Story by Vivienne Pearson
How cold do you like your ice-cream? How about –196 degrees Celsius?
The use of liquid nitrogen in food and drink, a growing trend overseas, has inspired Space Bars Ice Creamery to create ice-cream by freezing it before your eyes. That is, if your eyes can see through the spacey and delightfully mesmerising cloud of vapour that results when the liquid nitrogen ‘boils’ once it is released into the air.
The co-creators of Space Bars are business partners Jahli Eves and Kash Crabbe. They have managed to combine their shared interests (ice-cream and science) into a business that has just ticked over a year in operation after a long development phase. ‘We did so many recipe trials!’ laughs Jahli.
Space Bars also meets Jahli and Kash’s shared philosophy of ethical and sustainable consciousness. This is expressed in several ways: their ice-cream is vegan; they use biodegradable cutlery and packaging; and they donate twenty per cent of all profits to local causes, such as the animal sanctuary Sugarshine Farm.
It turns out that the liquid nitrogen method of cooling is perfect for vegan ice-cream. Coconut milk, the major ingredient in vegan ice-cream, is less naturally ‘creamy’ than cow milk. Liquid nitrogen cooling produces much smaller ice crystals than traditional freezing, meaning that the final product is smoother and creamier.
How it works is that Jahli and Kash make the ice-cream base the day before. Then, when you order, your selected flavouring is added to the base in a kitchen mixer.
The theatre begins when the liquid nitrogen is poured on top. It is super fun to watch!
But is it dangerous? You would be forgiven for thinking so, given that liquid nitrogen is used for things such as cryogenics and cooling superconductors but, when handled safely, it is not. Momentary contact with small amounts of the liquid does not result in burning, thanks to an insulating layer of gas that instantly forms when the liquid comes into contact with something as warm as skin. ‘We do not use gloves or face shields as the nitrogen will only burn when it is trapped,’ explains Jahli.
The two have done a lot of research and received training from the company that supplies the liquid. ‘We’re definitely the only people whom they service for food use,’ Jahli says. ‘A driver came to an event to try our ice-cream as he was so curious!’ she adds.
If you are also curious, despite the above assurances that it is safe, please do not try using liquid nitrogen to make ice-cream at home! Instead, check out one of the markets and events that serve up spacey ice-cream.
Space Bars’ next local appearances will be the Mullum Mama and Me Market (17 December), then the Food Truck event at Byron’s YAC (23 December). www.spacebars.com.au