This week, Mia and I made panna cotta with caramel sauce and caramel candy coated hazelnuts. On the first day, we prepared the panna cotta. Here is how we did it:
After lining four ramekins with non-stick cooking spray, we poured 1 cup of whole milk into a saucepan and sprinkled 2 teaspoons of unflavored powdered gelatin on top. We let this mixture sit for 5 minutes to soften.
Next, we set the saucepan over low heat and warmed the milk mixture while whisking. There was one point at which we started to see steam, so we took the saucepan off of the heat to let it cool for a few seconds. After about 2 minutes, we rubbed some of the mixture between our fingers to check to see that it felt smooth. This would mean that the gelatin had dissolved.
We then stirred 1/4 cup of sugar into the mixture and continued warming until the sugar had dissolved. Then, we removed the saucepan from the heat, and whisked in 1 cup of heavy cream, 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract, and a pinch of salt. We distributed this mixture evenly among our ramekins, and refrigerated them overnight.
On the second day, we started out by making the caramel sauce. Before doing anything, we filled a small bowl with cold water and placed it by our workstation in case either one of us burned ourselves.
After taking the necessary safety precautions, we heated 7 tablespoons of unsalted butter and 1.5 cups of heavy cream in our saucepan until the butter melted. When it was done, we poured this mixture into a glass measuring cup and put it off to the side.
After cleaning out our saucepan, which took a long time, we combined 2 cups of sugar and 1/2 cup of water, stirring them together until the sugar had been evenly moistened and a thick grainy paste had formed.
After wiping down the sides of the pot with non-stick cooking spray, we clipped a thermometer to the side of the pot and started cooking the sugar syrup. We placed the pot over medium heat. Once it hit 240 degrees Fahrenheit, the sugar syrup started to boil.
At 320 degrees Fahrenheit, the sugar syrup started to turn into caramel. Once the caramel was a bit lighter than our goal color, we slowly whisked in the hot cream and butter mixture. Then, we quickly whisked 2 teaspoons of salt into the mixture. We then poured the mixture into a glass measuring cup and let it cool to a temperature close to room temperature.
While we waited, we moved on to making the caramel candy covered hazelnuts. We started by roasting our hazelnuts for 12 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit. We then inserted a toothpick into each hazelnut.
We repeated the caramelization process for the candy coating, this time only using 3 tablespoons of water and 4.5 tablespoons of sugar. We accidentally left our sugar syrup on the burner for too long and ended up with very dark, bitter caramel. Regardless, we did use it. We dipped each hazelnut into the caramel to coat it.
Now that we had our caramel sauce and our hazelnuts, it was time to retrieve the panna cotta from the refrigerator. We removed each one from its ramekin by running a knife around the sides of the inside of the ramekin, then pouring it out onto the plate.
We topped each one with caramel sauce and hazelnuts, and our dish was complete!
Darker caramel is less sweet because the darker color indicates that the glucose and fructose within has decomposed into aroma molecules, which escape into the air. This leaves the caramel with a bitter taste.
We saw caramelization occurring at around 320 degrees Fahrenheit, just like the lab said it would. We could tell caramelization had started because the sugar syrup started to turn brown.
1) Assumption: Before taking this course, I had never thought about how much aromatics contributed to the flavor of a dish. I had never realized that a dish’s taste is truly defined by its aromatics. I did not know how much they affected the food I have been eating throughout my entire life.
2) Dish: For this assignment, I have chosen to analyze soffritto. Soffritto is a sauce that is commonly used as a base in Italian sauces, soups, and stews, and is composed of carrots, onions, and celery, slowly fried.
3) Chemical Analysis: Soffritto is created by shallow-frying or sauteeing carrots, onions, and celery. The ingredients are sauteed in either butter or olive oil depending on the region of Italy from which the recipe originates. In the northern regions, butter is more commonly used, while olive oil is used elsewhere. When these ingredients are fried, their surfaces are dehydrated, and their sugars and proteins break down through Maillard reactions. These reactions are what give fried foods their distinct flavor and color. The hot fat immediately enters the interior of the ingredients, causing the fibers within them to soften. It is important when frying that a crust forms quickly, so as to let as few fats as possible enter the interior in order to not make the food too greasy.
4) Cultural Analysis: The name “soffritto” comes from a combination of the word “sotto”, meaning under, and “fritto”, meaning fried. This is because the ingredients are fried, and then placed underneath other ingredients. In Italian cuisine, the combination of carrots, onions, and celery is known as the holy trinity, implying that it is considered to be a perfect culinary combination. In the Bible, the holy trinity refers to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, the three beings that make up one God. That carrots, onions, and celery are known as the holy trinity of Italian cooking demonstrates that these three ingredients are seen as the foundation for so many Italian recipes that they practically rule over all of Italian cuisine.
