Whipped Cream and Other Kitchen Science
Are you a budding chef? But, also an aspiring scientist? Then, we have a treat in store for you. In today’s blog, we’re exploring the science behind cooking. From whipped cream to browning meats and vegetables, we’ll explore the chemistry at play that makes our food different and delicious.
The Wonders of Whipped Cream
Cream occurs naturally as a separated fatty layer on the top of whole milk. It contains:
- Milk sugars
- Protein (small amount)
- Fat (lots)
Whipped cream is when small air bubbles become trapped in the mixture. During this, the fat begins to break up and rearrange themselves around the air bubbles. Thus, preventing them from escaping. This then causes the cream to increase in volume until its stiff enough to use.
During this process, the cream is typically sweetened with white sugar and sometimes flavoured with vanilla.
Not getting the right consistency? Here are some tips when making whipped cream.
- Chill your cream. If it’s too warm, the fat is useless as a stabiliser and the whipping will not attain the desired height or fluffiness.
- Use heavier creams. Basically, any with 30% or more butterfat.
- The proper utensil is a tool which incorporates plenty of air into the cream. Such as a hand whisk or electric mixer.
- Don’t over whip your whipped cream. This moment to stop arrives when the cream has reached its desired consistency. Typically this is when (or just before) it attains “firm peaks”: if you twirl it with a spoon it retains its shape firmly.
Other Kitchen Science
Marvelled by the science of our food? Check out what other chemistry is happening in our kitchens.
To make this, you keep whipping your whipped cream. Once you get passed the pillowy stage, you’ll begin to see dense glob gatherings. This is because the agitation of the cream is smashing the fat droplets into each other. Thus, damaging their walls and causing the hydrophobic regions to clump together. Ultimately, once all the air leaves the network of fat and air collapses. What’s left is the solid mass of butterfat.
It’s important that we cook food so that it’s safe to eat. But, alongside this we want to increase the acceptability of the meal. This can mean anything from improving the texture, colour, flavour, and/or aroma. Sometimes, there can be a conflict between these desires. For example, cooking vegetables softens them and enhances the flavour, but could result in a loss of colour.
When browning meat or vegetables, something called Maillard reactions occur. These take place between carbohydrates and molecules with –NH2 groups. The final result includes polymers that make the meat brown as well as flavour molecules that give the aroma and taste of roast meat.
These reactions do not take place below 140ºC. But, other protein molecules begin to change at about 40ºC and cause the meat to harden. This is due to the breaking down of collagen. Eventually, if it softens too much, it turns to gelatine – a soft material that makes up jellies.
And there you have it, an insight into science and the kitchen. Will you think of chemistry next time you make whipped cream?