Sticky Science of Dodol

Happy April! I hope this month will be joyous to all of us. So, let me get going to start this month with a sticky information about a sticky science beyond a sticky food: Dodol.

The idea of picking dodol as main topic popped when I was chatting with my friend this morning. We were likely having a silly conversation until the word “Dodol!” come out as my response to a dumb act of her. Yes, somehow Indonesian, especially the youngsters, usually use the dodol word to express how silly a person can be. Too bad, this writing would not be fulfilling your curiousness toward the reason why and what is the ultimate connection between the dodol word and dodol as food. So, let us just start.

Ehm.

Dodol , as food, is a toffee-like confection, popular in some Southeast Asian countries, especially Indonesia and Malaysia. This sticky and sweet food is basically made of coconut milk, glutinous rice flour, regular rice flour, palm sugar, and pandan leaves. Dodol making is actually simple but a time consuming process. It can be up to 6 hours. Just relax, it would be worth it. The good news is that not only time, but also energy consuming. It would be a lot of work to do. Go fight win!

semangat, Ibuk!

Instead of fussing on how tired I would be to make one, I’d tend to talk about the sticky science of dodol by examining the role of each ingredient to the physical characteristic.

Rice Flour

The major constituent of rice flour is starch. The starch itself mainly consists of two polymers: amylose and amylopectin within certain ratio in total starch. Amylopectin is a waxy starch. When amylopectin won over amylose, the cooked starch will be strangy and of course as its name implies: waxy. Meanwhile, amylose gives a gelling or compact characteristic.

Glutinous rice flour is dominated by amylopectin, while regular rice flour on the other hand, rich in amylose. You guess, what will happen next? Exactly. As dodol is expected to be elastic and chewy, the ratio between glutinous and regular rice flour used is approximately 6:1. The regular rice flour is there just to make sure that dodol won’t be too sticky and too despicable to be eaten.

At an early phase, the rice flour will be slurry as it is mixed with water. Gradually, the thickness will be increasing within an excess water and certain high temperature.  This processed is called as gelatinization. Empirically, can be proven through a microscopic vision. We won’t be that far.

Clear enough.

Palm Sugar

Palm sugar is brown in visual. Not only imparts to give sweetness, it also gives dark brown color and flavor. Palm sugar consists of glucose, fructose, and sucrose. These sugar, mainly glucose and fructose play an important role in color development. The series of chemical reactions in dodol making summed up as Maillard reaction and caramelization which end up giving myriad compounds to develop color and flavor. Technically, Maillard reaction occurs between reducing sugar and amino acid groups provided by protein. The protein comes from rice flour and coconut milk. While caramelization occurs between the sugars on dry heating. Both happening on high temperature.

Coconut Milk

This one is typically a Southeast Asian favorite ingredient. I bet. The milk is extracted from mature coconut meat. The fat component plays some important functional roles in dodol making, they are:

  1. The formation of fatty acid-amylose complex reduces the retrogradation of starch. This modulates the hardness and elasticity of dodol.
  2. The coconut fat imparts on making the dodol shiny, mouthful, and too beautiful to resist.

Pandan Leaves

What is so important than the ability to give fragrant aroma? Well, it also creates a flavor. We all do agree on this, don’t we?

 

Well well well, afterall, dodol is the final product of the whole compounds get together. The fact that science is too sticky to be apart from dodol making has made me impressed just more and more toward this universe. LOL. Too much, but really, it is not surreal.

Happy living your April!

Te amo,

Afi Wiyono.

 

Source:

Karim AA, et al. 2012. The Kitchen as Laboratory: Reflections on the Science and Cooking. New York(US): Columbia University Press

 

 

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The Tattooed Brebes’ Egg: 101

 

Brebes.

No, it is not an english word. My Indonesian pals, we all know that, don’t we? Brebes is a regency in the northwestern part of Central Java province in Indonesia. It is well-known for its indigenous product: salted eggs.  Salted eggs from Brebes commonly have a stamp or tattoo-like on their shells as a brand-mark.

telur-asin1
The tattooed egg from Brebes, Indonesia

Once, I was a kindergarten student. My teacher asked the class to bring a soil paste on the day after tomorrow. We were going to have a project, she said. Little that I knew it was a charcoal paste. Indonesian call it as “abu gosok”. So right after school, I asked my mom to buy me some.

The project was making salted eggs with damp charcoal paste method like Brebes always does.  How cool was that?? this method is now still used in massive production of salted eggs. The method results in certain characters, especially for the yolk. The yolk will be more hardened and oily than other method (like immersing the egg in brine solution for weeks) would do.

My teacher brought along the duck’s egg that day. Aaaaand the project started.

