What we did in class this term

Another term of delicious food chemistry – some of our activities…

The chemistry of Thanksgiving dinner – free webinar

Ever wondered about the chemistry behind a great Thanksgiving dinner? Here’s your chance to dazzle your friends with your knowledge of the esoteric and the practical chemistry of this national favorite.

The webinar is presented by Harold McGee and is part of the American Chemical Society’s “Joy of Science” Food Chemistry Series [link].

The series has included these topics

  • Advanced Beer Chemistry and Brewing
  • Cheers! The Chemistry of Wine
  • The Chemistry of Cheese and Why We Love It
  • Advanced Culinary Chemistry – Sizzles for the Summer
  • Advances and Innovations in Wine Chemistry
  • The Chemical Keys to Thanksgiving Dinner [you can register here]

with Top Five Chemistry Tips for the Kitchen to come Feb 16 2012.

The older webinars in the series are available for viewing on the Food Chemistry Series web page

The Thanksgiving presentation will cover…

  • The pros and cons of brining your turkey
  • The two kinds of turkey muscle and how they’re best cooked
  • How heating rates affect the flavor of sweet potatoes
  • Why traditional persimmon pudding is almost black, and how to make it persimmon-colored
  • And much more…



Inspiration: The Kitchen Chemistry Sessions

Congratulations to Subha Ranjan Das an Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemistry @ Carnegie Mellon University


The Kitchen Chemistry Sessions


The taste of Chemistry

Lots of inspiration and resources available through these links

Chemistry in the Kitchen

a forum

The Kitchen Chemistry Sessions

A Facebook page

CMU’s Magazine

Our 2011 FST 425 “Bringing Food Chemistry to Life” pretzels ready for the acid, neutral, and pH 8, 10, and 14 dips.

MTGase links – Cooking Issues


MTGase primer


This is the first time I’ve come across the Cooking Issues site/blog and it certainly looks interesting.


It is the “tech n’ stuff”  blog of the French Culinary Institute in New York City

Should we eat more chocolate ?

Should Hershey’s recent study lead you to eat more chocolate?

Posted by Yoni Freedhoff at the Weighty Matters blog.

When interviewed one of the researchers was reported as saying “While the findings from this study do not suggest that people should start eating more chocolate as part of their daily routine, it does suggest that we pay more attention to how dark chocolate and other flavonoid-rich foods might offer cardiovascular benefits,

However, the conclusions of the paper said “...this study shows beneficial effects of acute consumption of cocoa in solid and liquid preparation on cardiac risk in overweight persons. This trial further suggests that the cardioprotective influence of acute cocoa ingestion is attenuated by the sugar content of cocoa-containing beverages and accentuated by the removal of sugar. Further investigation is clearly warranted to determine longer term effects of habitual solid and liquid cocoa ingestion, optimal dosing of chocolate for cardiovascular benefit, variation in beneficial effects among diverse populations, and, ultimately, the influence of dietary cocoa intake on cardiac events“.

One thing strikes me in the conclusions – “Further investigation is clearly warranted” – the mantra of researchers everywhere is evident here.

Another strikes me about the acknowledgements “We thank the study participants for taking part in the study“. AS IF ! The participants should have thanked the researchers for giving them free chocolate and yet another reason to eat it !   🙂

Faridi Z, Njike VY, Dutta S, Ali A, & Katz DL. (2008) Acute dark chocolate and cocoa ingestion and endothelial function: a randomized controlled crossover trial. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 88(1), 58-63. PMID: 18614724 Acute dark chocolate and cocoa ingestion and endothelial function: a randomized controlled crossover trial.


Portal and Friends via Flickr

THE most amazing footage of energy storage and elasticity in Jello –

Sent to me by a former student – this video is stunning – the footage of the Jello starts at about 35 seconds…  All that upwards elastic stored force seems to make the Jello cube almost hover momentarily before it falls back down the first time.


FOLLOW THIS LINK –  I-Movix Sprintcam v3 sample shots from David Coiffier on Vimeo.

