Science is Delicious: Developing My Project
Throughout my time here at the CIA, I have developed a passion for the spreading of food education and healthy eating. I have become somewhat of an advocate for the Health and Wellness sector of the culinary world. Last semester, for my final project in my Modern Industrial Tools and Techniques class, I created a mock manufactured chicken nugget that was made up of 50% ground chicken and 50% cauliflower puree. The coolest part was that it still looked and tasted exactly like a chicken nugget—you couldn’t even tell there was a full serving of vegetables inside six of those delicious little chicken bites. My passion for simply feeding people has blossomed into a desire to feed people food that isn’t just good, but good for you too, and my senior thesis project reflects that mentality.
Discovering a New Ingredient
For my project, I have decided to explore a new ingredient called “Kokumi powder.” This is something I first learned about last semester when we went on a field trip to a food manufacturing facility. The corporate chef was using this product to enhance the flavors of their chocolate mousse, and I was fascinated by it. Much like when monosodium glutamate (MSG) is added to food, the powder has been shown to increase satiation levels by highlighting all of the desirable characteristics of the food. With the chocolate mousse, for example, the chocolate flavor was enhanced and the creamy richness was more pronounced, making the mousse more filling. The addition of the powder made the mousse taste better in every sense of the word. You felt as if you could eat half without sacrificing any satisfaction.
Eating this mousse immediately sparked my curiosity and I began to think about how useful this powder could be for the food world and the health and wellness industry.
For the first couple of weeks of my thesis project, I was doing beta testing, or pilot testing, using this powder in a variety of different recipes to see how it affected the foods’ flavors and textures. At times equally exciting and infuriating, beta testing allows for some preliminary research to gain understanding of the ingredient that will allow me to better decide what kind of system I should use for the rest of my testing throughout the semester.
Here’s a list of foods that I made and attempted to use the Kokumi powder in during my four weeks of beta testing:
- Mashed Potatoes
- Sugar Cookies
- Chocolate Mousse
- More Sugar Cookies
- Cheddar Crackers
- Soy Milk Ice Cream
- Coconut Milk Ice Cream
- Almond Milk Ice Cream
- Even more Sugar Cookies
- Cream of Tomato Soup
And here’s the list of the foods that the Kokumi powder actually ended up working well in:
- The third batch of Sugar Cookies
- Cream of Tomato Soup
And this is where the frustration begins. After four weeks of research, I was only able to find two systems that benefited from the addition of the Kokumi powder. Since it is such a new and unexplored product, and very little information exists on how to use it, I am essentially guessing about how much to use and what foods would benefit from the powder. Seeing little or no positive results is far more common than you would think in the science world. Only a minor percentage of the work we do is groundbreaking research—hypotheses are rejected and theories are confirmed more often than the alternatives—and while this might not make for very exciting research, it is scientific research nonetheless.
For the remainder of my senior thesis project, I will be focusing on the two food systems that the Kokumi powder worked well in—sugar cookies and cream of tomato soup. Since both of these products benefited from the addition of the powder in preliminary research and testing, I will be performing additional empirical data collection on these foods items to gain a better understanding about what the Kokumi powder is affecting within the foods. I will be collecting quantitative and qualitative data through the use of measurements from equipment as well as sensory testing done by people.
Well, I clearly have a few busy weeks ahead of me, so I better sign off and get started!
Until next time,
By Charolette Browder