Category Archives: At Home Experiments

Try these fun experiments at home!

Gastronomy: Arts, Science, a new way of living?

Cooking is an art. A perfect macaroon requires a batter with the perfect proportion of ingredients. Whisking too vigorously or adding too little sugar leads to the failure of the macaroon.

Cooking is science. Radiation in the oven accelerates the movement of water molecules. With the high temperature, the water molecules on the surface leave quickly while the water molecules inside the macaroon evaporate slowly, resulting in a Macaroon with a crispy surface but soft filling.

Cooking is a way of living. Food is the primary source of gaining energy and keep us alive.

As technologies have developed sharply and as we have accumulated increasing amounts of experience in cooking, our methods of cooking have transformed. The purpose of processing food is not just making sure that food is edible or tasty anymore. People have started to focus on a variety of aspects of food. It has to have the perfect ingredients, perfect texture, perfect color, perfect flavors and perfect aromas. In other words, everything has to be perfect and balanced, even if it is just a simple dessert.

With help from researchers, more and more unknowns about food and cooking are being discovered. Gastronomy is the study of the relationship between food and culture; the art of preparing and serving rich or delicate and appetizing food; and the science of good eating. It is also a new money maker. Restaurants advertise their foods that use Molecular Gastronomy and profit from it. However, you don’t need to be a scientist or an advanced professional cook to make Gastronomy food! You don’t need fancy or professional equipment either. As long as you have a spoon, a syringe, a cup, and some ingredients, which you can easily buy online, you can practice molecular gastronomy too! The chemistry behind it is easy to understand too!

Colin McDonald/CNET

For example, when sodium alginate reacts with calcium chloride, calcium alginate is produced and precipitates. Alginate is a polysaccharide that only thickens liquid with the presence of ions like calcium. Alginates cross-link with each other in the presence of calcium to form a network, the sphere wall. So, why is sodium alginate is soluble while calcium alginate is not? It turns out that calcium has an oxidation state of +2, while sodium has an oxidation state of +1. Compared with Na+, calcium needs to form an extra bond, which spans two alginates. The sphere is thus formed. Sodium and chloride are the spectator ions in this chemical reaction.

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With the displacement reaction, we can make caviar from chemicals. This technique now doesn’t only stay in the kitchen and on the food table anymore. People also utilize it in the “water bottle” industry. The popular edible water ball online is actually using this technique. The edible surface of the water ball is made from alginate too. See, science can be close to us and can be easy to understand. Sometimes the science behind the cool stuff we have watched online is not complicated. And Gastronomy, the study of the relationship of food and culture, is a subject that bring us closer to food, and does not create distance between food and us, as industrialization sometimes does.  It gives us a new way of living and a new style of living.

One of the other prospects of Gastronomy is re-discovering the taste of food and how our olfactory system works.  Molecules like those found in miracle berries can make us temporarily lose the ability to taste the sourness of the food.

After taking one tablet of the miracle berry, we tried the foods shown in the picture, including the lemons which normally give us an unbearable sour taste. Surprisingly, it turns out that this is the tastiest lemonade I’ve ever tried.  The lemons don’t have the extreme sour taste anymore. Instead, it gave me a rich sweetness with a little bit of competing sour taste. However, the used-to-be-tasty pickle was not so much anymore. The desirable sourness was gone, leaving all the old competing flavors as the main flavors we can taste now. There are other compounds that can affect our olfactory system differently, like making us not tasting the sweetness (as in gymnema sylvestre).

Overall, Gastronomy gives us a new perspective to use in looking at food and the science behind it. It is not simply a science or an art; it is a combination of science and art. It gives us the chance to use science to develop more art and a new way of eating.

Reference:

1) McGee, Harold. On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen. New York: Scribner, 2004. Print.

2)Oxford Dictionary

3) “Cross Linking Polymers” RSC Advancing the Chemistry. Web. 30 Apr, 2017. http://www.rsc.org/Education/Teachers/Resources/Inspirational/resources/3.1.9.pdf

4)Peters, Adele. “The Edible Water Bottle is How You Will Drink In The Future.” FastCompany. Web. 1 May, 2017. https://www.fastcompany.com/40403025/this-edible-water-bottle-is-how-youll-drink-in-the-future

4) Kowart, R. Kristen. Edible Water Bottle. The Spirited Science. Web. 30 Apr, 2017. http://thespiritscience.net/2014/04/26/edible-water-bottles/

5)McDonald,Colin. “spherification” Cnet. Web.30 Apr,2017. https://www.cnet.com/news/appliance-science-edible-water-bottles-and-the-strange-chemistry-of-spherification/ 

 

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Making a Pizza Pie!

One of my favorite things to eat on a Friday night is pizza.  It can be so versatile because you can add different toppings.  It’s a vessel of food that allows you to express your unique personality.  But have you ever taken a second to think about what a pizza is, more to the point, what happens to the dough?  Well, that’s what Bonding with Food, a chemistry class, did on a Thursday afternoon.

We studied and read in On Food and Cooking by Harold McGee, Cookwise by Shirley Corriher, and I’m Just Here for More Food by Alton Brown about different doughs, breads, and pastries.  In class, we made our own dough with some variations to see what the effects were. There are two basic steps to making a pizza.  The first is to the combine ingredients. Ok, simple enough. The second one is to knead the dough. I never really knew why pizzeria employees would knead the dough and toss it up in the air.  Was it to show their prowess at pizza making? Could you judge the quality of the pizza by how high or how well a pizza was thrown in the air? I came to the conclusion that no, it wasn’t a bench mark for skill or quality, but actually had a much more practical reasoning behind it.  Before we get to kneading, we must first look at the ingredients needed to knead.

