Senior persists for newest flavor at campus creamery

Student Lucy Slizewski hand packs new flavor

Senior Lucy Slizewski hand packs 8-ounce cartons of Slizewski Swirl, which she developed, March 11 in the Food Sciences Building. Photo by Christopher Gannon.

The newest product at the ISU Creamery doesn't contain cow's milk, part of why it gave a determined culinary food science major the biggest challenge of her undergraduate years. It also helps the creamery offer a treat to nearly every customer who comes in.

Try it

Slizewski Swirl is available by the quart or 8-ounce cup at the ISU Creamery, 2953 Food Sciences Building, and Sparks, 4220 Student Innovation Center.

"Slizewski Swirl" -- cherry swirls in dark chocolate -- is a non-dairy frozen dessert that avoids six allergens associated with many sweet treats: milk, egg, soy, wheat, peanut and tree nuts. ISU Creamery intern and May graduate Lucy Slizewski developed it over 18 months of trial and error, aided by feedback from director Stephanie Clark, business administrator Sarah Canova and other faculty members in food science and human nutrition.

"We are a research institution. Research and education opportunities for our students come first at the ISU Creamery," said Clark, acknowledging it's a bit unusual for a dairy facility to pursue a non-dairy product.

Pursuing inclusivity is not.

"If an entire family walks in, we want to have a product that works for each of them," she said. "We don't want anyone to walk away disappointed."

Since the creamery opened in August 2020 on the second floor of the Food Sciences Building, Canova said student employees have fielded inquiries from customers allergic to dairy or eggs. The creamery's 19 ice cream flavors start from one of five bases Clark developed, all of which contain both.

Slizewski, who has to limit her dairy consumption, started her internship that fall and offered to research a vegan option.

"She's self-motivated, and we could see she had the tenacity to work through failures," Clark said. "We encourage student innovation, and that's what this is all about."

Package for Slizewski Swirl at ISU Creamery

Slizewski estimates she produced about 15 trials in eight-cup batches, the first few of which were "really discouraging" in their flavor and texture. She started with almond milk but eventually landed on coconut milk for its fat content and ability to mimic some properties of cream. Along the way, she also tried and rejected ingredients such as pumpkin protein, chickpea flour and vegan marshmallows.

The turning point came, she said, "when I stopped treating this as ice cream. Once I took that into consideration, I made better progress."

In the end, she honed in on coconut milk, sunflower oil and pea protein as her primary ingredients, with maltodextrin as the binding agent of choice. Then, it was a matter of fine-tuning the ratios.

The first scaled-up batch rolled out of the ISU Creamery's production facility March 11, with Slizewski hand-packing it herself. ISU Creamery customers have been able to buy it since the end of spring break.

After enduring some product experiments that "resembled hummus more than ice cream," she said she's especially proud of Slizewski Swirl's creamy texture.

And the name? Clark proposed it, though she and Canova both expected the humble Slizewski to pass. But Slizewski acquiesced, in part she said for her dad in Slinger, Wisconsin, who would enjoy seeing their not-so-common family name on a food package his daughter helped create.