Category: food

Hot – Edible Sugar Science (Weekly Unplugged Project)

comments Comments Off on Hot – Edible Sugar Science (Weekly Unplugged Project)
By , August 11, 2008 7:19 pm


Finally, here is my hot post that disappeared into the ether last night. Thanks so much to Julie K in Taiwan, Angi and Nature Mama for having the brilliant idea of emailing me the post from their Google Readers. That saved me at least an hour of rewriting! I was so down on computers this morning, but this evening I am uplifted by the fact that three people I have never met in “real life” can help me out! Thank you!!! Now, on to the post:


The theme for this week’s Unplugged Project was hot. Finally, we managed to get back on schedule and do it, although we broke away from our usual craft project and went in a more scientific direction.

While away this summer, I found a number of good books in my Dad’s favorite thrift store (he’s a packrat too). One is called Science Experiments You Can Eat by Vicki Cobb (more about the book at the end of this post). While we were trying to come up with hot ideas, my 7 year-old daughter picked up this book and wanted to choose a food-related project. We decided on Caramel Syrup: Sugar Decomposes from the Kitchen Chemistry chapter.

Older children will find this scientifically interesting and fun to do. Younger kids will enjoy the end result!

The goal of the experiment is to teach about chemical compounds and how they can sometimes be broken down into completely different substances. Although I always liked science in school, I am not a chemist so forgive me if I am not 100% perfect in my description.

Since I am a terminal nerd, I didn’t trust the book’s very simple explanation, and actually researched sugar and how it decomposes. I learned that sugar and its breakdown process is rather complicated. (If the mysteries of caramelization keep you awake at night, then read this.)

I tried to keep it 7 year-old simple and explained to my daughter that sugar is actually carbon and water fused together. When you heat sugar, it breaks down into its original carbon and water elements. I showed her the scientific formula for table sugar (sucrose): C12H22O11 . She already new that H2O was water and could see that in the formula. After I explained that C meant carbon, she saw the carbon and water in the formula.

Heating the sugar would cause it to become watery (the release of the water) and dark (the carbon). It would no longer really be sugar.

What we needed – sugar, water, a heavy frying pan:

First my daughter poured half a cup of sugar into the frying pan:

We heated the sugar over medium-high heat and my daughter stirred it:

After about 5 to 10 minutes, the sugar started to melt:

As my daughter continued stirring, the sugar melted further and began to darken and become very watery:

Finally it turned “straw-colored” and we had transformed our sugar into a new substance – caramel. We turned off the heat and slowly added half a cup of water in order to create a runny, edible solution. I did the pouring as the caramel was so hot that it steamed and spattered:

The shock-cooled caramel formed a brittle sort of candy-lump that we just had to taste:

My daughter continued stirring the mixture on low heat for about another ten minutes – until the big caramel chunk dissolved into a solution:

This is what we ended up with: a delicious carbon-water mixture that we ate over ice cream!


If you haven’t heard of Science Experiments You Can Eat and you have scientifically-inclined children (or you homeschool), you might want to check it out of the library. Ours is an old version (1972), but the new one is supposedly revised and updated. I haven’t seen the new one, but our book has the following chapters about the science of food: A Kitchen Laboratory; Solutions; Suspensions, Colloids, and Emulsions; Carbohydrates and Fats; Proteins; Kitchen Chemistry; Plants We Eat; Microbes; and Enzymes.

If you did this week’s hot Unplugged Project, please put your link in Mr. Linky below so we can all find you. If you didn’t, please read how to join in, and consider doing next week’s project.


Next week’s Unplugged Project theme will be:


Have fun!

Eggs of Honor

By , September 11, 2007 8:59 pm

Today I promise not to bore you all once again with tales of my A-list vegetables…but how about my new A-list eggs!

A-list eggs are fresh from the chicken. They come in a carton of twelve, just like grocery store eggs, but they are all different sizes, colors and even shapes!!! Not the uniform white or brown varieties that look like they were made in a factory in China, along with everything else in this world today. You can sense the happiness, exuberance, and individual personalities of the chickens that laid these A-list eggs.

The shells are rough, not smooth and porcelain-like. The thickness of the shell seems to vary from egg to egg also. Do stubborn chickens lay eggs with thicker shells?

In my opinion, the yolk is what sets a fresh egg apart from its copycat grocery store cousins. When you crack a “really happy egg” into a frying pan, the yolk stands up straight and doesn’t seem to want hide itself by melting away into everything else. It stands tall and proud. It is an egg of honor. It is an egg with good self-esteem.

When you eat a happy egg, the yolk has the consistency and texture of sweet cream fresh from the cow. It coats the tongue in a most delightful way.