This goes with the video – I have NO idea what they’re talking about except maybe frames per second. “I-Movix is just finishing development of v3 sprintcam.
Based on a photron SA-2 camera, system is providing realtime HD-SDI output. Sensor is a 12bit CMOS of 2048 pixels wide, and speed can vary up to 2500fps

Exploiting Jello’s elastic properties – Liz Hickok

Via “Chowhound‘s” Food Media

Liz Hickok makes sculptures of San Francisco in jello. This is Telegraph Hill shaking and wobbling.

You can see the whole “San Francisco in Jell-O” series on Youtube at her channel http://www.youtube.com/user/ehickok or with much more on her own website http://www.lizhickok.com/

Of course if you were at MIT you could simulate Jello for a class project but it seems much easier to just make the jello !

Christine Joly-Duhamel and colleagues in 2002 * suggest that the basis of jello (an all gelatin gel) elasticity is the extent and size of the triple helix regions – and therefore I infer, not the entropic contribution of the highly flexible coils separating them. An entropic contribution would come from the coiled regions being straightened out on deformation. Straightening the coils would make them more ordered, thus decreasing entropy, and so there would be a restorative force “seeking” to return to the higher entropy (more disordered) state. Although never purely entropic, polypeptide gels have been considered more entropic than enthalpic (Rheology of fluid and semisolid foods – M. A. Rao page 326), but Joly-Duhamel’s model suggests a more enthalpic type gel for gelatin than was thought previously. Enthalpic restorative forces in gel elasticity come from the energetics of bending and otherwise straining bonds in relatively stiff chains – a model considered valid for many polysaccharide gels.

*All Gelatin Networks: 2. The Master Curve for Elasticity. Christine Joly-Duhamel, Dominique Hellio, Armand Ajdari, and Madeleine Djabourov. Langmuir, 2002, 18 (19), 7158-7166• DOI: 10.1021/la020190m • Publication Date (Web): 27 July 2002

Molecular mixology

From Kelsey Munro in tomorrow’s Sydney Morning Herald (well it is already March 17th there)

“It’s gin and tonic but not as we know it. A cube of G&T jelly sits on a thin slice of lime that’s been fired to a caramelised crisp by a blowtorch. White powder on top fizzes on the tongue like sherbet. The bite-sized gulp is served on a spoon. It’s delicious: an unexpectedly elegant fusion of flavour, texture and alcohol… … “.

The full story van be found here. http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2009/03/16/1237054730948.html

Also more information here

An Introduction to Molecular Mixology

and at


A list of wordpress blogs with “molecular mixology”


Buzz Andersen

Sourcing molecular gastronomy needs online…

It is not easy to source alginates and other gums locally so I tried to find some web based resources for those interested in spherification and other MolGas techniques.

I just used this search string  “sodium alginate spherification supplies” in Google.

Try L’Epicerie – based in NY NY – the site is not so intuitive for all things, but their search function works well. On second thoughts, maybe it’s me that’s not intuitive. Go in to “Fine Foods” and the drop down menu has a “MolGas” link.

Bob’s Red Mill (Portland OR) sells guar and xanthan

WillPowder (Chef Will Goldfarb) also has an extensive range of products under these categories …

& Transformation

It is worth the read about Chef Will.

The Red Spoon Company sells ingredients and a starter pack (WillPowder does packages as well) -Woops, their first currency choice is Australian dollars – so I assume they are based in Australia – shipping might be a bit steep to the USA.

Chef Rubber is in Nevada – a bit closer – this is what they say about themselves… “Chef Rubber is a manufacturer and distributor of specialty items for World Pastry Champions, Artisan Chefs and Confectioners. Our extensive selection of products makes Chef Rubber a viable resource for the creative and innovative.”

Le-sanctuaire looks interesting too; also source of the English language version of Apicius: Journal of Haute Cuisine a semi annual publication – but even with a three year subscription it’s $47USD an edition.

I am not endorsing these sites – but they seem on the up and up – personally I would be happy buy from them, at least one time to try them out and then decide – I have purchased online from Bob’s Red Mill numerous times with no problems.

You can also read about Erik Foodladi/Fooducation’s first spherification experience here http://www.fooducation.org/2009/02/my-first-spherification.html

Late edit — look at the comments – Martin Lersch from Khymos has a more extensive list of suppliers and he has posted his link in his comment.