5) Integration: Frying these three ingredients together can be seen as a way to get people’s taste buds to blend their three flavors together into one. Similarly, Christians tend to think of the holy trinity as three pieces of one God. The way in which the three ingredients work together to form a foundation is similar to the way in which the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit work in tandem to create and guide the people. The three ingredients in soffritto work together to form the base of the dish and guide the taste buds toward the intended taste of the dish.
Additives in Peanut Butter Filled Pretzel Nuggets:
Replaces niacin that is lost in the processing of the flour.
Replaces riboflavin that is lost in the processing of the flour.
Replaces folic acid that is lost in the processing of the flour.
Mono- and diglycerides
Allows smooth mixing of ingredients, and prevents separation.
Vitamins and Minerals:
Riboflavin assists the body in converting food into energy, as well as growth and development and formation of red blood cells.
Iron assists the body in producing energy, growth and development, functions of the immune system, formation of red blood cells, reproduction, and healing wounds. Iron is especially important for young children, pregnant women, and women who are capable of becoming pregnant.
The sugars present in molasses are glucose, sucrose, and fructose.
The only sugar present in corn syrup is glucose.
Barley Malt Extract
The only sugar present in barley malt extract is maltose.
The fibers present in wheat flour are arabinoxylan, cellulose, and beta-glucan. All of these fibers are insoluble.
Peanuts contain soluble and insoluble fibers.
There are starches stored in the endosperm of the wheat grain.
In total, one serving of Peanut Butter Filled Pretzel Nuggets contains 72 calories from fat, 52 calories from carbohydrates, and 20 calories from protein.
This week, Mia and I made Meringa con Zabaglione, which is a meringue with custard in the center. We also put chopped strawberries on top for added flavor. Here is how it went!
After preheating our oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit, we placed 5 egg whites in a stainless-steel bowl and beat them in a stand mixer until they turned foamy. Then, we added 1/4 tsp of cream of tartar and beat the mixture until soft peaks had formed.
Then, in a small pot over low heat, we combined 1 cup of superfine sugar (which we made by running 1 cup plus 2 tsp of white sugar in a food processor for 30 seconds) and 1/2 tsp of water, then stirred to dissolve the sugar. Once the thermometer we put in reached 236-240 degrees Fahrenheit, we took a spoonful of this syrup and dropped it in a container of cool water. It formed a soft ball, which meant that it was done!
We started up the mixer again, this time pouring in our hot sugar syrup over the egg white mixture. We ran the mixer until we achieved stiff peaks.
We scooped spoonfuls of this new mixture onto three parchment-lined baking sheets, and shaped them into cups using the back of a spoon. We baked them at 300 degrees Fahrenheit for 2 hours.
When they were 20-30 minutes from being done, we started making the zabaglione!
We put about an inch of water in a medium saucepan, covered it with a lid and brought it to a boil, then reduced the heat and brought it down to a simmer. In a glass bowl, we combined 5 egg yolks (left over from the eggs we separated to get the whites for the meringa), 1/2 cup of superfine sugar, and 2 tbsp of almond extract. We placed this bowl over the saucepan and whisked the mixture while it heated, until it was so thick that the whisk formed tracks. We then performed the 8 second test to ensure that it was done.
After the meringa and the zabaglione were both done, we were ready to serve them together!
We poured the zabaglione into the cups we had formed in the meringa, and topped them off with chopped strawberries.
Here is our conclusion:
1) The reason why the egg whites formed a foam in the mixer was because the hydrophilic amino acids in the proteins attached themselves to the water in the egg whites, while the hydrophobic amino acids attached themselves to the air. Adding cream of tartar, an acid, makes the foam loosely stand up, as it makes the proteins bond with each other. Adding the sugar syrup did the same thing, making the foam stand in stiff peaks.
2) The sugar was responsible for the thickening of the zabaglione.
3) If the zabaglione is heated past its boiling point, the egg proteins will not be able to hold liquid, so it will separate into solid clumps of egg and a watery liquid.
1) Assumption: As a child, I only ever knew olive oil as the delicious liquid in which one dipped bread at Italian restaurants. I had no idea it was used in so many dishes, such as baked goods. I now see that it provides dishes such as breads and cakes with their own unique textures.
