By Laura Stec
Cooking, Science and a School Girl CrushUploaded: Oct 15, 2013
Last week I signed up for Science and Cooking: From Haute Cuisine to Soft Matter Science, a FREE online class offered by Harvard, baby. Did you sign up? It runs 10 weeks so no worries. You have 9 weeks to catch up.
And do it now because… wow! Class c'est magnifique! Really interesting content, plus I've already got a school girl crush on my Harvard smarty-pants applied math teacher Michael Brenner. He's soooo east coast, not usually my style, but the "mad-professor" type is attracting. Can't wait to meet the physics professor. I love physicists.
Focus Laura. Why study the science of cooking anyways? Because once you know why your pancakes poof and your Jell-O jiggles, you are in control my dear.
"It is a sad reflection on our civilization that while we can and do measure the temperature in the atmosphere of Venus, we do not know what goes on inside our soufflés. Nicholas Kurti, physicist, 1969
This past week, cutie pie Mr. Brenner waved his hands around a lot about the four biggie food molecules; fat, carbohydrates, protein and water.
1. Fat: can be liquid or solid at room temp, does not dissolve in water
2. Carbohydrates, two main types:
Sugar: dissolves in water, often hard.
Starch: chains/polymers of sugars.
3. Proteins also a polymer that dissolves in water. However, if you heat the water, the strands can "unwind then wrap around each other into a gelatinous mass." Think egg cooking. Protein strands, unlike the all-glucose or sucrose starch strands, are combinations of amino acids with different properties (Some dissolve in water, others don't. Some have an electrical charge, others no).
4) Lastly, the party girl, water. Water molecules are electrically unsymmetrical, with both a positive and negative end. This contributes to water's natural tendency to "hook up" with other molecules, helping dissolve things around itself, be as cold as ice, or a steaming hottie.
Confused? Just remember that the more we understand what motivates itzy bitzy molecules to move about our meal, the more we can get them to do what it is we really want.
What do you want? I hope to join us. The party has just begun…