The Science Chef: What Is Food Science?

IMG_8792Hello, friends! It’s been a while since I’ve posted about food science, but I’ve recently resurrected my manuscript and wanted to re-introduce you to the inspiration behind the story: my sister Jane, The Science Chef!

What is food science? How did I become interested in it? Why would it make a fun Kid Lit series?

Read on!

My sister’s culinary creativity started at a young age. Jane could bake the perfect cheesecake by the time she was ten. I have burnt Easy Mac…twice. Jane can solve any kitchen catastrophe using her talented tastebuds. I once cried tears of frustration into a batch of lumpy chocolate sauce before throwing the entire saucepan into the garbage. Let’s just say, we’re at different levels.

The cool thing about Jane (besides her older sister) is that she’s also been interested in science from a young age. When it came time to pick a major at Penn State, she found the perfect mixture of her two passions: food science!

Enter inspiration!

So what exactly is food science? Thanks to Jane, I’ve learned that food science is the technical and tasty study of the science behind our favorite foods. Different from baking soda explosions or potato electricity experiments (don’t get me wrong, those are cool, too), food science instead offers nuggets of scientific information that answer culinary questions like:

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Question: How do corn kernels turn into delicious morsels of popcorn?

Food Science Fact: There is a tiny bit of water inside every corn kernel. When heated to the correct temperature, the water in the kernel turns to steam and expands. The expanding steam pushes against the sides of the corn kernel until…POP…you’ve got yourself the perfect snack.

Question: What gives pretzels their distinctive pretzel-y appearance and taste?

Food Science Fact: Before baking, pretzel dough is dipped in an alkaline bath. This special mixture, such as baking soda flakes and hot water, changes the way the dough’s proteins and sugars react with one another. The result? A dark brown color, crunchy skin and perfect pretzel bite!

Question: What happens when you tap a cake pan on a hard surface before baking?

Food Science Fact: No matter how well your mixer works, tiny pockets of air will always stay trapped inside a cake batter after it is poured into the pan. If light and fluffy is the texture you want, leave those bad boys alone. But, if a chewy bite is what you’re after, tapping the pan against a hard surface will force those stubborn little air bubbles up to the top where they will break open, leaving behind a dense and delicious dessert.

Learned something new, right? Me, too.

Think it would make the perfect premise for a Kid-Lit book? Me, too!

Clelia and I will be offering the manuscript to publishers soon. (Send all the good vibes, please!) I’m hoping to have exciting news to share on that end. In the meantime, stay tuned for cool food science posts and updates!


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