The basic structure of dough is flour and water.  But wait, can that make every kind of dough and pastry? Well, not really.  There are other ingredients you can add to change the consistency and flavor of the dough. The basic structure however is water, gluten proteins (glutenin and gliadin) from the flour, and starch granules also coming from the flour. Generally, doughs with more flour than water can be manipulated by hand.  The table below shows what was used in our four experimental trials.

Gluten plays a central role in pizza production.  Gluten is mainly protein, proteins that are so big they may be the biggest in the natural world.  The structure of these proteins is essential to the role they play in dough. Gluten is made of both glutenin and gliadin proteins.  Gluten is the structure made from the combination of glutenin and gliadin.

Glutenin itself is like a long spring.  When I played with springs with a kid, I would always pull them apart and they would spring back together.  In much the same way, that is how glutenin acts.  Glutenin proteins are attached to each other end to end by sulfur bonds between amino acids at the ends of the protein. These form long chains.  Additionally, the glutenin chains are bunched together in parallel lines.  These lines become entangled and gliadin proteins, acting like ball bearings, allow the glutenin chains to slide past each other without bonding.  Gliadin acts as grease so that glutenin can slide over one another while the chains stretch and condense.  The sum of the glutenin and gliadin structures is gluten.

As you make a pizza from scratch, many recipes will tell you to set the dough aside and wait.  The purpose of this is because if you have added yeast and sugar to your dough, the dough will need some time to proof.  The process of proofing has one sole purpose: to add air bubbles. Technically, they aren’t air.  The yeast that is added is a biological organism that turns the sugar into carbon dioxide through biological processes.  The proofing time allows the yeast time to work and create bubbles that are held by the gluten matrix.

To test differences in preparation and the effect on making pizza dough, we ran an experiment.  There were four trials.  Two tested the addition adding oil early in the dough process and two others had oil added late to the dough making process.  Between the two with oil added early, they were further differentiated by the length of time kneaded.  One was kneaded for a brief amount of time before left to proof and the other was kneaded for a considerably longer time.  The same was done with the doughs that had oil added later.  One was kneaded for a brief period while the other was needed for a longer amount of time.

After initial mixing, the doughs were kneaded for differing amount of time.  The purpose of varying the kneading was to differ how much the gluten networks are integrated with glutenin intertwining and the gliadin becoming interspersed within the network. In addition to kneading, a process that increases the integration while also making the dough thinner is “throwing” pizza. The technique is to make a fist and throw and twist your wrist to spin it as it is in the air.  The centripetal force of the rotation will uniformly stretch the dough into a circular.  This is why pizzas are thrown in the air.  The purpose is to create a nice, circular, and uniform pizza crust. If this fails, as it seemed to for our testing, a rolling pin is always a great option.

All you need to do now is add your favorite toppings (in class, we made a white pizza to focus on the difference between the crusts) and place in the oven for a few minutes, then out pops a fresh new pizza full of chemistry.  Bon Appétit!

See Videos on Youtube!!!: http://www.youtube.com/user/CHEM304BWF

In-Class Experiment: Dough!

The baking experiments we performed in class involved tasting three different loaves of bread and trying to see the what variable changed between all of them.  The other was making pizza dough and varying when the oil was incorporated into the dough. Let’s start with the pizza dough experiment!

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The Complexities of Batters and Doughs

When I was younger, every Sunday night my mom and dad would make a fabulous dinner. My mom would make her famous Anadama bread, while my dad would whip up a batch of his delicious blueberry muffins. My dad would mix all of his ingredients into a batter in a large bowl while my mom would knead her  ingredients into a ball of dough on the countertop. When this was done, my parents had to pass the responsibility of making their wonderful baked goods onto someone, or, rather something else, aka the oven. What exactly happened during the twelve minutes when my dad’s goopy batter turned into gorgeous and tasty blueberry muffins? What does that oven do to my mother’s dough that makes it mouth-watering chewy Anadama bread? What exactly happens when you bake anything?

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In Class Experiment – Emulsions (Roux, Mayonnaise, and Hollandaise)

Roux

In class last week, we started by making three different types of roux: light, medium, and dark.  A roux is a mixture of heated flour and fat that is then used to thicken sauces, soups, and stews.  Continue reading

Adventures in Cooking and Emulsions: How I Could Have Saved My Valentine’s Day Dinner

Usually, I start reading for class each weekend.  However,overValentine’s Day weekend, I prepared a classy French-style dinner for my significant other instead of starting my homework.  Little did I know, doing the reading ahead of time on emulsions and sauces would have really helped.

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The Incredible Edible Egg!

Eggs a la Salvador

I crack an egg on the edge of my frying pan. The clear viscous liquid     and runny yellow yolk, that has already been broken, is dumped into a bowl. I    proceed to grab a metal fork and beat them loosely, until the entire concoction is about the same yellow color. It doesn’t take a lot. There is a piece of cracked shell in the mix, but I don’t mind. I pour the scrambled egg on to the frying pan, which has been on high heat for some time now. I mix the contents around on the frying pan so it cooks faster. Sure parts of the egg start turning brown, but that is the way I like it; plus, you can’t beat the smell. The brick of egg is flipped on to my plate: I sprinkle some salt, give it a squirt of ketchup, and off I go to devour   what I so proudly made.

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