Califonia Bountiful

Smitten about ice cream

The technology of making the perfect scoop!

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On the outside, San Francisco's Smitten Ice Cream looks like any other cute, neighborhood ice cream parlor, with its bright decor and cheery lighting. But catch a glimpse of the swirls of fog wafting from the industrial mixers inside, and it's clear there's a whole lot of science happening here!

The secret to Smitten's success—and all that fog inside—is liquid nitrogen.

The idea was hatched by Robyn Sue Fisher. A lifelong ice cream lover, the one-time Stanford Business School student was looking to start a cool business, and boy, did she! Upon graduation, she spent her life savings and worked with a retired engineer to prototype a liquid nitrogen mixer, called the "Brrr." Now it takes about 90 seconds to get a scoop at Smitten Ice Cream, where ice cream is frozen to order using those liquid-nitrogen-fueled machines.

This is how it works: Ingredients are joined together in the machine, using liquid nitrogen to blend them at -321 degrees Fahrenheit. The process gives off a fine fog as it reduces the ice crystals to such a miniscule size that the result is some of the smoothest ice cream around. Instead of relying on emulsifiers, preservatives and stabilizers, Robyn and her team turn fresh, local ingredients into a smooth, dense, tasty ice cream. Seasonal flavors include strawberry white balsamic and blood orange with pistachio cookies.

In the beginning, Robyn made and sold the ice cream to customers off a little red wagon she hauled around the streets of San Francisco. But word about Smitten quickly spread and today she has five shops in Northern California and one in Southern California, with more planned.

And a fun fact about Smitten Ice Cream: Because the patented machine is called a "Brrr," the staff members serving the handmade cones and dishes at Smitten are called, what else but "Brrristas."

For more information about Smitten Ice Cream, visit

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