The idea is to cover the duck’s egg with the damp salted charcoal paste. Too bad, I could not remember the steps I did back on kindergarten, but do not worry. I still am telling you cause informations can be gained from anywhere. Yes, definitely right.

First of all, prepare some good quality eggs and wash them with water. Shoo the wet by wipe them all, carefully…Avoid using the cracked one. You do not want to fail. Yes, no one wants to. The cracked eggs will be easily contaminated, so choose and clean them all wisely.

Enough with the egg, now be focus on the paste. The saline concentration should be high enough to produce a palatable egg. It is not only the taste, but also other characteristics that will be affected: texture, moutful, and color. Some conventional producer will use 1:1 formula for the charcoal paste and salt weight (if you use 1kg of charcoal paste, mix 1kg of salt). Pour some water, mix, knead ’em all!

Time to play with the dough! Err…not so doughy after all, but this part will be fun. So, cover the cleaned egg with the paste. Supposedly, 1-2mm is the ideal thickness for each egg. Do this carefully, my dear, we are almost there.

The covered egg then store for around 10-20 days. Next, the egg is cleaned from the paste. Now, they are ready to be cooked–boiled or steamed, both are resulting in yummy!

Happily tattoo-ing the eggs, te amo!

Afi Wiyono

p.s. Other chance, we should talk about how saline could affect the egg white and yolk. Catch you later.

“My Love for Sous Vide cannot be Replaced,”

That was the line stated by a chef I once met in Jakarta Culinary Passport, last July.

A chef is a person who is a highly trained, skilled professional cook who is proficient in all aspects of food preparation of a particular cuisine, says Wikipedia.org . Without any doubt, we can certainly agree with this.

Other than that, the word “proficient” is there to sum up that a chef can handle every particular thing in order to serve the best cuisine. As time goes by, the qualification to be a chef is not only about serving a delicious food to fulfill any tempations, but much greater than that.

Beyond cooking, there is underlying science to support a delicacy. Sous vide, a word aformentioned in the title is a concrete example of how science is needed on making a perfect meal.

sous_vide_circulator
A sous vide machine (source: foodslashscience.blogspot.com)

Sous vide is  French for “under vacuum”. It is a method of cooking in which food is sealed in airtight plastic bags then placed in a water bath or in a temperature-controlled steam environment for longer than normal cooking times at an accurately regulated temperature much lower than normally used for cooking.

Sous vide has been studied by food scientists since the 1990s. Sooner than that, chefs in some of world’s top restaurants have been using it since 1970s. It was not until in the mid-2000s that the used of sous vide cooking became widely known in the whole world.

Basically, there are 2 differences between sous vide and traditional cooking. In sous vide, the raw food is vacuum-sealed and cooked in precisely stable controlled heating.

Vacuum-sealing has several benefits. It allows heat to be efficiently transferred from the water (or steam) to the food. This airtight condition increases the food’s shelf-life by eliminating the risk of recontamination during storage and reduces aerobic bacterial growth so that resulting in especially flavorful and nutritious food. Last but least, it inhibits off-flavors from oxidation and prevents evaporative losses of flavor volatiles and moisture during cooking.

Precise temperature control also has powerful benefits. It allows greater control over doneness than traditional cooking methods. The overcooking is likely impossible to be happening. The stable temperature set makes food can be pasteurized and made safe at lower temperatures, so that it does not have to be cooked well-done to be safe. In special cases like meat tenderization, the tough cuts of meat (which were traditionally braised ) can be made tender and still be a medium or a medium-rare doneness.

The intention of sous vide is to cook the item evenly, ensuring that the inside is properly cooked without overcooking the outside, and retain moisture. Meanwhile, in traditional cooking, a problem can occur because of the use of the high temperature of the pan, oven or grill pushes heat into the exterior of the food so quickly that a large temperature gradient forms between the surface and the core.

In conclusion, there is no wonder why many chefs fall in love with the idea of these unsuperstitious benefits of sous vide. It is a delicacy we will get when combining cooking with science.

 

Te amo,

Afi Wiyono

 

References:

Baldwin DE. 2012. Sous vide cooking: a review. International Journal of                Gastronomy and Food Science. vol 1(1):15-30

Gibbs W. “The Science of Sous Vide”. December 31, 2015.                                      http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-science-of-sous-vide/

Sweet Greeting by Talking Sweets. Yes, Chocolates #1 !

Hello! It is never too late to write stuff. So, here it is….a post (finally).

Who doesn’t love chocolate? Well, you are out of league, dude. No, I was not trying to be offensive even a little. The expression was closely telling that it seems impossible (or hard, you could tell) to find ones who would cross their hands right rejecting its sweetness. Or who doesn’t know what chocolate is? Right, Imma telling you.

