The first time “can you pass the sucrose” slipped out of my mouth, my friends looked at me totally dumbfounded. Quickly I mumbled “oh, I mean the sugar.”
Of course, my friends love to bring up this scientific freudian slip and relentlessly tease me about it — but hey, I guess that’s the price of being a food scientist.
Yet, from a scientific standpoint, not all sugars are the same. Some sugars taste sweeter than others. Some undergo browning reactions and produce new flavors when heated. …
If you’re a baker, even an amateur one at that, I’m sure you’re familiar with the first step in many cookie and cake recipes — creaming the butter and sugar.
It’s so ubiquitous that it’s easy to ignore.
But, if you’re like me and have no electric mixer this step can be incredibly annoying. I mean it’s a lot of work creaming that butter and sugar by hand.
It might be hard to believe, but this seemingly ordinary step has an extraordinary impact on the quality of your final baked good.
After reading these three reasons, you’ll never skip or…
If you’re like me and live in the U.S., you probably buy uncultured butter out of convenience and habit. Maybe you didn’t even know it was called uncultured or that there was another option?
Unlike Europe, where cultured butter reigns, here in the U.S. we largely stick to sweet cream butter aka uncultured butter. It’s not that you can’t find cultured butter in the states, it’s just that you’ll need to specifically look for it at some fancy schmancy grocery store.
Okay, maybe not that fancy but I’m talking about a special trip to Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods. …
I distinctly remember the history unit in fourth grade that taught us about American pioneers and the Westward Expansion for the first time. The unit culminated with all the fourth graders dressing up in old fashioned garb and going on a field trip to a historic site called the Old Wade House.
During the tour, the guides wanted to demonstrate how the pioneers used a butter churn to turn milk into butter. Thinking the churn looked fun, I volunteered to help make the butter, but was I in for a reality check.
Within minutes, the plunger was feeling heavy in…
Let me start with a question.
When you think of your sense of taste, what do you think is its purpose?
I mean is there any reason we have five basic tastes called sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and umami?
You might assume that taste simply allows us to enjoy our food, but the truth is much more interesting. Taste has far greater implications than a nice, flavorful dinner.
In fact, each of our five basic tastes are thought to have played a role in ensuring the survival of early humans.
I know this idea of taste aiding in survival might…
There’s no other part of baking that can relieve some aggression like punching the dough.
If you’re a baker, I’m sure you’re familiar with punching the dough down between the first and second rise. But, as someone who only sporadically bakes, I found this step fun, but rather counterintuitive.
I mean during the first rise you give the yeast enough time to start producing carbon dioxide bubbles to expand the dough to twice its size only to punch it back down?! Then, you wait during the second rise for those carbon dioxide bubbles to form again!! This seems like madness.
As a food scientist, there are certain words on food labels that really irk me.
The term “natural” is a great example of this.
There’s no definition for what natural means in the food industry. Any company can slap the word natural on their food products, yet I’m guessing most consumers assume there’s some rhyme or reason behind the term.
If you’re a person that shops for natural foods, I highly suggest starting to look for the word organic instead.
Any foods labeled organic follow strict rules set by the government. Producers are regulated and audited by the…
There’s something about inventions that are discovered by accident that I find simply delightful.
Whether it be Post-it Notes, penicillin, or as you probably guessed — Pop Rocks — these strokes of serendipity always make for great stories.
Now, I’m guessing you might be asking yourself what the heck was someone trying to do when they made a discovery as peculiar as Pop Rocks?
Make an instant soda tablet of course!
William Mitchell was a research chemist at General Foods, which was later renamed Kraft Foods, when he was experimenting with ways to carbonate hard candy.
Let me pause here…
If you think the olives you buy in the grocery store are unpalatable, count yourself lucky that you’ve never tasted the fresh fruit.
Picked right off the tree, olives are considered inedible due to the high amount of a bitter compound called oleuropein. And most of the processing of olives is done specifically to remove this molecule.
As far back as the Roman times, humans learned to process olives to reduce the amount of oleuropein. The Romans soaked the fresh fruit in water supplemented with wood ash. …
A handful of cheese companies have found themselves the subject of some pretty salacious headlines like The Parmesan Cheese You Sprinkle on Your Penne Could Be Wood and the FDA Finds Wood Pulp in Major Parmesan Cheese Brands.
As a food scientist, this type of flashy news always catches my eye. I’ve seen so many exaggerations, misunderstandings, and deceptive tactics that I always feel inclined to investigate.
And I found it hard to believe that chunks of wood were being tossed into cheese all willy nilly. There’s too many laws and regulations for that to fly.
But there is some…
Food scientist by PhD. Sharer of food structure, processing, nutrition, trends, & history. Disprover of food myths, lies, & misinformation.