Posts

The Science of Pie 2014: Video Highlights

The Science of Pie 2014: Video Highlights

June 1, 2014

At the Science of Pie, the world’s first scientific bakeoff, the students of the Science & Food undergraduate course presented results from their final projects in poster format and their pies for taste testing. These pies had to be cooked in one hour and were the summation of all that the students had learned from their pie experiments in the class. Throughout the quarter, the students were challenged to perform a scientific investigation of apple pie and vary different features of the pie such as shape, butter size, and moisture.

The contest was judged by Lena Kwak (of Cup4Cup) and Dave Arnold (of Booker and Dax, the Museum of Food and Drink, and the Cooking Issues Podcast) who were our featured speakers for the 2014 Public Lecture Harnessing Creativity. They were joined by Nicole Rucker (Pastry Chef, Gjelina Take Away), Jonathan Gold (Food Critic, LA Times), Dr. Paul Barber (Associate Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, UCLA), and Dr. Rachelle Crosbie-Watson (Associate Professor of Integrative Biology and Physiology, UCLA).

The judges had wise words for the students.

Lena Kwak described how she judged the pies.

“With each of the projects we saw today, there were a considerable amount of variables not considered, but the saving grace …was when I tasted their pies.”

Nicole Rucker talked about what makes an award wining pie

“Jonathan and I both know that from Judging Pie Contests, … that you can see a good pie from literally across the room.”

Dr. Paul Barber spoke to the balance of science and pie making:

“No matter how much scientific testing you do, there’s still just this underlying art to making a really good pie.”

Check out some our featured pies from the 2014 contest.

Honorable Mention Pie

Alexis Cary & Matthew Copperman (Team On the Road)

Perfectly Unsoggy Apple Pie

Best Scientific Pie

Christina Cheung, Tori Schmitt, and Elliot Cheung (Team Pretty Intense Pie Enthusiasts)

Beer Crust Apple Pie

Best Overall Pie & People’s Choice Pie

Alina Naqvi & Ashley Lipkins-Scott (Team Apple Queens)

Crumbalicious Apple Pie

Check out our written recap here !

See the whole Video!

Gymnemic Acid

Photo Credits: (flickr/ mutolisp)

Photo Credits: (Flickr/ mutolisp)

Attendees of our Science of Pie event this past spring probably remember sampling gymnemic acid. For anyone who has never tried the bizarre substance, we describe here our first experience with it. Guest speaker Dave Arnold (Founder of the Museum of Food and Drink, and host of the radio show Cooking Issues), supplied everyone in the audience with a small capsule filled with a dusty green powder along with a strawberry, a sugar packet, and small amount of honey. He then instructed everyone to coat the surface of his or her tongue with the mysterious green powder, let it dissolve, and then swallow it. After the unpleasant herbal taste faded away, Arnold told the audience to empty the small sugar packet into his or her mouth. Now, sugar is usually the key to sweet desserts and happiness. But to anyone with a gymnemic-acid coated tongue, eating sugar was like face-planting at the beach and getting a mouthful of sand. The sugar was utterly unsweet. Eating honey felt like taking a swig of thick canola oil. The strawberry became tart and acidic. As the audience quickly realized, gymnemic acid has the peculiar property of inhibiting our perception of sweetness.

Gymnemic acid is precipitated from an aqueous extract of the leaves of Gymnema sylvestre, a tree found in Central and Western India, tropical Africa, and Australia. [1] The leaves of this tree have traditionally been used in Ayurvedic medicine. In fact, the Hindi name for the plant’s derivative, gurmar, means “destroyer of sugar.”[2] Only two other plants are known to have similar taste-altering effects: Bumelia dulcifica, which makes sweet and sour substances taste bitter, and of course the miracle berry of Synsepalum dulcificum, which makes sour things taste sweet. [1]

You may think to yourself, as anyone who has eaten gymnemic acid surely has, inhibiting sweetness is a miserable idea. Why are we manufacturing capsules of this? Gymnemic acid can do more than ruin your dessert. Today it is used to treat metabolic syndrome (a group of risk factors that raise one’s risk of heart disease, diabetes, and stroke), and even malaria. Gymnemic acid is also used to promote weight loss, stimulate digestion, and suppress appetite; it is also prescribed as a diuretic, laxative, and even a snake bite antidote. Gymnemic acid may treat diabetes, as it contains substances that inhibit the absorption of sugar from the intestine and stimulate the growth of cells in the pancreas, where insulin is produced. [2]

While the precise mechanisms of gymnemic acid on taste perception have not been completely elucidated, a few investigations have quantified the effects of gymnemic acid on taste and the timescales over which it operates. To determine the extent to which gymnemic acid diminishes sweet perception, a 1999 study measured the effect of a gymnemic acid oral rinse on taste perception. Their results showed that gymnemic acid reduced the sweetness intensities of sucrose and aspartame to 14% of reported pre-rinse levels. [3] These results also shed light on the timescale of taste alteration: Over a recovery period of 30 minutes, the sweetness intensity values increased linearly to a sweetness perception of 63% of the pre-rinse levels.

