The Science of Brain Freeze

With summer being whisked away so quickly, and school starting soon for colleges, this seemed to be an appropriate post. I don’t know about all of you, but I absolutely love frozen sweets. Ice cream, frozen yogurt, popsicles, slurpees, you name it!

However, if one consumes their delicious frozen delights at rapid speeds, one will experience the phenomenon known as “brain freeze.”

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Figure. I love puns. Image source: http://www.neatoshop.com/product/Brain-Freeze-Ice-Tray

Also known as Sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia, brain freeze can be characterized by sharp pains at the temples or front side of your head. A common remedy is to place your tongue against  your palate the top of your mouth.

So why precisely would this be a solution?

“The scientists believe the increased blood flow could be part of a temperature-regulation mechanism. When it detects intense cold, the body pumps more blood to the brain to keep it functioning in a warm environment. But that activity may also be raising pressure inside the skull, producing the headaches we call brain freeze. Recovery happens when the artery returns to its normal size.”

— Direct quote about a Harvard medical study from: http://www.thekitchn.com/the-science-of-brain-freeze-the-atlantic-171476

So it seems that your tongue can act as a heat source so that the neurons in your palate that sense temperature and cause this increase in blood can flow stop adding pressure to your skull.

As pointed out by this blog, there could be a possible correlation of this temperature sensing mechanism between what causes migraines and triggers brain freeze: http://thebrainbank.scienceblog.com/2012/09/23/the-science-of-brain-freeze/.

Be sure to check out those blog links and hope you have an ice cream filled day!

gelatos

Figure. Holy mother of YES. Capogiro’s delicious gelato selection. Image source: http://www.uwishunu.com/tag/capogiro/page/2/

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Dragon Ball Z Creme Brulee Cakeballs

Introduction:

It’s been such a long time since I have baked anything! To get back into my baker’s groove, I decided to try out the Dragon Ball Z creme brulee cakeballs recipe by Ro Pansino from the awesome YouTube show NERDY NUMMIES! It’s a rather long process, but I needed a fun project to keep me awake as I try to adjust my sleep schedule for my graveyard shifts. Plus, it’s always been my dream to gather the DRAGON BALLS to save Earth!

Dragonballs

Figure. Wish-granting dragon time!

I followed the video pretty much step by step without any deviations, but Ro makes everything look so easy! Maybe I’m rusty from my pro-baking days, but I had a few problems, which I will be sure to highlight just in case anyone else needs a bit of help.

Working Notes:

Part I – Making the Creme Brulee

I thought making the creme brulee would be the hardest and most stressful part! People would think otherwise, with such simple ingredients, including cream, vanilla, sugar, and egg yolks, and a name literally translating to “burnt cream,” you would think it would be so easy and effortless to make!

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Figure. My almost curdled creme brulee in the bain marie. This type of set-up according to Wiki is also used for science experiments!

Ro teaches you set up a “bain marie.” You just put your liquid creme brulee in it’s cooking bowl. Then, lay a towel down in a baking pan and fill halfway with hot water that had previously been boiling. Finally, you put the entire thing in the oven to bake.

The key to good creme brulee is making sure that it doesn’t curdle, which  can be difficult.

curdle: (verb) to form a coagulated layer

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/curdle

A curdled creme brulee can be denoted by bubbles forming on the top while baking in the oven, and sometimes some brown spots. It can be caused by a couple of things.

  1. Adding the hot cream mixture to the egg yolks and sugar too quickly
    Not allowing the temperatures to adjust or “temper” ends up cooking the eggs and creating a non-homogenous mixture. So you may have a firm layer on top, but liquid past that top layer when you are done cooking.
  2. Cooking it too quickly in the oven.
    This almost happened to me. This is the first time I am baking in my new apartment, and I did not realize that my electric oven heats up much more quickly and aggressively than previous gas ovens that I have had in the past. Luckily, I was able to get away with just a few bubbles on the top of my creme brulee. Cooking too quickly can be caused by too high baking heat or the water being too hot for the bain marie (believe it or not).

Part II – Making cakepop mix!

I haven’t used a cake mix in a box in YEARS. I had been exploring from scratch recipes since for the past few years that I almost forgot how awesome and convenient these cake mixes are, especially when you want to save some time so that you can experiment on non-traditional things, like this one!