Signs of egg freshness:

  • Shell is rough and chalky (the smoother and shinier the shell, the more ancient the egg)
  • When placed in a glass of water, egg sinks. If it floats – no good! (as an egg ages, the small air pocket inside it expands and causes the egg to float rather than sink)
  • I read that a stale egg has an unmistakable “rattle” when shaken, a fresh egg does not (I haven’t tried this one)
  • When cracked, an egg that runs out more like water than goo is probably old
  • In a pan, a fresh egg yolk stands up and the white is noticeably thicker

I’m an A-Lister !!!!!!!!!!

By , July 24, 2007 9:02 pm

I got the call…the day before I left on my trip…it was the CSA…I am in!!!! A half share! The fall harvest! First shipment the day I get back! Hooray!!!!!!!!!!!

This came as a shock. I had been under the impression that not only was I not A-List Material at the present time, but I was on the W-List (as in the “What-Were-You-Thinking-Not-In-This-Lifetime-List;” or was that the “Wait-For-At-Least-Another-Year-Or-Two-Or-Maybe-When-Hell-Freezes-Over-List”).

No, I have not been conducting a systematic extermination of all those before me on the W-List. Nor have I been passing out bribes for volunteering to leave the list (although I did entertain that idea for a while). Apparently there is a teensy weensy chance that the CSA people might possibly have learned about my pathetic “A-List For Vegetables” post from a certain “Other A-Lister” (you know who you are) and either: 1) Felt very sorry for me, or 2) Become extremely concerned about my mental health, and bumped me up. I vote for the mental health issue. Or, maybe I was just higher on the list than I thought. Whatever the cause of my rapid rise to A-List Stardom, I am eternally grateful and soooo excited!

No more flaccid celery, puckered tomatoes, spongy zucchini, or dubious daikon. Apples will not be so shiny that I can use them to check for the remains of slimy lettuce between my teeth, and perhaps the apples might even have (gasp!!!)…AN IMPERFECTION.

On August 8th, 2007 a box of freshly picked produce will be lovingly delivered to my door and placed in my eager hands by the farmer himself. With bated breath I shall open the box to reveal all of Earth’s pristine bounty laid out before my eyes, the warm Arizona soil still clinging to crevices in the delicate pure and unadulterated flesh. I shall behold flawless treasures begging to be transformed into fresh and healthy gourmet meals for my little ones and me.

Of course my angels will love savoring exotic dishes of kohlrabi and endive. They will beg for seconds and thirds of swiss chard and turnips. I can hear it now: “Mama, Mama, PLEASE don’t make us eat that awful frozen pizza that we used to like so much!!! Can’t we have Bok Choi and Beetroot Goulash tonight instead?? Pleeeeeese!!!! Pretty pleeeeese????” Instead of Chicken Fingers and 7-Up, they will demand Okra Twizzles accompanied by Brussel Sprout Smoothies.

Well, maybe not. A bit of encouragement might be necessary. A Kids Cook Night Bok Choi and Beetroot Goulash perhaps? Recipe to follow shortly.

Idea: Kids Cooking – Dinosaur Pancakes

By , May 19, 2007 8:00 am


Kids cook idea: dinosaur pancakes. These fun molds (and other shapes too) are widely available from cooking stores and catalogs. They make cooking fun for kids. And of course a dinosaur pancake tastes MUCH better than an ordinary round one.

The A-List For Vegetables

By , May 9, 2007 9:40 pm

My best friend was just “accepted” by the local coop (the ONLY coop in our tiny, food-challenged community). She is on the A-List. I am on the W-List (as in the Wait-For-At-Least-Another-Year-Or-Two-Or-Maybe-When-Hell-Freezes-Over-List).

She will have fresh, locally grown vegetables, fruits, and herbs, even goat cheeses and salsas DELIVERED TO HER DOOR all summer long.

Meanwhile, I will be found scavenging the produce section at Safeway, digging through the bins in search of a flaccid celery, or wrestling fellow desperate Mom-shoppers for the only remaining semi-spongy zucchini or half-rotten avocado.

If I am not there, perhaps I am in a flirty sort of mood, and you might find me in the fruit aisle putting on my lipstick using a shinier-than-nature-ever-intended apple as a mirror. Ha!! I bet you can’t do that trick with your fancy COOP apples!

My “friend” called to inform me that tomorrow she will be receiving some freshly-picked organic Japanese Mustard Greens, lovingly hand-delivered by the farmer.

Well la-di-da! Who wants nasty old Japanese Mustard Greens anyway!! Give me pesticide and botulism-laden Iceberg Lettuce, or give me death. That is my motto!

(By the way…if you have any of those mustard greens left over that you are just going to compost anyway…could I have them…please???? …PRETTY PLEASE ?)Thanks to and photographer Scott Liddell ( for this A-list quality photo!

Panorama Theme by Themocracy