Sunday, March 7, 2010

Biochemistry At Breakfast, Or The Maillard Reaction on Toast

This Science Sunday post actually began while I was browning meat for dinner, a few nights ago, when my son asked me why the meat changes color when it cooks.

Thanks to Mick O'Hare's How to Fossilize Your Hamster, which we used to help us pull iron out of our cereal, I had an answer.

Meat, and toast, and a number of other things including coffee, and chocolate, change color, and aroma when heated, due to the Maillard Reaction - a reaction between proteins and sugars, when combined with heat. It's actually a reaction between the sugars and the amino acids in the protein, but explaining the complex molecular chains, that make up amino acids, to a group of children ranging in age from 3 to 12, was a little beyond me at breakfast time on a Sunday morning.

There is a really cool video, here, though, that explains it with lots of energy, and big words.

After checking the packaging on a loaf of white bread, and a loaf of wheat bread, we discovered they both had the same amount of protein, but the wheat bread had an extra gram of sugar (which you can almost see in my blurry pictures below!).

We toasted a piece of white, and a piece of wheat.

We smelled the nutty aroma caused by the Maillard reaction, as they toasted.

And, we observed, that the wheat bread, with more sugar, began to burn before the white bread, but just barely.

Next time we're buying bread, I think I'll look for some with more protein, so we can test this out further.

In the can find more science fun at this week's Science Sunday link up, at Adventures in Mommydom.

It's great to be a homeschooler.


Debbie said...

Interesting, I never thought about this before! Great way of experimenting with this concept.

Ticia said...

Your posts are always fun to read. I never thought of finding out the chemistry behind why things toast. You really do find great cooking science lessons.

Natalie PlanetSmarty said...

This is great - I learn so much from your science posts - so many ideas "for later". And you have great links too!

Unknown said...

OK, I HAVE to check out "How to Fossilize Your Hamster!" I learn SO MUCH through your science experiments!

Kez said...

Cool :)