This past Saturday at the Eyebeam Art + Technology center, I was invited by Stefani Bardin and Brooke Singer to present at their Counter Kitchen event series. The Counter Kitchen brings in guests to deconstruct items that are in the mass marketplace and often have chemical ingredients of questionable nature.
Presenters break down what’s in the mass produced version of a particular product then show how you can remake them from all natural ingredients. Past topics have examined Gatorade, Gummy Bears, and Baby Lotion. For my session, I took on ice cream, specifically Breyer’s Vanilla.
There are a whole host of strange items in this mass produced ice cream, and I break them into categories and explain why they’re there. Essentially, the ingredients that make their way into that box of ice cream are there to support the fact that this ice cream comes not from your neighborhood artisan, but from a multinational corporation with shareholders. Stabilizers extend shelf life, which cuts breakage costs. Multiple sources of artificial sugar reduces the risk that the cost of goods sold will be influenced by the sugar commodity markets. I have nothing against free enterprise and profit, and Breyer’s certainly has a right to serve the investors who have sunk their hard earned cash into them, but the end consumer should be aware of their motives and know what they’re eating.
I brought things back to basics, showing how there are only 5 basic ingredients you need in an ice cream. We switched into demo mode and I made a basic foundational custard ice cream recipe, noting that all homemade ice cream is based off of this technique and ingredient ratio. I left the flavor component open ended for people, b/c I’m a firm believer in showing people cooking frameworks and ratios, not specific recipes.
We ended the session playing with some liquid nitrogen, talking about its basic properties and then doing a popcorn ice cream demonstration. For the popcorn ice cream, we simply soaked popcorn in milk overnight, strained it, then made a basic ice cream base that was loaded into an iSi canister and shot into the liquid nitrogen. The resulting shape is a popcorn like shape, complete with all the nooks and crannies that you’d find in actual popped kernels. Only this was ice cream.
Good crowd, will definitely try and get invited back to do other workshops at Eyebeam. The presentation deck is available on Slideshare, and the full photo gallery is on Flickr, both embedded below.