Thursday, March 8, 2007

Food Chemistry
By Charles King

I surprised my class the other day when I started the lecture off by saying to them " You do know, you are in a chemistry class don't you?"
You do know your in a chemistry class don't you?Needless to say I got more than one curious stare from the class. Cooking is all about chemistry and how acids interact with alkalies and heat mixed with water and other items create delicious dishes. An example of chemistry in the kitchen is spaghetti sauce. The basic recipe is; tomato sauce, tomato paste, oregano, garlic, basil, salt and pepper. Granted your recipe might have other items or might be missing a few of these but this a basic recipe. This recipe has a lot of ingredients that all are of an acidic nature. If when you are making your sauce and it has a bitter taste to it that could be from the high acid content. I have had many people tell me to use sugar to remove the bitterness and while it will tone it down some it will not remove it. That is why knowing the root cause for the bitterness gives you an edge. I had an old cook teach me one time that the way to REMOVE the bitterness was to use baking soda. The baking soda will react with the acid and neutralize it. I must WARN you to use just a very small amount several times until you reached the flavor you are searching for.
There are two unique reactions that occur when you put the soda in the sauce: 1. There will be an immediate foaming action that occurs in the pot. Stir in the first "pinch" of soda giving it a couple of minutes to complete the reaction then taste. 2. the reaction of the soda and acid will cause the sauce to have a sweet taste if you use too much soda. It is very important to taste each time you add the soda to see if you have achieved the flavor you wanted. Milk will act as an agent in many dishes to help balance the acid in the spices. The blending and melding of flavors is what cooking is all about and chemistry plays a huge part in that process. Bon Appetite!!!!

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