hacking site is. the. best. Super inspired and inspirational.

Keep an eye on Miss Louisa Chu, she is always posting great first-hand accounts from the food science front. Have fun poking around her archives.

- Molecular Gastronomy Resource List courtesy of A La Cuisine.

- Molecular Gastronomy through the Wikipedia lens

- For the cook that really has everything - the anti-griddle

- The book. The man.

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Liquid Nitrogen Ice Cream Recipe

heidi notes: This is a nice, creamy gelato-type base. Infuse it, add stuff, get creative. I wrote this recipe a few years back - I tend to use arrowroot instead of cornstarch as a thickener in recipes that need it (it is usually less-processed than cornstarch). But because I haven't tested arrowroot in this base, I'll give you the cornstarch version. If you use this as a base for liquid nitrogen ice cream, please read up on the safety precautions that must be observed when handling LN2.

4 cups whole organic milk
1 vanilla bean, split
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Place three cups of the milk in a saucepan with the vanilla bean over medium-low heat.

Meanwhile, pour the remaining 1 cup milk into a large glass measuring cup. Add the sugar and the cornstarch. Mix well.

When the milk starts to simmer, remove it from the heat and pour in the cornstarch mixture, stirring the whole time. Return the saucepan to medium-low and stir, stir, stir, until things start thickening up, 10 to 12 minutes. It should end up thicker than, say, a runny milkshake, but thinner than a frosty one.

Pour the mixture through a strainer into a mixing bowl, whisk in the vanilla extract, and let it cool on the counter for 20 minutes or so. I like to then chill it in the refrigerator for a few hours or overnight until it is completely chilled.

Now you are ready to place this mixture in a metal-bowl mixer and do the liquid nitrogen thing (see above links and do your safety reading and research first), or you can just freeze this using the manufacturer's instructions on a standard ice-cream maker.

Serves 6.

If you make this recipe, I'd love to see it - tag it #101cookbooks on Instagram!

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Comments

were can i buy in los angeles nitrogen gas? please help me mike

mike

Excuse me to slightly drag off the topic, is it feasible to try blast freezing french fries in liquid nitrogen for my 500kg per day small scale business?

Bright

I've done this ice cream demo in my chemistry classes (high school) for the past few years. It works great, and much better than the 'baggie in a baggie' method. :-) By the way, for you adventurers out there, try putting some marshmallows or popcorn into the LN2 for a bit, then pop them into your mouth to be able to breathe smoke... I saw the marshmallows on Bill Nye and there is a very upscale restaurant in Chicago (I think) that is serving up popcorn soup like this now... crazy fun!

ChemTeacher

If you are stirring by hand you can use a wooden spoon (make sure that it's sturdy). It won't expand or conduct the cold. Or (as they did in my lab) you can use a metal sppon with a plastic or rubber handle.

Jenni

We once made a fat carving of a dragon. (For a centre piece for a buffet) Then Poured the liquid nitrogen down the mouth into a hollowed belly area. Then added a few drips of water to give the effect of smoke coming from the mouth. This apparently works well with Ice carvings too. I loved the effect, but I'm glad I didn't have to handle the LN!

banshee_K8

Re: LN2 and pink color Explained somewhat in article: http://www.cwi.nl/projects/icpig05/cd/D:/pdf/01-223.pdf I'm not a physicist, so I had difficulty understanding it, but it seems it relates to N2 resonance at different temperatures & states of excitation. The pink color decreases in warmer environments (eg room temp).

Anon

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