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Teaching Kids Chemistry While Baking
The next time you've got some baking to do, use the experience as an opportunity to teach your children a few chemistry lessons. As compared to simply cooking foods, baking is a more precise process. Instead of just requiring foods to be cooked, baking depends upon a number of different chemical reactions in order to be successful. If the correct ingredients are not combined, or if they aren't in the right proportions, the baked goods simply will not turn out correctly. Because of the precise nature of baking, it's a great way to teach children some basic chemistry principles, while letting them experiment in a totally safe fashion.
Getting Ready to Bake
Before you start to bake, give your child a spiral notebook and pencil, so that they can make observations and take notes during the baking process. Start by letting them help gather the ingredients needed for the recipe. As they gather the ingredients, have them write them down some basic observations in their notebook. For example, they could note that baking soda is a dry powder with no odor. Have them take note of the temperature of the ingredients as well, such as whether the eggs are cold or room temperature. If you have time, you could even try making two different batches of whatever you are baking, to try out a few variations. For example, although baking powder and baking soda are both dry white powders, they do not produce the same chemical reactions. If your recipe calls for baking powder, try making a small batch of the same recipe using baking soda, to see what happens. This can be a lot of fun for children, and can help them learn the chemistry of food.
Understanding Baking Ingredient Chemistry
The chemistry lessons you'll be able to teach will depend on the recipe you are making. Since most baked goods involve flour, teach your child about the special protein in wheat flour called gluten. When water is added the gluten becomes sticky, meaning that it has become activated. The stickiness of activated gluten gives baked goods texture, allowing cookies, cakes and other baked goods to rise and hold together properly. Baking powder and baking soda are two other interesting ingredients to talk about when baking. Both release carbon dioxide when heated, helping to lighten the baked product. However, baking powder is able to neutralize its own alkalinity, which is something baking soda cannot do. If you were to bake only with baking soda, you would likely end up with a very bitter-tasting product. This is because baking soda doesn't contain its own acid, and must be combined with other acidic ingredients such as cream of tartar in order to work properly.
Yeast is another fascinating baking ingredient. It's actually a living organism, which when combined with starch and sugar becomes activated and starts to grow. The yeast feeds on the starch, which creates sugar, carbon dioxide and alcohol. The bubbles produced by the carbon dioxide causes the dough to rise. However, if it's left too long, too much acid is produced. This extra acid will give the dough an unpleasant sour taste. If you are making dinner rolls, try baking some at the correct time, while letting the dough sit too long for a few of the rolls. Then, let your child taste the difference, and come up with an explanation for the difference.
About the Author:
Senior Staff Writer and Design Specialist
Jessica Ackerman is a consultant with WallDecorandHomeAccents.com and describes how to decorate with scroll wall grille and door topper.
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