For University of Guelph professor Doug Goff, one of the world’s leading experts in ice cream science and technology, ice cream is sort of the family business. While growing up in Nova Scotia, his father worked for a dairy processing company as the manager of its ice cream processing facility.
Dr. Goff did his undergraduate studies in dairy science at U of Guelph and figured he’d go back home to the dairy plant to work. But he fell under the mentorship of Professor Sandy Pearson, at the time Canada’s foremost ice cream expert, who encouraged him to pursue graduate studies. “By the time I’d done my doctorate [at Cornell University], Professor Pearson was retiring and, lo and behold, I got his job,” says Dr. Goff.
Part of his responsibility in his new job was to continue teaching U of Guelph’s acclaimed ice cream technology course, the only one of its kind in Canada, offered annually since 1914 to people working in the industry. With that mandate, and his longstanding interest in ice cream, “that led me to get my research going related to ice cream, and I’ve been doing that for 25 years.”
A physical chemist, Dr. Goff’s key contributions to the field have been in ice cream structure and what he calls ingredient functionality. “This really is a complex product. There are a lot of scientific and technological challenges to making it well,” he says. In particular, Dr. Goff has researched ways to limit the growth of ice crystals, which reduce textural quality in ice cream, and he has also investigated the use of different fat sources. A bit of a purist, Dr. Goff says he has no problem with dairy fat, but the industry is interested in using less-costly non-dairy fats for their frozen treats.
His favourite flavour? “If I’m trying to evaluate ice cream, vanilla is the best because it’s subtle,” he says. “But I love to experiment also. If we’re out travelling around and I go into an ice cream shop, I’m likely to try something that I’ve never tasted before or that I think a bit odd.” A new trend he’s noticed: hot and spicy flavours.