The COOL Factor of a Classic, Frozen Treat

Originally published on

By Samantha Reichstein

Photo by Samantha Reichstein. Raspberry bites, chocolate chunks, toasted meringue and Nutella powder are just some of the toppings offered at many new-age ice cream shops that that popped up in the past decade.

What began as the simple choice of chocolate or vanilla has now transformed into options including soft serve, nitrogen-based, alcohol-infused or Thai-rolled; just to name a few.

Though the dairy dessert has been around since the late 1700s, only recently have various shops taken the concept of ice cream to a new level. For Austin, that new level means crafting various concoctions—the weirder, the better. While pint-sized containers continue to line various frozen-food aisles, many are choosing a personalized experience rather than eating straight from the tub.

What’s The Scoop?

First appearing in the 1930s, soft-serve ice cream rose in popularity due to its light flavor and rich texture.

Today, this specific category of ice cream not only fulfills a sweet-tooth’s craving during the summer season, but also has its own holiday—observed and celebrated annually on Aug. 19.

While any customer can walk into a fast-food joint and order a soft-serve cone, more are choosing to buy this dessert from local businesses that each put their own twist on this frozen treat.

“Me and my wife love ice cream, so the initial idea came to us when we saw a turquoise food truck being sold on Ebay,” said Tim Sorenson, founder of Cow Tipping Creamery. “Instead of doing hard scoop, which we felt like would be white noise, we decided to economize on soft serve and make it our own.”

Sorenson does this with Cow Tipping Creamery’s stackers: four to five ingredients mixed in with the specialty soft serve, placed on top of each other in layers—stacked, if you will.

Cow Tipping Creamery Stackers

Photo by Samantha Reichstein. Two stackers from Cow Tipping Creamery, an Austin soft-serve ice cream shop.

Sweet Ritual, the only vegan ice cream shop in Austin, creates their soft-serve ice cream with a coconut base so that customers unable to consume dairy can still enjoy ice cream.. Their most unique topping, edible glitter (yes, it’s a thing) adds to the already light flavor and rich texture that makes soft serve so popular to begin with.

Infusing Ingredients

On average, Americans consume around 22 pounds of ice cream annually. An increasing portion of that however, combines creamy taste with scientific law into the frozen treat’s latest trend: liquid nitrogen-frozen ice cream.

The first person to use liquid nitrogen to make ice cream was a woman named Agnes Bertha Marshall, in 1894. However, her concept remained untouched for the next century, until ice cream shops across the globe economized on the added benefits liquid nitrogen has to offer.

“The first time liquid nitrogen came back into the picture for ice cream was in the 1980s, when crafters realized they could blend dairy and liquid nitrogen into tiny dots of ice cream, the most famous being Dippin’ Dots,” Matthew Byer, food scientist who works for the Austin-based company Chameleon Cold-Brew.

The secret of Dippin’ Dots tiny magic was hidden to most for years, including those behind the counter, until those within the culinary market started to reverse experiment and discovered the process.

According to Byer, dropping the dairy product into liquid nitrogen creates an instantaneous freezing, where the ice cream forms into tiny circles. However, when the liquid nitrogen element is dropped into dairy, that quick freezing process creates a smoother and fluffier texture, which led to the recent trend.

Photo by Samantha Reichstein. The final product of a liquid-nitrogen ice cream order, topped with rainbow sprinkles and cereal French Toast Crunch.

“Since the freezing happens so quickly, the process becomes a lot less expensive for the producers. Consumers walking into the shop not only get a product that tastes good, but they can see the step-by-step process of their personal item crafted with smoky clouds in small batches,” Byer said.

SPUN opened in Austin this past fall, and is currently the only liquid nitrogen ice cream shop in within the city’s boundaries. While the process is vaguely familiar to any former high school student who created ice cream in their chemistry class, the one-stop shop trend continues to expand from its small beginnings back in 2012, from cities like New York and Los Angeles.

Personal Pints

Though decadent cones and scoops are taking taste buds by storms, it’s safe to say that the frozen dessert aisles are far from obsolete. However, new names are sitting next to household favorites such as Blue Bell and Häagen-Dazs, allowing for consumers to have more choices that are crafted to their own lifestyle.

Halo Top and Arctic Zero are among dozens of new-age ice cream options sold nationwide. Though these flavors come without unique toppings or Instagram-worthy backdrops, they similarly harness in on the idea of providing a personal experience for an ice cream lover. In this case, that personal experience is a healthier choice.

Austin-based ice cream company Nada Moo! focuses on the dairy-free market, using small batches of coconut milk to craft each of their pints. Since their beginning in 2004, the company now sells 14 flavors; all organic, non-GMO, gluten free and vegan.

While ice cream’s origin has been around since the second century, it’s safe to say that these unique concepts, concoctions and crazes will keep the dessert alive for many years to come.

Add some unique flavors into your favorite frozen treat with the Cooking Channel’s Brown Butter Bacon Ice Cream.

Recipe courtesy of Natasha Case and Freya Estrellar.


Candied Bacon

  • 5 strips bacon
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar

Ice Cream Custard

  • 3 tablespoons/45 g salted butter
  • 3/4 cup/170 g packed brown sugar
  • 2 3/4 cups/675 ml half-and-half
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 2 teaspoons dark rum or whiskey
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon, optional


  1. For the candied bacon: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F/200 degrees C. Lay the strips of bacon on a baking sheet lined with a silicone mat or aluminum foil, shiny-side down.
  2. Sprinkle 1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons brown sugar evenly over each strip of bacon, depending on length.
  3. Bake for 12 to 16 minutes. Midway through baking, flip the bacon strips over and drag them through the dark, syrupy liquid that’s collected on the baking sheet. Continue to bake until the bacon is as dark as mahogany. Remove from oven and cool the bacon strips on a wire rack.
  4. Once cooled and crisp, chop the bacon into little pieces.
  5. For the ice cream custard: Melt the butter in a heavy, medium-size saucepan. Stir in the brown sugar and half of the half-and-half. Pour the remaining half-and-half into a bowl set in an ice bath and set a mesh strainer over the top.
  6. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, then gradually whisk in some of the warm brown sugar mixture. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan.
  7. Cook over low to moderate heat, constantly stirring and scraping the bottom with a heatproof spatula, until the custard thickens enough to coat the spatula.
  8. Add the rum, vanilla and cinnamon.
  9. Chill the mixture for about 5 hours. Once thoroughly chilled, pour into ice cream maker. Add the bacon bits during the last moment of churning, or stir them in when you remove the ice cream from the machine.

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