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Finding Science in the Kitchen

by Dr. Marnie Ward, Citrus 4-H agent

Fun, enriching, and hands-on, these are the essentials of learning and you can find them all in Citrus County 4-H.  Florida 4-H members pledge, “My health to better living”, through the daily activities and the types and quantities of foods they consume.  Healthy living is a cornerstone of 4-H nationally striving to equip young people with healthy living knowledge and skills that will prepare them physically, emotionally, and socially to meet the challenges of the 21st century.  Healthy living is an awareness of personal actions and life-style choices.  Too often, food choices are driven by habits, emotions and traditions, but learning more about the composition of the foods can positively influence long-term habits.

Did you ever think of your kitchen as a chemistry lab?  It’s filled with potions, elixirs, and compounds, in a variety of concentrations, consistencies and choices.  Flour, sugar, butter, baking soda, and yeast,; these materials can be measured, mixed, kneaded and baked to yield a wide variety of vastly different food items.  By making just a few changes, the same basic ingredients produce a variety of products.

Bakers get their bread to rise by using a leavening agent.  Leavening agents add lift (rise) to breads and cakes.  Basically, a gas is released into the dough/batter and the gas bubbles create pockets within the dough. Leavening agents can work by biological, chemical or physical processes for the release of gases.  Yeast is one of the most common leavening agents, and it works through biological processes and releases carbon dioxide into the dough/batter.  Other include sourdough, yogurt, and starters.   Leavening can also result from physical changes to the dough from the action of steam and you can see an example of this if you have ever cooked or baked with puff pastry.  Thin layers of a flour and water paste alternated with butter, in a hot oven cause the liquid water to become gaseous steam expanding the layers.  The loss of moisture results in a puffy, flaky pastry.

4-H members across the county will be investigating, examining, researching and making healthy lifestyle choices throughout 2018, so keep checking back to see what’s new.

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