Another study performed at Kyushu University in Kukuoka, Japan has also shed some light on the molecular mechanisms underlying the behavior of this odd substance on our tongues. Gymnemic acid is not a pure, unique structure, but is composed of several types of homologues, or compounds of the same general formula. According to these studies, the transmembrane domain of Taste type 1 Receptor 3 (T1R3) is the primary site of the sweet-suppressing effect of gymnemic acids. The acid is predicted to dock to a binding pocket within the transmembrane domain of T1R3. [4] These findings could assist future drug design, and could perhaps lead to the synthesize of more substances that modify receptivity of sweetness. But maybe we should enjoy the wonderful sensation of sweetness as they are.

References cited

  1. Stoecklin, Walter. “Chemistry and Physiological Properties of Gymnemic Acid, the Antisaccharine Principle of the Leaves of Gymnema Sylvestre.” Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 17.4 (1969): 704-08. ACS Publications. Web. 11 Sept. 2014.
  1. “Gymnema: Uses, Side Effects, Interactions and Warnings.” WebMD. WebMD, 2009. Web. 11 Sept. 2014.
  1. Gent, Janneane F., Thomas P. Hettinger, Marion E. Frank, and Lawrence E. Marks. “Taste Confusions following Gymnemic Acid Rinse.” Chemical Senses 24.4 (n.d.): 393-403. Chemse.oxfordjournals.org. Oxford Journals, 1999. Web. 23 Oct. 2014.
  1. Sanematsu, Keitsuke, Yuko Kusakabe, Noriatsu Shigemura, Takatsugu Hirokawa, Seiji Nakamura, Toshiaki Imoto, and Yuzo Ninomiya. “Molecular Mechanisms for Sweet-suppressing Effect of Gymnemic Acids.” Jbc.org. The Journal of Biological Chemistry, 23 July 2014. Web. 11 Sept. 2014.

Elsbeth SitesAbout the author: Elsbeth Sites is pursuing her B.S. in Biology at UCLA. Her addiction to the Food Network has developed into a love of learning about the science behind food.

Read more by Elsbeth Sites


Harnessing Creativity

Harnessing Creativity

Featuring Dave Arnold & Chef Lena Kwak

June 1, 2014

As part of our 2014 public lecture series, Dave Arnold (of Booker and Dax, the Museum of Food and Drink, and the Cooking Issues Podcast) discussed his latest culinary innovations and the role of creativity in food. He was joined by Chef Lena Kwak (of Cup4Cup) who shared her process of invention, research, and discovery in the kitchen.

Check out the highlights or watch the full lecture below.

Lena Kwak on the creation of Cup4Cup and the power of mistakes

“It was working with food that helped me get over the fear of imperfection. Making mistakes in the kitchen played a significant role in my recipe development. I found myself more daring [and] willing to experiment with different flavors and texture combinations…Take Cup4Cup. The original formula took me about year-and-a-half to finalize. A year-and-a-half is a very long time to make a lot of mistakes…. All the knowledge I gained through those mistakes has actually left me with [another] set of different products.”

Her biggest words of advice: “Go out there, makes mistakes—because you never know what those mistakes will lead you to.”

Dave Arnold on how to be creative in the kitchen

“What is important isn’t that you use a piece of technology or that you use a new piece of equipment. Really it’s that you try to understand what is going on while you’re cooking…. It’s to become unhinged in a very analytical way… that’s the whole premise of creativity.”

Dave Arnold uses gymnemic acid to flip our understanding of sweet foods

Dave Arnold gives the audience gymnemic acid to block their sweet taste receptors and then challenges them to try sweet treats like sugar, honey, strawberries and chocolate. He explains that erasing sweetness enables the taster to examine how other factors like texture and acidity influences the experience of sweet foods.

Arnold says this analytical approach to food is important: “Even if you have no idea why something happens, if you have a hypothesis … and you keep adapting and recording what your results are… you can get to the right place.”

Watch the entire lecture:

Desk Nachos & High-Tech Cocktails

DeskNachos

Dave Arnold will be joining us on June 1st for our final 2014 public lecture, Harnessing Creativity (and the Science of Pie). Get a taste of Dave Arnold’s creatively unconventional approach to cooking with these videos. Read more

Science & Food UCLA 2014 Public Lecture Series

2014LineUp

The 2014 UCLA Science & Food public lecture series is here!

General admission tickets are available for $25 from the UCLA Central Ticket Office (CTO) . Tickets can be purchased from the UCLA CTO over the phone or in person and will not include additional fees or surcharges. The UCLA CTO is located on-campus and is open Monday–Friday, 10am –4pm. A UCLA CTO representative can be reached during these hours at 310-825-2101. Tickets can also be purchased online from Ticketmaster for $25 plus additional fees. A limited number of $5 student tickets are available to current UCLA students. These must be purchased in person at the UCLA CTO with a valid Bruin Card.


