Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Spice Rack!

Happy holidays everyone!

I hope you're enjoying your break after Fall semester. I stumbled this product a few weeks ago and I had to share! Feel more like a scientist in your kitchen while having easy access to all your spices!

- Charles Quinto

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Use Science to Improve Your Cookies!

One of my favorite food bloggers, J. Kenji Lopez-Alt from Serious Eats, has done a fantastic article about the science of cookies, specifically those of the chocolatus chipis species. He covers everything from the difference between using melted and creamed butter to egg yolks vs. egg whites to dough temperature and everything else in between. You can find the original article here along with a recipe but in order to get you into the kitchen faster, I present to you the condensed version:

Do not replace butter with other fats (eg. shortening, margarine, lard). The proteins in butter are essential to the flavors in your dough.

Melted butter will produce denser cookies while creamed butter will make cakier cookies.

Cookies made with browned butter will come out softer because of less gluten development. However this may cause it to break more easily.

A higher proportion of egg white to egg yolk will result in a taller cookie while a higher egg yolk to egg white ratio will result in a more dense, brownie-like cookie.

White sugar is pure crystallized sucrose. Brown sugar is mostly sucrose, but also contains glucose and fructose (more hygroscopic than sucrose) with trace minerals that give it flavor and a slightly acidic pH.

Cookies made with 100% white or 100% brown sugar

Cookies made with slightly acidic brown sugar cause them to rise more and spread less because the brown sugar reacts with baking soda (a base) to make bubbles that provide lift. Cookies made with white sugar do not leaven, but they are more crisp because sucrose does not hold water molecules as well as glucose and fructose.

Incorporate your chocolate chips halfway through the wet-dry mixing process to avoid over-mixing your dough. Excess kneading causes more gluten formation which can produce tough cookies.

Incorporating chocolate into dough that has been heated to 80 degrees F will allow some chocolate to melt, leaving chocolate trails in the cookie, while still leaving chunks intact to melt into pools of liquid delicious.

That $25 bottle of Madagascar bourbon vanilla extract is indistinguishable from imitation vanilla flavor.

Baking your cookies at a lower temperature will result in more spreading and more even cooking. But don't go too low, otherwise there will be not textural contrast between the edges and the center.

Leaving dough in the refrigerator overnight will allow time for flour proteins and starches to breakdown and rearrange so that your cookies have a richer flavor and more better browning.

Cookies rested for four hours and two days before baking

All photos: Serious Eats

Sunday, December 8, 2013

FOODucation: Cookie Chemistry!

Hey everyone,

The weekend is drawing to a close and finals begin tomorrow! I hope you've all been making some great progress studying, and if not, there's still time! Though this is probably covered in Food Chemistry, here's some interesting information on the chemistry of baking cookies!

I've included a video that's more informative than this post and it includes some cool animation! If you don't have the time to watch the video or you don't want to be tempted with yet another holiday sweet treat, I've summarized a few key points about the video!


  • The egg is what holds the batter together during the cooking process to prevent it from expanding into neighboring cookies (though that just means a larger cookie if it does!). As the temperature increases, proteins in the egg(s) denature becoming tangled to create a solid network providing structure to the cookie
  • At 212 F the water in the dough becomes steam and is part of the reason why the cookies rise
  • Baking soda/powder break down carbon to produce carbon dioxide to puff up the cookie by leaving holes making it lighter
  • Caramelization! Sugars break down to become a nice brown, fragrant liquid full of taste and aroma!
  • Maillard reaction! Involves sugars, egg protein and flour to produce that toasty flavor and nice brown color (mmmmm delicious!)

Want more info? Here are some tips to alter your cookie (more chemistry is given in the article/video)
  • Melted butter in raw dough makes the cookie flatter, wider and more chewy
  • Cold butter chunks in dough makes the cookie lighter and more fluffy
  • Baking powder in place of baking soda makes the cookie more fluffy
  • Dark sugars increase the cookie flavor and aroma

Here's the full article:

Best of luck this week!
- Charles Quinto

Friday, December 6, 2013

Food for Thought: Moon Turnips!

Hey everyone! 

Finals week is just a few days away so I hope you're all gearing up to hit the books and finish the semester strong! Try and get some sleep and adequate nutrition to make sure you have the energy to get through the next week!

Speaking of nutrition, did anyone ever try those dehydrated space foods? Well here's a big step forward! NASA is currently working on growing cress, turnips and basil on the moon! In order to withstand radiation, atmospheric conditions, extreme temperatures, and gravity differences, NASA is developing a terrarium to support growth of produce. The hope is that even astronauts will one day be able to consume local, farmed fresh veggies similar to we do here on Earth! Whether or not NASA succeeds with their first trial this marks a big moment in history as "this will be the very first life science experiment performed in deep space," according to Bob Bowman, a plant scientist. 

A 3-D printed model of the canister.
This is a canister that will be deployed in 2015 with a commercial spacecraft known as the Moon Express lander. This canister will create a habit that allows germination and growth of the contained seeds by providing nutrient-rich paper, air, water and regulators for light and temperature. The growth of the plants will be monitored over a period of 5-10 days using cameras.

Good luck on finals everyone!
- Charles Quinto

P.S. For those interested in reading the full article it's available here: