The science of ice cream: A food scientist tells us all about the trendy flavours this summer
Wondering how to chill out this summer? Food scientist Maya Warren of Cold Stone Creamery tells us about different ice cream flavours and what makes each of them so special.
A swirl of French Vanilla, a carton of Banana Bread Batter ice cream, a pulpy Alphonso or a Peanut butter cup — which ice cream are you craving this summer? For some, it’s a mix of cold cheesecake ice cream with cookies and a graham cracker pie crust that hits their sweet spot, while others find euphoria in a dessert loaded with toasted coconut, rainbow sprinkles and fudge. With ice cream makers working overtime this season to give us flavours for that perfect sugar high and a delicious chill factor to beat the heat, there is no end to the cold treats out there.
But what goes into each of these exotic creations? What does a food scientist, looking into the manufacturing of ice creams, do? YS Weekender caught up with Dr Maya Warren, Senior Director of Research and Development and Taste Master at Cold Stone Creamery for some answers. Maya received her Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in Food Science and comes with a vast knowledge of ice cream. She is also an expert in the science of frozen, aerated desserts. Her job includes working with other cultures and countries and making them understand the science of ice cream.
Edited excerpts from an interview:
YS Weekender: How do you use your knowledge and taste buds to create new flavours of ice cream?
Maya Warren: I do a lot of market research and travelling to taste ice creams, frozen aerated desserts, and foods from all over the world. I really focus on providing visually appealing products because we eat with our eyes first. I like to introduce things to customers they did not even know they wanted or even needed! In a field like mine, research and product development work are essential.
YSW: What are the most popular flavours of ice cream nowadays?
MW: Ube (purple yam), mango, chilli, cookie dough, and rich brown butter notes are the most popular flavours now. Vanilla, of course, continues to reign across the globe. We are in the process of launching new flavours this season like Rose Faluda, Dark Indulgence, Rookie Cookie and Hazelnut Crunch in India. Also, the highlight of this season is handpicked strawberries with ice-cream.
YSW: What is the USP of Cold Stone Creamery?
MW: We are the original American Creamery from the United States that was founded in 1988 to provide 100 percent vegetarian ice cream to consumers in a unique way. We offer “Signature Creations” and “Create Your Own” concepts with over 20 toppings, where the ice cream is customised for each guest by combining a variety of mix-ins on a frozen granite stone.
Our staff is trained not just to serve quality ice cream, but also to break into songs, dance, juggle, and even to throw and catch ice cream to entertain our guests. We are currently present in Kochi, Bangalore, Chennai, Pune, and Delhi.
YSW: With everyone becoming so health conscious and watching their weight, how do ice cream makers keep going?
MW: Although people are becoming health conscious, we as consumers, still want to treat, reward, and celebrate ourselves with high-quality desserts. As professionals in the field, we find those sweet spots where we know consumers will want to come and try our new products. We also use seasonal fresh fruits like strawberry, mango and lychee.
Also read: Going retro: Try heritage foods this summer
YSW: Are all ice creams the same?
MW: No, not all ice cream is the same. Some ice cream products are made with vegetable fat, which does not provide a rich, creamy, and delicious eating experience. We offer 14 percent full dairy fat ice cream that is processed, batch by batch.
YSW: How are new flavours of ice cream created?
MW: New flavours are created by working on extensive market research, international travel, marketing teams, vendors, food shows, restaurants and tasting sessions.
YSW: What is your opinion of cold desserts?
MW: I love all the new and unique things that can be done with desserts across the world. Ice cream is a blank canvas and it is simply awaiting our creativity to make it into something new and delicious that will make people run back for more!
YSW: Do you have any new frozen desserts on the anvil?
MW: Over a year ago, I created a product - a new line of frozen aerated desserts called Whipped Meyer Lemon. It is a creamy and light frozen dessert, which is also non-dairy and lactose-free. I am also working on other flavours to help expand this line of products.
YSW: Which are your favourite destinations in the world?
MW: I absolutely love India! The sights, sounds, and tastes of India create an unbelievable sensory experience. I truly love the food here - aloo paratha, lassi, dal, dosa - you name it, I’m for it!! But beyond all of that, people here are amazing and truly make India the beautiful country that it is! I also love Southeast Asia, Kenya, Egypt, Brazil, and Japan.
YSW: You are also a world traveller and inspirational speaker. What do you like to tell your audience?
MW: I believe in the motto - Inspire2BInspired. If I can become an ice cream scientist, you can too. You can do and be anything you want in life. If you follow your heart and your passions, everything else will fall into place.
If the words of writer and filmmaker Nora Ephron who once said,"Writing is what I do... it is like breathing to me..." defined the goals of Ephron's life, it would be Asha's mantra too, as she lives to create word pictures of the people she meets. She believes that the best stories "must move the heart and feed the mind". When she is not working, she loves reading novels and listening to music.