2) Dish: The name “olive oil cake” speaks for itself. Rather than being made with butter, like most cakes, olive oil cake uses olive oil as its fat, giving it a dryer texture than cakes made with butter.
3) Chemical Analysis: Olive oil is used in cooking as a fat, being composed of triglycerides, which are esters of one glycerol and three fatty acid chains. Since fats are hydrophobic, they are used in baking to block the formation of gluten matrices, which are formed by wheat proteins binding with water. Preventing the formation of gluten matrices results in one’s baked good being more soft and tender. Using oil in one’s cake instead of butter will make this prevention more likely, since oil coats the proteins in wheat flour more easily than butter does. Proteins that are not coated end up bonding with water, holding the ingredients together and making the cake more tough and chewy. In other words, olive oil blocks the formation of gluten better than butter does.
4) Cultural Analysis: In Italy, olive oil has been used as a fat in food for centuries, so it should come as no surprise that cakes are more commonly made with locally grown olive oil than with butter. It is believed that the first people to use olive oil in cakes were Sephardic Jews in the Mediterranean area, as it was more accessible to them than butter, plus it was kosher. It also helped that, unlike butter, olive oil contained no dairy, so it could be eaten with meat. In fact, during the Spanish Inquisition, olive oil was seen as an indicator that a family was Jewish, so many non-Jews stopped using it so they would not be mistaken for Jews. When the Sephardic Jews came to the United States, they had to stop using olive oil because it was no longer readily available. Today, however, olive oil cake has been experiencing a rise in popularity, with chefs all around the world using it as a butter substitute for its unique flavor and texture, as well as its health properties.
5) Integration: The connection can be drawn that olive oil making cakes more soft gives the cake a more comforting feeling, a similar feeling to the one felt by the Sephardic Jews when they made cakes that were accessible and kosher. In other words, not only does olive oil soften the cake literally, but it also softens the cake religiously, allowing more people to experience sweet desserts. The way in which the oil blocks gluten formation is like blocking the cake from becoming non-kosher. A warm, soft cake is like a warm, soft bed for the soul.
My first food moment occurred when my mom made pizza for dinner. She likes to make her pizza with shrimp, cheese, and pesto sauce. A tad unconventional, especially since pesto sauce is apparently only supposed to go on pasta, but nevertheless it tastes great. At least, I think it tastes great. My mom has been learning a lot about cooking based on what I have told her about my experience in this cluster course. One technique about which I told her was putting ice cubes in the oven when baking bread to make steam so that a crust forms. When she made pizza, she tried this to give the pizza more of a bite. Unfortunately, it did not do very much, and the pizza still came out chewy, like it does every time. She’s going to keep experimenting with her pizza, as she always does, and hopefully it will come out better next time.
My second food moment occurred when my parents and I went out for my birthday dinner. We went to this big, fancy Italian restaurant called Alfredo, and the experience made me think about what I have been learning in class. I ordered this big pasta dish called paccheri alla napoletana, which was composed of wide rigatoni with braised short rib ragu. It had a lot of pasta, and a lot of meat, which made it very filling. Eating this dish made me think about our discussion of traditional Italian food versus Italian-American food. I thought about the poor Italians not being able to afford meat, and then meat becoming a staple of Italian-American cuisine, since it was so much more affordable in the United States. A dish like the one I had would never have been eaten one hundred years ago in Italy. It just goes to show how much the world can change in that amount of time.
A protein is a collection of many amino acids that are linked together in chains. A protein’s structure and function are determined by which amino acids of which it is composed and their order. The nutrition label for Kirkland’s Peanut Butter Filled Pretzels does not list the percentage of protein that contributes to the daily value, but the % Daily Values listed for everything else represent how much of one’s recommended daily value (according to the FDA) of a nutrient can be consumed by eating one serving of the corresponding food, based on a 2,000 calorie-per-day diet. The ingredients in the Peanut Butter Filled Pretzels that contribute to the protein are the enriched wheat flour, peanut butter, barley malt extract, and yeast. 70 of the calories in this food come from protein, as evidenced by the label saying that 70 of the calories come from fat, and that there are 140 calories in total, leaving 70 remaining calories which come from protein.
Fat is three fatty acid chains all linked to one glycerol. One serving of Peanut Butter Filled Pretzels contributes to 12% of one’s recommended daily value of fat, based on a 2,000 calorie-per-day diet. The ingredients that are contributing to fat content are peanut butter, and canola/soybean oil. They contain saturated fat, polyunsaturated fat, and monounsaturated fat. Saturated fats contain no double bonds, polyunsaturated fats contain many double bonds, and monounsaturated fats contain one double bond. We should care because we need to eat less saturated fats, as our bodies produce enough of it on their own, while unsaturated fats need to be ingested to maintain one’s health. 70 of the calories in this food come from fat, as can be read on the label next to the total calories.