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Figure. My slightly browned and lop-sided insta-cake!

After the cake is made, all you have to do is crumble it up with your creme brulee.  Ro had said to not worry about making perfect circles because after freezing you can reshape them. I sorta agree with this, but I found that removing wrinkles is pretty hard when they are frozen.

Part III – Sugar Dip!

Making caramel is pretty easy, but it took me three tries to do it right!  I almost gave up and was going to buy chocolate melts to eat the rest of the cake balls before they went bad, but I was determined to succeed!

First attempt: overboiled/burnt caramel and almost set a fire alarm off at 3am when it started to smoke

Second attempt: made caramel fine, but it was too viscous! Also, I was dumb and put them on a plate to dry, and of course they got stuck. Then when trying to remove caramel covered cakeballs, I smashed the coating and cut multiple fingers with the sharp caramel shards. My right thumb is still upset with the gash I got. Plus my kitchen floor was sticky for days.

Third attempt: FINAL ATTEMPT.

Things I have learned about caramel making:

  • Make sure sugar is dissolved before allowing mixture to go to a boil.
  • A pain to clean later, but try to ocassionally mix the caramel as it cooks so you can evenly see the brown color (your indicator to stop cooking it and throw it into an ice bath).
  • Be patient and keep your eye on it! It too me way longer than 10 minutes of boiling, which the video instructed.
  • If I were to make this entire recipe of cakeballs in one sitting, I would probably need to multiple the recipe by 1.5 to get good dipping stuff.

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Figures. Making caramel!

Just in case you care curious about this awesome color change of sugar as it’s heated, here is a bit of science:

Like all things, sugar is made up of elements: Carbon, Hydrogen, and Oxygen to be exact. When heat is applied, a reaction occurs where the sugar grabs and combines with oxygen in the air. This is is an exothermic reaction where heat is released, and the result is a color change from white to black.

A great link for this science experiment in action: http://www.education.com/science-fair/article/heating-sugar/

Back to the recipe!

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Figure. My cake balls ready to be frozen!

Things I have learned about dipping:

  • Try to have the balls frozen when you dip! I had a lot of casualties fall of their sticks. Unfortunately, frozen cake balls will probably form little bubbles in the caramel coat. Also, as the cake balls thaw, they will pull away from their pretty caramel coat.
  • I didn’t have styrofoam when I did my final try of this recipe (when I did have styrofoam, it fell over form the weight of the cake balls). I was able to get away with using some tall mugs and empty pasta jars!
  • Also, I decided to get extra long sticks. I was going to originally cut them in half, but then after almost burning myself with caramel during the unsuccessful attempts, I decided to take advantage of the length!

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Figure. My creative solution for allowing my caramel to harden, undisturbed.

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Figure. Lol you could tell that was the last one. I was getting impatient and my caramel was hardening 😦 If this happens to you but you still have to cover some cake balls, remember you can always throw the dip on low heat to get it all liquid-y again!

Part IV – Decoration!

I found this groovy multi-sprinkle dispensing device at Walmart for $5.

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Figure. All I wanted was the red stars, but I guess I had to get them all!

And the final product!

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Figure. TA-DAAAAAAAA!

And, if you are not a fan of Dragon Ball Z, this type of baking project could probably be applied to other things. Like if you were to have a Jurassic Park themed party, why not use this to make the fossilized amber? Just a thought!

Conclusion:

Overall, this was a fun experiment, but I don’t know if I will do this again unless someone willingly asks me too haha. To be honest, I don’t even like caramel that much. And if I am going to eat creme brulee, I’d rather have it as a potent custard 🙂

Still, Ro is awesome for coming up with this video, and I had a lot of fun. She must also have an amazing dentist and some hard teeth because she was able to chomp right into those caramel covered cake balls. I have to flip them to the underside where the stick used to be  (the most vulnerable spot!) and smack it with a spoon so it can explode into bite sized pieces (as if dismantling a hard shelled beetle. EW).

Anyways, go and start your YouTube Geek Week right and try some Nerdy Nummies recipes!

