February 2, 2012
CHM 317: Chemistry of Food is a class taught in the Chemistry department by Dr. Barbara Colonna, the organic chemistry lecturer known by many CHM majors as a professor who teaches the required CHM 201 & 202 organic chemistry classes. In CHM 317, which is taught in a special kitchen classroom on the second floor of the Wellness Center, students learn the underlying chemical processes behind baking. The class adds a scientific element to the kitchen, replacing teaspoons and measuring cups with scales and rulers.
On the day these photos were taken, students were testing different variables, such as ingredient proportions or cooking temperatures, to see how they affected the final products, which were, if done correctly, miniature chocolate cakes. At the same time, Dr. Colonna worked on preparing liquid nitrogen ice cream, which ended up being lighter and fluffier than anything bought in a grocery store.
Dr. Colonna surveys the kitchen as a batch of uncooked chocolate cakes waits to be put in the oven. Each batch represented a trial testing a different variable, such as the proportion of flour in the batter or the temperature at which it was going to be cooked.
After taking her cakes out of the oven, senior Carla Maxime measures how much they rose, one of the dependent variables affected by the independent variables such as baking temperatures and ingredient proportions.
After recording the necessary measurements, many students took the pleasure of “modifying” their cakes with chocolate sauce and then eating their creations.
Dr. Colonna gradually empties a canister of liquid nitrogen into an electric mixer in order to cool an unfrozen batch of vanilla ice cream. Because the substance’s boiling point is −321 °F, it begins to evaporate almost immediately upon being poured out of the highly pressurized canister, emitting an eerie, thick fog. Before it can all boil away, the nitrogen freezes the ice cream just enough to harden it to the correct consistency, while the bubbling action helps to whip air into the mixture.
Dr. Colonna shows off a scoop of homemade liquid nitrogen ice cream.
Senior Hernan Gonzalez, left, and junior Alexandra Wick, right, test out liquid nitrogen ice cream made by Dr. Colonna.
Senior Carla Maxime tries a combination of the chocolate-drizzled cake she made and the liquid nitrogen ice cream made by Dr. Colonna.