USD Chemistry and Biochemistry

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Paneer Adventure

What a great group of students for Chem 101 "Science of Food and Cooking" during interessession 2017!  We recently talked about denaturation, acid precipitation, and various other cheese-related topics.  After our discussions we went into the kitchen and made some delicious paneer.  Chef Rob and Chef Heather from our very own dining services assisted us in using the paneer in a fantastic dish:  Coconut rice, green curry, and paneer with sauteed peppers and onions. Yum.


Ciao La Bella Citta

My time in Florence has come to an end.  Before I leave tomorrow, however, the Medici city had one more surprise...hail!   

Today I gave my final exam and wished the students safe travels.  I was truly lucky to have such an eager and curious bunch of students.  I will always remember this trip for the folks that made it so special.  It is fantastic to be surrounded by such wonderful art and sculpture but it is more meaningful when you can share your experience with students, family, and colleagues.  

Ciao Firenze; fino alla prossima volta.


Gnudi Day 2

Our first order of business on day 2 was to taste our two cheeses prepared on day 1.  Primo sale was light with a smooth, natural taste whereas the cooked cheese had noticeably more acidic flavor.  Both were excellent.  One could envision pairing these cheeses with some chestnut honey or a nice argula salad.

The next order of business was to do some cooking with fresh cheese.  The ingredient du jour was ricotta cheese.  True ricotta is made from the whey (not the curd) and translated means "recooked".  Ricotta is a low yield product but can be maximized by letting the whey solution acidify either by bacterial action or the addition of external acid.  Anyway, we were supplied with some wonderfully fresh ricotta cheese.  Chef Trapani gave the students a quick lesson in the preparation of gnudi and we were off to the races.

Gnudi are essentially a naked ravioli.  Below you can see the ingredients:  flour, egg, cooked and chopped spinach, parmigiano, salt, and ricotta.  Simple, right?

Students mixed their ingredients, formed their spherical gnudi, and cooked them in salted water.  After the gnudi were done, we basted them in a saute pan containing butter and sage.  In a short amount of time we had enough food for the entire class; the only thing missing was some fine wine!

Overall, our 2 day cheesemaking experience was a huge success.  We not only made cheese but learned how to transform fresh cheese, such as ricotta, into a wonderfully flavorful dish typical of central Italy.


Gnudi Day 1

Yes, you read that correctly "Gnudi" which is pronounced "nu-dee".  We made these little bits of delicousness. 

I devoted a good deal of class time to cheesemaking as this is a subject rich in science and a personal favorite. From protein structure to microbial ripening, we covered it all.  What better way to reinforce these concepts than to actually make some cheese!

Our 2-day cheesemaking experience was directed by Executive Chef Andrea Trapani from the Florence University of the Arts (FUA).  In addition to his position at FUA, Chef Trapani is also the head chef for Fiorentina–one of Italy's Seria A soccer teams.  You can see Chef Trapani giving the students a brief overview of fresh cheeses.

After some discussion we broke into two groups.  Our goal was to produced two different types of cheeses.  The first was Primo Sale–a cheese typical of Sicily or Sardinia.  Primo Sale means "first salt".  Primo sale is an operationally simple cheese only requiring pasteurized milk (sheep preferrably), heat, rennet, and some yogurt. The second cheese was a variation on the theme.  Because we were working on a rather short timescale (2 days), we essentially made primo sale but cooked the isolated curd in a warm (not hot) oven.  In this way we were able to "ripen" the cheese and impart a slighlty more acidic taste to the cheese.  Both cheeses were molded and set to rest until the next day.



Ice Cream in Gelato Country

There is a great deal of chemistry that goes into ice cream:  freezing point depression, emulsification, thickening get the point.  During our lectures of milk and dairy, including cheese, students had a chance to make a crude form of ice cream.  Although simple enough to be done in our rather narrow classroom, the experiment was a great way to illustrate the impact of salt on ice.  Van't Hoff would be proud.  The cream did not set completely but it was nonetheless delicious.