References & Troubleshooting:

Baking idea: 

http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCjwmbv6NE4mOh8Z8VhPUx1Q

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZrKjIvuDEOM

Creme Brulee:

http://indirectheat.blogspot.com/2009/11/creme-brulee.html

http://www.cheftalk.com/t/38412/creme-brulee-help

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bain-marie

Caramel Dip:

http://www.wikihow.com/Caramelize-Sugar

http://www.dominosugar.com/bakers-circle/newsletter-archive/sugar-heat-caramel

Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs Sequel

If you are unfamiliar with the title “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs,” it was actually originally a children’s book, which is where I found out about it first. You would imagine my delight when I found it became a movie. Luckily, the animation did not disappoint.

Cloudy_with_a_Chance_of_Meatballs_(book)

According to IMDB, “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” follow inventor Flint Lockwood who tries to cure the economic crisis of his town, Chew and Swallows, with his newest piece of technology: FLDSMDFR, a machine that can turn food into water! Unfortunately, the machine goes on a fritz and shoots up into the atmosphere, creating weather that produces giant food.

cloudy-with-a-chance-of-meatballs

Not to spoil the premise of the first movie by trying to explain the sequel, but essentially Flint and friends return to Chew and Swallows to find the town as evolved food species through out! You just have to see the trailer to really get a good glimpse at this fantastic looking sequel. I can’t wait!

http://movies.yahoo.com/blogs/movie-talk/exclusive-cloudy-chance-meatballs-2-trailer-food-eat-220320241.html

The Chipotle Burrito Dating Rule

Just my two cents on this issue. I have a Chipotle near me on campus, and I absolutely love it. The chicken burrito is one of my favorites, especially on days where I only get to squeeze in one giant meal.

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(image from Wikipedia Chipotle page)

A Christal Classic Chicken Burrito Order? White tortilla, white rice, black beans, grilled chicken, tomato, lettuce, sour cream, cheese, hot sauce, topped with tons of smoked Tabasco chipotle sauce.

However whenever I go there, I feel like everyone is judging me while I eat! Most normal people forgo the messy burrito and instead squeeze out the contents into a bowl so it can be consumed with a fork. BLASPHEMY I SAY! But let’s look at the pros of each meal to be fair.

Good stuff about the Burrito Bowl: Less messy, easy to clean up, can easily take to go if can’t finish in one sitting, more food given actually, and tortilla still included!

menu_burrito_bowl

(image from Chipotle website)

Good stuff about the Original Burrito: Some how it just tastes so much better to me when everything is piled together and squished into a steamy tortilla wrapping!

menu_burrito

(image from Chipotle website)

I always joke with my friends that a guy must be able to handle me eating a burrito if they want to continue dating me. Who the hell looks sexy stuffing their face with burrito goodness oozing out at the seams??? I am not saying I am caveman when I eat, but burritos are difficult meals to conquer gracefully.

man-pigging-out-cartoon-illustration

Now, I just used the Chipotle Nutrition Calculator, and it says that my typical  burrito order is 1000+ calories.

http://www.chipotle.com/en-us/menu/nutrition_calculator/nutrition_calculator.aspx

This makes me feel a bit guilty for being a fat kid, but I still stand by my Chipotle Dating Rule. I love Chipotle burritos and any potential love interest of mine has to at least tolerate that.

End rant.

P.S. Happy supposedly end of the world day! 🙂

Finals Week Destressers – Fall Term ’12 Edition

So this post is very belated, but as I tried to type before, I spilled a bit of coffee on my laptop and now its on the fritz. Luckily, my sister, bro-in-law, and I bought mom and dad a new laptop (they have never had one before), and thank goodness I can use it. I’m on break now, but busy as a bee. More on that in later updates though.

I’d like to write about some of the things that have kept me sane during finals and interviews while at school this term. Since blogging wasn’t an option, here’s what satisfied my need for break time.

  1. My Guilty Pleasure Music

    I have no idea if Jazz dance class has soften my ears to mainstream pop, but I am sorta embarrassed to say I have been blasting Ke$ha’s “Die Young” and T. Swift’s “I Knew You Were Trouble.” Shoot me, they are catchy as hell.





  2. This Chem-E Student’s Crazy Dancing
    To the T. Swift song I just mentioned! I can partially blame this dude with my weird music cravings, too, I suppose.