2014ScienceofSushi

The Science of Sushi
Dr. Ole Mouritsen & Chef Morihiro Onodera
Wednesday April 23, 2014 at 7:00pm
Schoenberg Hall, UCLA

In this lecture, Dr. Ole Mouritsen will illuminate the science underlying sashimi, nori, sushi rice, umami, and more.  He will be joined by Chef Morihiro Onodera who will share his approach to sushi as well as an inside look into his partnership with a rice farm in Uruguay.


2014NeuroScience

How We Taste
Dr. Dana Small, Chef Wylie Dufresne, & Peter Meehan
Wednesday May 14, 2014 at 7:00pm
Schoenberg Hall, UCLA

In this lecture, we will explore how we taste from the perspectives of a scientist, a chef, and a food writer. Dr. Dana Small will describe how our brains respond to flavors, and shed light on the link to obesity. She will be joined by Chef Wylie Dufresne who will present his creative approach to generating surprising food flavors and textures.  Peter Meehan will share his experiences with food and taste and how they have shaped his writing, both as a cookbook author and former writer for The New York Times.


2014ScienceofPie

Harnessing Creativity (and the Science of Pie)
Dave Arnold & Chef Lena Kwak
Sunday June 1, 2014 at 2:30pm
Ackerman Grand Ballroom, UCLA

At this event, Dave Arnold will discuss his latest culinary innovations and the role of creativity in food. He will be joined by Chef Lena Kwak who will share her process of invention, research, and discovery in the kitchen. Also at this event, students of the Science & Food course will present the results of their apple pie projects, including their freshly baked pies in a large-scale pie tasting. The event will close with an Iron-Chef style discussion of the winning pies featuring the keynote speakers and renowned judges from the Los Angeles community.

Harvard EdX Course: Science and Cooking

cooking_course

If you’ve ever wanted to take a class at Harvard, here’s your chance! Harvard is offering an online EdX version of its popular course “SPU27x: Science and Cooking – From Haute Cuisine to Soft Matter Physics.” Class starts October 8th and registration for the course is FREE.

During each week of the course, Ferran Adrià and other top chefs will reveal the secrets of some of their most famous culinary creations—often right in their own restaurants. Alongside this cooking mastery, the Harvard instructors will explain the science behind the recipe. Other guest instructors include David Chang, Wylie Dufresne, Dave Arnold, and Harold McGee.

Register for “Science and Cooking” at EdX

Eat Your Science

Professor Amy Rowat, Science & Food’s fearless leader, was lucky enough to spend the week at the 2013 World Science Festival in New York City.  Scientists featured in the festival discussed everything from quantum mechanics to nanomedicine; Professor Rowat helped bring scientific discovery to life at The Taste of Science, a multi-course meal highlighting the power of gastronomic experimentation.

And what a feast it was–physics, chemistry, neuroscience, and microbiology all packed into ten courses. Creative dishes prepared by visionary chefs provided an edible demonstration of intriguing scientific concepts. Writer and food critic Jeffrey Steingarten, notorious for his scathing reviews as an Iron Chef Judge and not one to dish out compliments, seemed quite delighted at the end of the night and even admitted that this was the overall best modernist meal he had ever had!

TasteOfSciencePrep

Before the event, Chef and Cocktail Master Dave Arnold of Booker & Dax and NYU Chemist Kent Kirshenbaum prepare for their presentation on cocktail science (left), and Dr. Kirshenbaum catches up on a little last-minute preparatory reading (right).

TasteOfScienceIntro

To kick off the night, science and food pioneer Harold McGee sets the stage with some historical perspective. (It’s been a while since the salon days of the early 1900s.)

TasteofScienceMenu

Jay Kenji Alt, mastermind of the Serious Eats Food Lab, emceed the event, guiding diners through their scientific meal and and peppering the speakers with questions throughout the evening

TasteOfSciencePlating

Chefs Najat Kaanache and Bill Yosses strategize their “chocolate paper” dessert, featuring the structural molecules of fruits, such as pectin (left). Meanwhile, Maxime Bilet’s team is hard at work plating their “Noble Roots” dish for the Neuroscience of Taste (right).

TasteOfScienceOlfaction

Equipped with complimentary nose plugs, neuroscientist Professor Stuart Firestein of Columbia University led the audience in a sensory experiment to experience the role of smell in taste perception. Jelly beans just don’t taste the same without a sense of smell!

TasteofScienceOlfactionExperiment

Professor Rowat’s dining partners, Harvard microbiologist Dr. Rachel Dutton (left) and Harold McGee (right), partake in the grand olfactory experiment.