Monday, April 12, 2010

Obsessed and Passed it on to my students...

So... I used to be a Chemistry Teaching Assistant. One of the sections that I had to cover was all about electrochemistry. I gave one of my students an assignment which was to do a creative writing mini essay on the topic of electrochemistry and this is what he came up with... Apple doesn't fall too far from the tree...

Upon first glance, electrochemistry and “Top Chef”, a hit television show on Bravo seem to have nothing in common. But when examined closely the two have many more similarities than you think. For instance, the chefs on “Top Chef” compete to create delicious dished under all kinds of circumstance, and as we all know, it is often near impossible to create a delicious dish without one extremely important ingredient- salt. This ingredient that is used to tickle the taste buds of judges, an ingredient that, when used correctly, may decide the champion chef, is also very important in electrochemistry. The salt bridge is an extremely important device when creating a battery. The purpose of the salt bridge is to regulate the flow of ions into the anode and the cathode so the transference of electron will be allowed to continue (and, thus the very transfer of energy that makes a battery power everything around us). So the next time you bite into a delicious steak and you feel the salt tickling your taste buds, take a minute to think about the salt bridge that was used to power your car battery to get the steak from the store, the electronic thermometer that was used to measure its temperature, and the very lights that allowed you to view its scrumptious texture the seconds before it entered your mouth.

Some say that becoming the top chef is all about desire. “Who wants it most” is a phrase thrown around the kitchen constantly- whoever has the most heart will become the premier chef. This is the same idea when talking about electrochemistry, Whichever element wants the electrons the most will become the site of reduction (the cathode) and the other side will become the site of oxidation (the anode)- likewise those who do not want it the most on “Top Chef” must surrender their knives (electrons) and go.

As you can see, there really is a shocking resemblance between “Top Chef” and electrochemistry, two seemingly unrelated subjects converging with several obvious similarities. Some say that the very premise of “Top Chef” was inspired by the subject of electrochemistry. So, nect time you’re tuned in to Bravo watching the new season of “Top Chef”, stop and pay homage to electrochemistry. And the next time, you’re studying electrochemistry, it couldn’t hurt to think a little about “Top Chef” either.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Seizing of Chocolate

There is some talk about the seizing of chocolate due to the presence of moisture. Small amounts of moisture can cause the cocoa fat to separate from the cocoa liquor when it is being melted. More moisture can be added to make this chocolate usable for cooking, but it can never be tempered again. This is a very important consideration when melting chocolate with butter to create a more malleable chocolate. I was curious about why it couldn't be tempered, and at at what point (and why at that point) enough moisture will have been added to make the chocolate mixture smooth and usable. It would also be interesting to look at these properties as they pertain to different chocolates. A milk chocolate contains milk solids, so I don't know if it will seize in the same way. Dark chocolate comes with varying liquor and sugar contents which may affect how a chocolate seizes. Without understanding why it does this, seizing could be affected by the crystal structure of a the chocolate as well.

There isn't any more information about why this happens... can someone help????? Chocolate will be sent your way if you help....

Monday, January 18, 2010

Thinking about Molecular Gastronomy

I am not one for subtlety... I like Chemistry and I like food, hence the ChemistFoodie blog name. As part of my PhD requirements here in the South I need to present a literature seminar on an area of science that has nothing to do with my research; (I make shiny, purty, girly crystals that get attached to magnets) so for me there was only one clear option: Molecular Gastronomy. This search for chemical relationships has taken me to find different books and a buttload of papers that talk about Molecular Gastronomy. My gripe is that most of the stuff does not go deeper into the chemistry and explain why is it that adding one specific chemical will give the flavor of mushrooms or lavender... It does tell me why beans are the magical fruit but ot stays there. I've contacted Super Richard Blais regarding his suggestions for books but I am wondering if; first anyone is reading this and if someone is if they can recommend a good Molecular Gastronomy book...