This week, Mia and I made biscotti: the hardest cookie. I do not actually know if it is the hardest possible cookie; I just thought that was a cool subtitle for biscotti. Anyway, in order to test how different fat sources changed the texture of the biscotti, some groups used butter while others used olive oil. We used butter in ours. Here is how we made the biscotti magic happen!
After preheating our oven to 350 degrees, we placed 1/2 cup of almonds on a baking sheet and toasted them for 15 minutes, then chopped them once they had cooled.
Next, we whisked together 1 large egg, the zest of 1 lemon, 1/2 cup of sugar, 4 tablespoon of melted unsalted butter, 1/2 teaspoon of almond extract, and 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract in a bowl. In another bowl, we combined the almonds that we had toasted and chopped before, 1-1/4 cups of all-purpose flour, 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder, and 1/4 teaspoon of table salt. We slowly added the dry mixture to the wet mixture, and stirred until the dough was stiff. We had to add a little bit more flour to get our dough to stiffen up.
We then shaped the dough into a slab, and put said slab into a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
We baked the slab for 14 minutes in our already preheated oven, then rotated it and baked for 14 more minutes.
After letting it cool for 15 minutes, we lowered the oven temperature to 250 degrees and cut the slab into logs using a serrated knife, put the logs on two baking sheets and baked them for 7 more minutes, then rotated and baked for 7 more.
And just like that, our biscotti was done! Here’s how it turned out:
Why is butter a solid at room temperature while olive oil is a liquid? Butter is a saturated fat while olive oil is a monounsaturated fat.
A molecule is more fluid when it has more double bonds. Since butter is a saturated fat, it contains no double bonds, and is therefore solid at room temperature. Olive oil contains one double bond, and is therefore liquid at room temperature.
Butter is a fat that contains ~15% water, compared to olive oil (or shortening) which contains < 1% water. Read about the effects of this water content at this page (Water Activity and Cookie Softness) and then explain the textures of the two different types of biscotti.
Since the biscotti made with olive oil contains no water, its texture is more dry and crumbly than the biscotti made with butter, because of the lower water activity.
When mixing the ingredients you added the flour mixture slowly to the fat/oil mixture. What effect does the fat/oil have on gluten formation in the dough? What about your biscotti supports your conclusion?
The fat/oil inhibits the formation of gluten by coating the glutenin and gliadin in the flour. This conclusion is supported by the fact that the interior of the biscotti does not appear to have many holes, which means that very little gluten was formed.
Assumption: I had no idea that spaghetti is not normally eaten with meatballs in Italy. Growing up in American society, I was always told it was an “Italian food.” I did not know that it only came into fruition once Italians immigrated to the United States, and those who were too poor to afford meat in Italy could finally eat it with everything. It is more a part of “Italian-American” culture as we know today than actual Italian culture.
Dish: I decided to focus on pasta made with wheat flour, the most commonly eaten type of pasta.
Chemical Analysis: What the flour is doing is creating gluten within the pasta. Gluten is created when the flour is kneaded with water, and the proteins glutenin and gliadin are formed. Said gluten is necessary so that the flour can stretch out into a thin, malleable sheet. The pasta also needs eggs to use as a binding agent, and to give the pasta a moist texture. Eggs contain fat, water, and protein, which make the pasta more flavorful and firm. In order to make a “good” pasta, one must strike the proper balance between flour and eggs so that it is not too dry to be malleable, but not so moist that it is too slippery to be worked.
Cultural Analysis: The first reference to pasta dates back to 1154 in Sicily. Pasta is served in over 300 known different shapes and forms. It can be served as penne, rotini, lasagna, etc. However, there are key differences between how pasta is served in Italy and how it is served in the United States. In Italy, pasta is served as a first course in a small portion. In the United States, however, pasta is most commonly served as a main course. Pasta as a main course in the United States is most commonly served with cheese sauce (macaroni and cheese), or with meatballs (spaghetti and meatballs). However, these dishes are American creations that do not exist in Italy. As we saw in Big Night, these differences can create a clash between cultures.
Integration: I can now see why Italian chefs are so unwilling to change their pasta. Since it can taste so different with so many different recipes and it can be served in so many different ways, each chef can have their own unique style of pasta that they consider “the best.” For someone to ask a chef to change their pasta is considered blasphemy. To change one’s pasta is to change one’s soul.