It’s both a chilling concept and a smoking hot idea. A Wright State University student plans to use liquid nitrogen—minus 360-degree nitrogen—to make and sell ice cream.
Jason Baldwin envisions a theatrical, possibly mad scientist-like production in which he and his partner create vanilla to apple crisp ice cream amid clouds of billowing, evaporating nitrogen smoke.
“We tried to figure out the cheapest way we could make a creative food product,” said Baldwin, a 22-year-old photography student from Marietta. “This is what I came up with—being able to take freezing capabilities anywhere you want to and just make the ice cream from anything you can find.”
Cooking is one of Baldwin’s passions. He learned it in his grandmother’s kitchen and by watching hundreds of hours of shows on the Food Network.
“I grew up eating chicken and dumplings and chicken noodles,” he said.
After arriving at Wright State, Baldwin and longtime friend Joey Rovinsky looked into the possibility of operating a food truck as a business. In doing some Internet research, Baldwin came across a world-class chef who was using liquid nitrogen to make alcoholic sorbets.
“It can freeze anything that’s edible. I just thought that was a cool idea,” Baldwin said. “It didn’t really click for a while and was just mulling around in my head.”
Then Baldwin and Rovinsky decided to try using liquid nitrogen to make ice cream.
The process involves mixing milk, cream, sugar, fruit or other flavorings together, heating them up and placing the mixture into a bowl. Liquid nitrogen contained in a tank is then poured on the mixture, which is stirred as the evaporating nitrogen freezes it into ice cream.
“You want something that has little air inside of it because that’s what makes ice cream’s light, fluffy smoothness,” Baldwin said. “But you can make something that’s dense or solid, or you can whip it up like a frozen foam and anywhere in between. The flavors also seem to be richer than those of regular ice cream.”
Baldwin and Rovinsky plan to call their business The Frosty Ladle after the coating on the ice cream scoop created by the liquid nitrogen. They hope to sell the ice cream at farmers markets in the area beginning next summer at $4 or $5 a bowl.
The two anticipate wearing goggles and white lab coats as part of the production.
“The whole process is kind of mystical because you see this person pouring something and it spreads out over the ground and you can feel the cool sensation coming off of the smoke,” Baldwin said. “We’re going to play heavily off of that. We’re either going to be mad scientists and kind of kooky, or we’ll be more serious. This is a fairly intense process, but we’ll be as lighthearted as we can.”
Baldwin promises an adventure for the customers.
“It will be like a sushi bar experience, where you come up and pick the flavors that go into your ice cream,” he said. “You get to see the person making it and what they’re doing; you can form a relationship in that small amount of time and you pass the food from the creator to the consumer.”
Baldwin is hoping that the venture will result in an established business that he has control of and only needs to worry about pleasing himself and his customers.
“I have a lot of passions, and I like going after those passions wholeheartedly,” he said. “If I have a job with a passion, then that’s what I’m searching for.”