Saturday, February 12, 2011

Molecular gastronomy

This year is the International Year of Chemistry and we decided we would celebrate with a little molecular gastronomy. But not Heston Blumenthal for us, noooo we thought we'd make edible molecular models! We asked our friends what they would make - from insulin to methane came back the answers. I sketched out all the potential molecules (on the back on an envelope no less - quite unintentionally) and we chose two to make. The bonds would be lollipop sticks and the atoms would be cake balls (ala Bakarella)

'back of an envelope!'

Can you guess what they were? Or highlight the following text to find out They were vanilin (at the top of the page) and theobromine (at the bottom of the page) from vanilla and chocolate respectively. We made cake from 5 eggs, 220g butter, 220g sugar and 220g self raising flour. Then we split the batter into two, adding vanilla essence to one half and cocoa to the other. Once cooked we mixed the crumbled cake with vanilla frosting/icing and shaped the sticky mixture into 46 cake balls/atoms. Using a little melted chocolate coating we stuck the lollipop sticks into all of them (plus some doubles!) and let them set in the fridge.
'sketch molecules'

We started with the uncoated cake balls making a 'sketch' model before we got into the serious business of coating the cakes with chocolate coating (candy coat from Hobbycraft). Once coated each cake ball/atom was pushed into a piece of oasis by the lollipop stick/bond so it could set. Popping them into the freezer helped quite a lot. Then time for assembly, we heated up a skewer to melt the chocolate coating so that we could push the bonds in and voila molecules were made!
We've been carefully counting bonds and fingers crossed everything is present and correct! Remarkably tricky but great fun.

The chocolatey brown atoms are carbon, the red ones are oxygen, the blues are nitrogen and the white ones are hydrogen.

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