In this project, we combined what we learned in humanities with our chemistry class. In our humanities class, we learned about what type of farms our foods come from and how farmers maintain them. We looked into industrial farms, organic, and beyond organic. We used the book "The Omnivores Dilemma" to guide us through these types of farms. We also watched a few documentaries that described more in depth how our food is farmed. In our chemistry class, the task was to make food with altered ingredients based on the food ethic that we developed in humanities. I made cheesecake altering the form the egg was in meaning egg white, egg yolk, and egg whites. My partner and I were trying to find which form of an egg would make cheesecake the densest and creamiest. We then had to write a scientific paper for our experiment.
The interdisciplinary nature of this project helped me connect everything together. Learning about organic food and learning the chemistry behind cooking tied in really well. It made me think about the choices that I should make when buying food and what skills I can use when cooking it. Its good to know how the chemistry part works because you know what your food undergoes to get to the final result. Learning where food comes from and the chemical changes it goes through when cooked went hand in hand, strengthening my knowledge.
When reading the "Omnivores Dilemma", it was crazy to learn that corn is the base of every food item. I really liked learning about all the different types of farms. It's important to know where your food comes from and how it is farmed. Before this project, I would eat blindly meaning that I would eat whatever was given to me. After this project, I look more into the food items that I buy. Organic food is more expensive but eating healthy is important to me so I do struggle a bit when making decisions. During this project, my class had the opportunity to go to a slaughterhouse and we saw how they slaughtered cows. It was one of the few farms who slaughter their animals in an ethical way yet it was so emotional and hard to see. I can't imagine how big industrial companies slaughter their animals. This experience made me a little sick so now I eat meat less than normal. I would like to stop buying meat that is from industrial companies but organic meat is really expensive. I have talked to my family about what I learned in this project and to my surprise, they have made an effort to stop eating at fast food places as much as they used to. This was a very eye opening topic and I'm glad we had the opportunity to be educated about it.
Food Ethic Essay
Chemistry Reflection Chemistry of Food and Cooking “How Different Parts of an Egg Affect Cheesecake’s Density"
As mentioned above, my partner and I decided to make three vanilla cheesecakes the only difference being that the form of the egg was different in each. Eggs are critical in any baked recipe as they bind all the ingredients together adding to its thickness and moisture. In our experiment, we noticed how the cheesecake with egg whites was lighter in color and it had more volume with an arid and smooth texture. The reason why it turned out like this is that the egg whites have protein molecules that are able to stretch. When they are whisked, the air molecules combine with the protein molecules giving them a foamy consistency. The cheesecake with egg yolks was more yellow, it didn't rise as much, and was moister. The reason behind this is because egg yolks are mostly fat so it doesn't combine very well with the air molecules when whisked. Instead, it locks in the moisture when baked. The cheesecake with whole eggs was right in between the two other ones. This is because the egg white and egg yolk worked together in balance. As mentioned above, the egg white adds volume as the egg yolk adds moisture.
With our experiment, our participants took a survey asking which cheesecake was their favorite, which one was the densest, and which one had the best texture. Based on this survey, the cheesecake with the egg whites was the favorite, is was the densest, and had the best texture. When we were whipping the batch with just the egg yolks, it was noticeably different from the other batches. This one had more air bubbles and was somewhat foamy. The batter with the egg yolks was really runny it easily slipped put the bowl into the cheesecake pan. The batter with whole eggs was less runny and a little thicker. It didn't have the same consistency as a normal cake batter would have. As explained above, the chemistry behind the eggs had to do a lot with the results we got.
My experiment was successful enough to help me understand how I can improve the characteristics of cheesecake. Based on my results, I am able to alter a cheesecake recipe based on personal preference. We did have a few errors in our experiment, one being that we over baked the cheesecake with egg whites and the other being that we under baked the cheesecake with egg yolks. We know that we over baked the cheesecake with egg yolks because it had cracks, and a perfectly baked cheesecake is supposed to have a smooth surface and have a jiggly middle. The cheesecake with egg yolks was obviously under baked as when we cut into it, the batter oozed out showing clear signs of raw batter. Eggs are an important ingredient as they bind the recipe together. The form the egg is in provides its level of density. If you are looking to make a dense cheesecake, use egg whites. If you prefer a cheesecake that is more moist with a smoother texture, use egg yolks. If you want a cheesecake that is in between those two, use whole eggs.
If I was to continue research on this topic, I would first redo this experiment and try not to commit the same errors I made. My experiment did yield results but because we didn't manage our baking times well enough, we weren't able to draw reliable results. Another error we made was when we were trying to find the volume of our cheesecakes. Instead of measuring several heights of the cheesecakes (as they were a little lumpy), we just measured the highest points. This then leads to a very inaccurate volume. Once I have successfully baked and measured the cheesecakes correctly, I would get more reliable results. It would be very interesting to me to experiment with the ways I could prepare the eggs before I incorporate them into the batter. I wonder how whisking the egg whites until they are really fluffy would affect the overall result of a cheesecake. The same would go for the egg yolks just only whisking them until they beat correctly as they do not get fluffy. Egg yolks are mostly made up of fat the molecules in them do not combine very well with the air molecules when they are being whisked. The egg whites on the other hand do, therefore they can reach a super foamy consistency. Again, this would be a very interesting experiment that I would like to conduct and compare to my original experiment.