Category Archives: Kitchen Chemistry

Donor’s Choose


Helping Science Classrooms and Supporting Educators Throughout the U.S. Donor’s Choose is a truly remarkable website that IS making a difference in the education of K-12 students all over the US. The site’s basic premise is that they provide a framework for teachers to request and receive funding for projects that their school districts don’t have the budgets to cover. If you are like me, your teachers have had an unmeasurable impact on the person you’ve grown to be. You also know that many school districts have a hard time just making ends meet, let alone providing the kind of education that their students truly deserve. This is where Donor’s Choose … and you … and I come in. Their site is loaded with wonderful projects. Its a one-stop-shopping site for all your charitable donations! Find a project that speaks to you (based on location, theme, or need), and help … Continue reading

Posted in Kitchen Chemistry | 1 Comment

The Maillard Reaction


My favorite reaction I suppose my favorite reaction isn’t necessarily the same as most other chemists. In the lab, the best reactions are ones that are well behaved and predictable. These reactions give high yields and can often bring about transformations from simple molecules to molecules of incredible complexity. And, to add icing to the cake, these reactions normally occur in one step. You would think that my favorite reaction would involve these qualities. But, no, my favorite reaction is different from what you might expect. My favorite reaction takes large, complex molecules and breaks them down into much smaller pieces. My favorite reaction has frighteningly low percent yield. And, in fact, the major products of this reaction can be detrimental. But, the side products make the search worth-while. Like any other reaction, though, finding the right products from my favorite reaction takes patience and a watchful eye. And, I … Continue reading

Posted in Kitchen Chemistry, Uncategorized | 22 Comments

To-mA-to, To-mAH-to


Caveat emptor!! April 01, 2011 … And, I’m back! Sorry for my absence from blogging for the past couple of weeks. I know all of you have been terribly disappointed that I’ve been gone for so long. It’s been a crazy couple of weeks with classes and grants and working on a gift for my post-doc advisor’s 75th birthday party. (On the suggestion of my good friend Paul, I plan on talking about the gift that I put together in a future blog post. It’ll have a lot of inorganic chemistry, history, and lots of colors.) But, today, I’m back to talking about food. And, to be honest, I’ve missed writing my posts. There was something odd about not writing for this site for the past few weeks. I’m excited … so let’s get to it! I was paging through my copy of On Food and Cooking recently when I … Continue reading

Posted in Kitchen Chemistry | 20 Comments

Slow Cooking


One of the best meals I’ve ever had March 04, 2011 One of the best meals I ever ate was during my first year as a postdoc at Caltech. My advisor, the unequalled Harry Gray, had been named the Swift Lecturer at Caltech. To be named the Swift Lecturer is a big deal. Normally, this honor is presented to a scholar from another university with the intention that they will stay at Caltech for a week and be accessible to students/postdocs/faculty. We had some wonderful Swift Lectures during my time there, but Harry’s was by far the best. Now, because the Swift Lecture usually comes with a big check and lots of travel expenses, there is a good deal of money involved in this process. Harry, being the generous person that he is, decided that more than anything else what he wanted was a big party at the faculty club … Continue reading

Posted in Kitchen Chemistry | 13 Comments

On Food and Cooking


and Inorganic Chemistry February 25, 2011 Do you like angel food cake? I do. I love it. I also love chocolate mousse. My friend Lionel makes a chocolate mousse (his grandfather’s recipe) that is to die for. I try not to think about the fact that, while I am fortunate to be partaking of this masterpiece, I have neared the onset of my first coronary by approximately two years. What both of these dishes have in common is that they require whipped egg whites for their structure. Image Source There is this lore about whipping egg whites. The right way to do it is to whip your eggs in a copper bowl. And for the longest time, there was never any scientific reason for this. It was just an observation. Egg whites whipped in copper bowls produce a foam, which holds its shape better than foams produced by whipping in … Continue reading

Posted in Kitchen Chemistry | 41 Comments

My Mojo Popped


The most careful designs are easily blown by enough pressure February 11, 2011 I was prepared. For once. My class notes were finished the night before. They had been double-checked. The topic was engaging. The demo was money. This class was going to be good. You see, things usually don’t happen this way. I’m usually scrambling to get all of my slides put together in time. I’m usually trying to make sure that I’ve got enough interesting things to say to fill the hour and fifteen minute time slot. This is entirely nerve-wracking. Especially for someone who is normally under the opinion that he is really not all that interesting. But, for once, I was ready. I was confident. I had all of my loose ends locked up. Or so I thought. Popcorn The plan was pretty good. I had just lectured on the Gas Laws. (Everybody remembers those, right? … Continue reading

Posted in Kitchen Chemistry | 10 Comments

Long Rise Pizza Doughs


Because sometimes side-reactions are a good thing February 2, 2011 Pizza. God’s gift to humanity. It’s what we turn to when dinner doesn’t go right. It’s where I turn to when I want something comforting. It’s what I want when I go out for a fun dinner. It’s what I find myself in the mood for when I go out for a nice dinner. Pizza is my friend. And, if I may be so bold as to presume your preferences, I bet pizza is your friend too. Image source. A wonderful comic from the un-equalled The best part about this flow chart is that you get to order pizza every day. But, of course, you don’t have to order pizza. Turns out that you can make pretty good pizza at home. Ensuring good toppings seems pretty straightforward. Buy cheese that you like. Get pepperoni/sausage/vegetables that you know taste good. … Continue reading

Posted in Kitchen Chemistry | 9 Comments

I Love Gin and Tonics


That’s what kind of man I am. It’s science. January 28, 2011 I have a confession to make. I really don’t like gin. There is something about that flavor that doesn’t sit right with me. I tend to prefer vodka martinis (blasphemy, I know). If I do have a gin martini, I certainly want more than just a hint of dry vermouth in my drink. I also require olives. Copious olives. In that same vein, I don’t like tonic water either. In fact, I abhor tonic water. It is too bitter for me. I just don’t understand how people can drink tonic water. I realize that I’m probably oversensitive (a supertaster, if you will). I want to like each of these drinks; believe me, I do! My noted aversions to both gin and tonic make it all the more incredible that I love gin and tonics. I can’t remember when … Continue reading

Posted in Kitchen Chemistry | 46 Comments

What’s the pH of Your Pancakes?


What’s the square root of his apartment? January 19, 2011 Yes, Tron (no not that Tron, this Tron) asked the latter question. The former question is one that I just made up. They both sound equally silly and similarly incomprehensible. But, let me tell you, the question that I put forward can have lasting effects on the quality of your breakfast. And, since breakfast is the most important meal of the day, a ruined breakfast can lead to a ruined day. Because I would never want to ruin YOUR day, I really feel that I should explain myself. What’s the pH of your pancake? The other weekend I made pancakes for breakfast. I think that when you become a Dad your weekend isn’t quite complete unless you make pancakes for your kids (waffles are an acceptable substitute). Anyway, the recipe I normally use is based off of the buttermilk pancake … Continue reading

Posted in Kitchen Chemistry | 26 Comments