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Food Science

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 
Anyone have any good ideas for a middle school science project involving food and cooking? We looked all over online and nothing was appealing to me. There were things like testing the amountof grease in potato chips - which sodas explode more when you shake them before opening - molds on breads.

I want something that involves actual cooking - maybe with cooking sugar and the candy stages. Or yeast levels affecting bread. Or maybe flour types and dough - say bread flour vs. all purpose flour vs. wheat flour vs. semolina. Maybe something about baking soda vs baking powder in cookie recipes.

Thanks if you have any suggestions.
post #2 of 11
Capture some wild yeast and make sour dough. It's a fairly historic method.

Grape skins can be a good source, especially if they're a local grape. But many methods prepare a loose mix of water and flour and wait for it to get bubbly. A little Googling on the topic of making your own sourdough starter should get you going. Use a method that doesn't use any commercial yeasts (lots of methods do)

Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
post #3 of 11
You could make a volcano, using baking soda to produce the lava.

You could demonstrate the effects of oxygen on various foods, ie how apples, bananas, avocadoes etc, turn brown when exposed to air. Also include how this can be prevented with the use of ascorbic acid.

Whatever you do, it needs to be interesting, fun and hands on for the kids.
"The pressure's on...let's cook something!"
"The pressure's on...let's cook something!"
post #4 of 11
you can do something on Miracle fruit - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia - but not sure what would involve cooking
post #5 of 11
Everyone loves cookies. You could do an experiment to figure out what creates lift in cookies, or how different ratios of white to brown sugar affect texture.
post #6 of 11
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the ideas. You can keep them coming.

We did a volcano last year but not for science project.

It has to have something with variables so you can test for different results.

I like the cookie and fruit ideas. Actually I have been playing with the sugar amounts in the cookies lately in my own quest for a better cookie!
post #7 of 11
Try doing a test on the Maillard Reaction and the effects of heat to protiens. Break it down to what happens to different protiens when cooked over direct and indirect heat, thru poaching and microwaving and the differences in flavors from the various cooking procedures.
Taste: The sensation derived from food, as interpreted thru the tongue to brain sensory system.
Flavor: The overall impression combining taste, odor, mouthfeel and trigeminal perception.
Taste: The sensation derived from food, as interpreted thru the tongue to brain sensory system.
Flavor: The overall impression combining taste, odor, mouthfeel and trigeminal perception.
post #8 of 11
hmmm. you could cheat a little and just check some "Good Eats" Alton Brown shows....or Mythbusters I think had a food episode.
post #9 of 11
do the digestive myths of slim-jims or bubblegum.
post #10 of 11
Thread Starter 
oh my goodness!
post #11 of 11
I'd say, first of all, that you shouldn't do the candy stages thing. The temperatures are very high, and the stuff sticks, so you're basically dealing with kids and napalm. Not fun from a safety perspective.

I like the flour thing, and it strikes me that you can play around with this by making basic tortillas: a flour-water paste, passably thick, that they roll out into tortillas. You can cook them in a toaster oven or a skillet or whatever, or bake them (check with somebody else for timing and temps), and then they can have tacos.

The thing is, you've got gluten to play with, and even some authentic historical reasons to do so: corn vs. wheat flour.

Get Quaker masa harina, ordinary wheat flour, and a few other products that don't cost too much but have significantly varying gluten content.

When the kids roll/pound the dough, they're going to see what gluten is really fast. With a fairly high-gluten paste, it will bind up and then start fighting back. Then you can refrigerate it covered for an hour and suddenly it will be soft and pliable again. With corn flour (masa harina), which has no gluten, it will never really bind well and certainly never start fighting.

When it's time to press out thin tortillas (which ought to be fun with corn: just put a big pot on it and have the fat kid stand in the pot), they'll see that gluten can be helpful, because the non-gluten tortillas will tend to break and the glutinous ones won't. This effect will be modified, but not basically changed, when the things are cooked.

Instead of tacos, you could make tortilla chips: just cut your tortillas in wedges, bake them with a spritz of spray cooking oil, sprinkle with salt when crisp, and you're good to go. Notice that the more glutinous flours produced tougher, bread-like chips, sort of like those pita chip things, and the non-glutinous ones were a lot more like tortilla chips.

The only thing is, explaining what gluten is and how it works is a passably complex matter in organic chemistry, so I don't know whether you can do this effectively on the lesson plan end. But maybe you'll think of a way?

Good luck!

Incidentally, here's a funny food trick that doesn't really match what you have in mind but might be cute some time.

Okay, so you're explaining about light refraction. Then you explain about internal refraction, where light can end up effectively trapped in a parabolic arc of a relatively dense transparent medium. So you set up a fish tank or something with a glass tap near the bottom, and you fill it with water. You line up a laser pointer so that it passes through the tank and out the tap, quite precisely. Turn on the laser, and see the point of light on the wall. Now open the tap and see the glowing red light trapped in the arc of falling water (which is quite beautiful, actually). Now explain that this is a very useful technique for studying light because it's trapped, and lift the beaker of water from the sink, still glowing red. Now drink it.

(Of course, you've put a beaker of red koolaid in the sink before you started, to make the trick happen. But if your students are up to this level, they'll stare at you, go "cooool," and then go, "hey, no way, you can't do that!" And you've taught a lesson and been cool, what more can you ask?)
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