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How Japanese Scientists Accidentally Invented Ice Cream That Doesn’t Melt

Scientists in Japan were attempting to create a new treat, but ended up revolutionizing a classic desert instead.

Many of history’s greatest culinary inventions happened by accident. The microwave, for example, was made by a man playing around with a new vacuum tube. Popsicles were discovered by a guy who left his soda-making equipment out in the cold. Potato chips were discovered when a chef who was sick of a particular customer complaining that the potatoes he served were too soggy, tossed some russet slices in the deep fryer. Now, Japanese scientists who were looking to create a new type of pastry filling ended up altering the dessert landscape: they created an ice cream that doesn’t melt.

Reseachers at Japan’s Biotherapy Development Research Centre were asked by a pastry chef to create a brand new dessert using polyphenol, a liquid extracted from strawberries. The pastry chef noted that any time he added polyphenol to the dairy cream, it “solidified instantly.” That’s when the Research Center began to realize they may have stumbled on to something revolutionary.

According to Tomihisa Ota, a professor emeritus of pharmacy at Kanazawa University, polyphenol has properties that make it difficult for water and oil to separate. Adding the substance to ice cream, they realized, allowed the desert to keep its shape for much longer than usual.

One of the leading factors that causes ice cream to melt is fat destabilization. Using the polyphenol to fortify the treat allows it to stand up to heat better. And not just for a few minutes longer: Several reporters have tried out the ice cream and one even found that it did not melt after being left out for almost three hours. Another reported that even leaving it in 82°F heat did not melt it.

Ota worked with the Research Center to develop this new substance into unmelting popsicles and so far they have been a big success in Japan. Despite the new technology, these popsicles are reasonably priced, selling for approximately $4.50 a pop. So if you’re tired of having to lick melted ice cream off your cone before it reaches your hand, head to Japan and taste the future.