Chocolate is a solid mixture. In its basic form it is composed of cacao powder, cocoa butter, and some type of sweetener such as sugar; however, modern chocolate includes milk solids, any added flavors, modifiers, and preservatives. — this is cited from a trusted source. Even when I am not telling you, you know that I am telling the truth. Right.

No, this post wil not end by its definition. Let us get further.

Somehow I was confused by the terms: cacao and cocoa. Why do they sound alike? What are they? The cacao refers to both the plant and powder from the tree, Theobroma Cacao. Meanwhile, cocoa refers to the processed, the roasted form. In brief, that is all.

Case closed. Lol.

Okay next, will you be interested by how the cocoa processed for next be edible to you? Yaz, I am being rhetorical cause I keep on telling you whatever your answer is! After spending some times on knowledge center of IFT: cocoa seeds are removed from the pod, dried and roasted, giving them a distinct dark color and unique flavor. After roasting, cocoa seeds are ground into a paste called chocolate liquor. The liquor separates into dry cocoa and cocoa butter, or fat. Cocoa is heated and combined with other ingredients, such as sugar and milk, to create chocolate bars and candy.

Sorry not sorry for using copy-paste mode.

Well, by this, I end this part. We will be having the next part on…….just wait for it. HAHAHA. And by this too, I congratulate myself for finally publishing a post after a very long unproductive year. This is my sweet greeting.

Te amo,

Afi Wiyono

What You Eat May Affect Your Body’s Internal Biological Clock

Food Safety Europa

Researchers report that food not only nourishes the body but also affects its internal biological clock, which regulates the daily rhythm of many aspects of human behavior and biology.

Food not only nourishes the body but also affects its internal biological clock, which regulates the daily…
Read more What You Eat May Affect Your Body’s Internal Biological Clock

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“I am tanned and I am sexier!” says the chicken breasts.

Hopefully, you have not gone too far after flash-seeing the title. This time, I would like to tell you a tale of tanned chicken breast who felt sexier after technically passed a ‘hot’ trip. People, you can ask your children or your little bros and sisters to read this tale cause it really is not an adult story. That is why I hope you are not over thinking about the words above.

How cool is this, huh? It is science!

Why do meats, bacon, onions, cookies, doughs, and chicken breasts taste better after being cooked? Why do we cook them? For the sake of safety and less microorganisms containing, you tell me. For the sake of tastier food, you tell me. Right. Due to the sexier chicken breasts could ever be, the tale would be in the capacity of making tastier food.

Foods are not unreasonably being tastier with any coincidence. There is underlying science with all its complexes reaction and compounds. The tanned color or the browning reaction we get while cooking is basically science. Yes, it is food science! In food science, such reaction called as Maillard ReactionThe name itself was taken from an early 1900s chemist who conducted the experiments as part of his thesis named, Louis Camille Maillard (1878-1936).

Thanks to Mr Mallard cause now we know how to posses delicious cuisines. Maillard reaction is the reaction between amino acids and reducing sugars in the increased temperatures. When the temperatures escalating, the browning happens to the surface of the foods. It is the non-enzymatic browning reaction. The reaction usually takes place above 140°C.

When the heat striking out, the reaction let hundreds of flavor compounds created. These compounds later in turn breakdown to form new flavor and more compounds. Each type of foods will set a distinctive or unique flavor compounds along with the reaction.

Although the studies have been doing around the century, there are still the unknown pathways of maillard reaction due to its complexness. Despite longing for unknown pathways, here are the factors taking role on forming the color and aroma: pH (acidity), types of amino acids and sugars, temperature, time, presence of oxygen, water, water activity (aw) and other food components all are important.

How does the reaction happen?

The first step of the Maillard reaction is the reaction of a reducing sugar, such as glucose, with an amino acid. This reaction is shown in figure 1 below and results in a reaction product called an Amadori compound. (Thanks a lot to THIS cool site! It is so helping)


Fig. 1 : The initial step of the Maillard reaction between glucose and an amino acid (RNH2), in which R is the amino acid side group (from ref. 2)

(i will not continue the Amadori compund browning reaction here. This one already been told on the site I have mentioned above. Please check it for your self! Thanks, much appreciate! :D)

The bigger the sugar is, the harder it takes to be completely reacted to amino acids. Pentose sugars (like ribose) will react faster than hexose sugars (like glucose). It also does comparable to dissacharides.

So here they are, all I want to share about Maillard reaction. Thanks for checking this out! The thing is, cooking your foods is not only for conditionally fulfilling its safety but also to let the compounds reacting and giving you tastier food! It is food science!