    Not convinced of how hilarious this guy is? Watch his moves to Cher Lloyd’s “Want U Back” (which was one of the songs we used in Jazz coincidentally).



    I have a strange sense of humor, but at least I know Naomi shares it with me. We were studying in the Science Building, DYING with laughter behind textbooks.
  3. Flash Game: Sushi Cat

    Let me preface this with I don’t really play video games as much anymore. It’s a sad fact. But I wanted something mindless to do in between studying. What better way than a flash game! I haven’t been to AddictingGames.com since Sophomore year, but BEHOLD they never fail me!

    sushicat1

    This game is about a cat and his “wife” (which happens to be a stuffed animal). During this edition of the game, you are trying to eat as much sushi as  you can to get bigger and overcome obstacles to reunite with your lovely pink wifey.

    sushicat2

    As Aniket kept making fun of me, I realized you can’t call this a “game” per say because all you do is control where to drop the cat. I could argue that there is some strategic physics involved, but really that’s stretching it. However, the unlockable cute outfits made me want to finish the game in its entirety. I can’t help my love for fat kittens!

    sushicat3

    There are also 2 or 3  previous games of Sushi Cat, one of which you fight Bacon Dog to win you wife back. Yea, I got a little crazy.

    Link to game: http://www.addictinggames.com/puzzle-games/sushi-cat-2-the-great-purrade-game.jsp

Alright that’s it from me for now 🙂 Now that I’m break with a keyboard that works, hopefully I can get back to writing more.

Thanksgiving Myth Debunked: Does Turkey Makes You Sleepy?

Happy Thanksgiving all! Quick post today!

I bid some of my friends a happy turkey day, and someone responded back “…eating lots of turkey and sleeping forever because of tryptophan!” It’s a common idea that turkey is what is responsible for sleepiness after Thanksgiving meals. But is it true?

(image source: http://www.bonappetit.com)

WebMD investigates this myth well.

L-tryptophan is an amino acid that our bodies need, but cannot produce. Therefore, we receive our necessary source of tryptophan through foods that we eat, such as high protein things like poultry and meat.

(image source: openscience.org)

As you would have guessed, tryptophan is a precursor to serotonin, which in simple terms is our “happy” chemical in the brain. It promotes good mood and relaxation.

(image source: tumblr)

However, it turns out that turkey doesn’t have an abnormal amount of tryptophan in it! That sleepiness that you are feeling is just a byproduct of overeating. So, your body goes into an energy overload trying to digest all that food. Also, holiday times mean extra stress and a need for a break and family time. What better way to relax than catch up on some well needed zzz’s!

(image source: SMBC Comics)

Happy Thanksgiving all!!!

Reference source: http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/the-truth-about-tryptophan

Molecular Gastronomy (Cuisine)

I found a website randomly this morning while on Facebook called “Molecular Recipes.”

http://www.molecularrecipes.com/

It seems that the recipes found on this site involve the modern cooking style of “molecular gastronomy.”

According to wiki, it’s been a coined term since 1992 Oxford physicist Nicholas Kurti and the French INRA chemist Hervé This. The MolecularRecipes.com website adds that concept of molecular gastronomy was started by Elizabeth Cawdry Thomas, an English cook teacher who proposed offering a workshop to chefs on the physics and chemistry of cooking. I honestly have heard of this since today.

As defined by MolecularRecipes.com, molecular gastronomy is essentially the science of cooking! This discipline studies how food transforms and changes during the cooking process, chemically and physically.

All the foods have such a modern presentation. It’s so visually stunning! You just have to see them to understand what I am talking about.

Examples from Molecular Recipes.com

Cocktail in an Ice Sphere

http://www.molecularrecipes.com/molecular-mixology/cocktail-ice-sphere/

 

Saffron Tagliatelle 

http://www.molecularrecipes.com/gelification/saffron-tagliatelle-consomme-recipe/

 

Carbonated Mojito Spheres

http://www.molecularrecipes.com/spherification/carbonated-mojito-spheres/

I can’t wait to find an excuse to try an easy one of these recipes, if that’s at all possible considering how complex it looks. But it combines three of my favorite things: food, science, and art!

Links:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Molecular_gastronomy

http://www.molecularrecipes.com/