This is the end of the tale of tanned chicken breasts and friends who are sexier than ever after a long ‘hot’ trip. I ain’t playing trick on you, or am I?

 

Te amo,

Afi Wiyono

 

The Challenge of Collaborating Sugar&Salt

As I told before, I am a Food Science and Technology student in an agricultural university. Food science and technology basically is the main part of food engineering. In Indonesia, there aren’t so much reasons for us enrolling for this class. It is not only because of the preferences of the freshman’s choices but also their parents. For most of us, food science is not an earn-living. That, the mindset itself has done so much about this country’s tangible problem in reference to food security.

Despite the reasons why I chose this as my studies because it had been my dream ever since my cousin enrolled on the same major, my parents and friends’ supports definitely involved. One of my friends, who now continuing her studies on International Relationship major, was really happy when I told her that I got accepted. She then challenged me to make a substitute for one of world’s greatest taste substances. We now call the taste as umami. It is a deliciousness that hardly described.

Umami is genuinely a Japanese word. It is the fifth-taste we can get besides the other four, sweet, sour, bitter, and salty. Maybe we haven’t heard so much about it cause the tongue itself mapped only for the other four tastes. The discovery of umami had been made up since 1902 by a Japanese chemist, Kikunae Ikeda. You can further find about umami here.

If you wonder how it tastes, you can bear in mind tasting parmesan cheese, meat, chicken soup, mushroom, or else the glutamic acid containing foods. Yes, the key to meet the umami is to meet the glutamic acid inside. Glutamic acid can be found in our body already and also a man-made one. A synthetic glutamic acid put on foods called as monosodium glutamate (MSG). MSG not exactly giving you a definite taste which is umami. It works to richer the four taste at one time. I used to think that the MSG itself can be replaced by the ultimate collaboration of sugar and salt, but no, everyone, it just won’t happen. Talking about MSG, I guess you are wondering about its harm now, yes?

Back to the challenge.

The harm of MSG, it is also a thing that brought my friend challenging me. She currently living a vegetarian life. She concerns much about everything enters her mouth. Naively, we do know that MSG brings bad effect to our body. It causes a cramp in your neck and reduces the brain works. At least, it is what we can say when talking about MSG. But still, we add it to our food, the restaurant practices add it to most of the menus, the food industry add it too to the snacks, and so on. It really gives us umami and it makes us consume it even more. That is the power of glutamic acid. Now, do we even really care about the doses of it? How harmful can it be?

My yesterday lectures, which conducted by Mr.Pur drove me to surf it on the web. Mr.Pur said, as scientist (on going) we can’t be just believing what majority said, especially the stuttered said one which no one knows the factual. He said that the usage of MSG is not ‘that’ harm. It is a taste richer just like sugar. Analogically, the sugar (here I mean sucrose) gives us sweetness and MSG gives us umami-ness. There is no exact prohibit number of the usage doses in daily basis. You don’t know how much sugar you should put to be safe. When you make a cup of tea, you’ll add it a tea-spoon or two if you want. But you won’t add it so much till seven tea-spoon cause you know that is beyond sweet and oppositely gives you a bad taste. So sugar has a self-limiting factor mechanism. So does the MSG. You won’t put it so much to make your food umami-ful.

On the other point, due to the food chemicals, everything is a toxic. The concentrate you add is what make a total difference. That’s the point. And Mr.Pur asked us “Have you ever heard about ones who got poisoned by water?” Nah-ah. We should still learn a lot.

So, where does the cramping-neck come from?

It is usually called as Chinese Restaurant Syndrome. I read about the controversy here. I suggest you to read that also. It is not the MSG harmful. So, I’d be making a change on the challenge, I guess.

 

Te amo,

Afi.

 

 

Not a Warm Greeting, yes?

The very first ever made post on this site, yes, here it is.

 

My good intentions come along with the settlement of this site. This site is actually dedicated to me myself as a food-science journalist soon to be. There, you can see the words ‘soon to be’ which refers to my (so far) first aspiration in life. I am a food science student who just started things couple months ago. It is a bit long story behind it. Just reasons and you probably not so sure want to hear or know it. But later on, you may meet me (or least, my name) on your foodie magazine. See you there!

Pardon my English, everyone. Due to the lack of its usage on my daily basis, I’ll be big enough for once again starting to use it more and more. This site will also witness my winning to take over it. So yes, pardon me for having times failing the grammar or diction. I beg for excuses in many ways cause I considered those who got the will to learn deserve chances. Or maybe we should be partners of improving our English skill, perhaps? You can find me through my social medias or mail me on afiwiyono@gmail.com, it’s a big appreciation I’ll have.

Te amo,

Afi