Tag Archives: recipe

Are Microwaves Frying our Brains?

Have you ever stood next to your microwave while you wait for your noodles to cook and wondered if the micro-waves were burning your brain? I know I have.

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Microwaves are magical machines that manage to cook anything from soup to brownie just by spinning them round on a plate a few times. Seems pretty mystical to me. And naturally, like anything we don’t understand, we humans have a tendency to fear these mystical qualities.

Is our fear justified though? I mean Madame Curie, the lady behind x-ray machines in the war died because of the radiation from those very machines, could that happen to us too?

First of all, what is microwave radiation?

Well, radiation is just the release of energy from something. So lots of things release radiation, and many of them aren’t harmful at all. Our bodies are constantly radiating heat, and so is the sun. X-ray machines also release radiation, that’s how they do what they do.

But there are two forms of radiation, one more harmful than the other. They are ionising and non-ionising radiation.

Ionising radiation is the strong stuff. This kind of radiation is made of high energy waves which can get into cells and chemically change how they work. Lots of tests have been done on this type of radiation and we know that it is okay in small doses, but too much can cause burns, radiation sickness and cancer. Not good.

This kind of radiation is given off by things like X-Ray machines and is used in radiotherapy to treat cancer cells and in Nuclear power plants. Happily though, this isn’t the kind of radiation produced by microwaves.

Microwaves produce non-ionising radiation. This radiation has less energy than it’s ionising counterpart. This means that it can move things around in your cells, but not chemically change them and therefore cause cancer.

Non-ionising radiation is what is given off by things like the sun, cell phones, computers, heaters and radio waves. Of all of these types of non-ionising radiation only one has ever been found to be harmful and cause cancer, and that is UV rays from the sun.

So microwaves don’t produce the scary, harmful, I’m going to wake us as Spiderman kind of radiation. Phew!

But is there any chance microwave radiation could be harmful anyway?

There have been lots of studies looking at whether people who use or are around microwaves are more likely to get cancer or be otherwise harmed, and there have been mixed results. Some studies have found a link between microwaves and cancer, but other studies have found absolutely no link at all.

Microwaves do create a magnetic field around them when they are being used. However most experts agree that microwaves just don’t give off enough energy to alter the DNA in your cells and therefore won’t cause cancer.

Some people also think that food cooked in the microwave might be harmful. But this isn’t true. Microwaves cook food by heating up the water molecules inside the food, making them vibrate. The jiggling water method is how lots of food cooks, and doesn’t change the makeup of the food at all, which means that food cooked in the microwave is no more harmful than food cooked on the stove or in the oven.

Moral of the story?

Microwaves are safe. Standing next to the microwave while it’s humming away spinning your food round in circles is no more harmful than standing in the sunshine spinning your head round in circles. It might even be safer.

 

So now we know they’re safe, lets get our microwaves to do what microwaves do best and make some brownie!

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Magical Microwave Mug Brownie

  • 4 Tbsp white sugar
  • 2 Tbsp of flour
  • 2 Tbsp Cocoa powder
  • 2 Tbsp boiling water
  • 2 1/2 Tbsp oil
  • 1 Egg
  • A pinch of salt

Mix everything in a nice big mug until just combined. Microwave for 30 seconds. Take it out, give it a quick mix and put it back in for another 30 seconds. Then you’re done!

I highly recommend topping with a scoop of ice cream. Mmmmm…

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The Benefits of Breakfast

Want to know which food can help you lose weight, concentrate better and lower you cholesterol? Well, it’s no one food in particular, but an entire meal: breakfast.

The Benefits of Breakfast - Do You Want Science With That

All this time you’ve been waiting for that magic pill or wondrous super-food that will improve your performance, make you healthier and help you knock a few pounds all at once and it’s been here all along. Your mum always told you to have a good breakfast, and she was right (as usual)!

I’d just like to add a little disclaimer though, before I tell you all of the wonderful ways your morning meal is helping you be a better person. The goods you reap from your bountiful breakfast depend a bit on what you eat. You’re doing fine as long as your breakfast is fairly healthy. That means it doesn’t contain over 50% sugar or fat and has a good amount of fiber and protein. Think muesli and yogurt not chocolate chip pop tarts. A sprinkle of sugar is fine on your cereal as long as its cornflakes not frosted flakes.

So being the logical and scientifically minded folk I know you all are, there must be one burning question on your lips:

Where’s the proof?

This is one of those brilliant times when the proof is everywhere! Lots of studies have been done on the magic of morning eating and they’ve pretty much all come to the same conclusion: breakfast is a keeper.

 

Breakfast and weight loss

There have been many studies like this one and this one, which have linked a healthy breakfast to lower body weight and long term weight loss in both adults and children.

But how? I hear you ask. Eating breakfast mean you are consuming more calories so how could it possibly help you lose weight? One of the theories is that breakfast makes you less hungry for the rest of the day. Breakfast eaters have been shown to make better food choices at lunch time and throughout the day than those who prolong their sleeping fast until midday.

This is particularly true if your morning munch is high in protein. Protein is the most satiating and keeps you feeling full for longest. There have even been studies which look at people who eat a protein rich breakfast (like eggs) versus people who have a lower protein meal which have found that the protein loader loses a significantly larger amount of weight. So get your whisk out, because scrambled eggs on grainy bread is the way to go!

 

Breakfast and concentration

There is a reason why governments all over the world are trying to convince parents to get their kids to eat a proper breakfast. And parents would benefit from the meal just as much.

There have been lots of studies, particularly on school children, which have found that breakfast eaters concentrate better at work and school. Studies have also found that those who have a morning meal have much better functioning memories than those who skip the wonder meal.

Why? You ask. One of the theories is that it has to do with blood glucose levels. While you’re asleep you don’t eat so your blood glucose levels drop. Breakfast is so named because you are literally “breaking the fast” of your sleep hours and thus raising your blood glucose levels. However if you skip breakfast your body has to wait longer before you break the fast. When your blood glucose levels are too low your brain just doesn’t work as well, so having breakfast may act to even out blood glucose levels and get your brain and body back to normal.

 

Breakfast and cholesterol

Your body needs cholesterol to work properly, but if you have too much of the stuff it starts to clog up your heart and arteries and can be very dangerous. Luckily for us, we can lower our cholesterol levels easily, just by eating breakfast.

The lowering of cholesterol levels by eating reakfast had been shown in lots of studies, like this one and this one. These studies both present very convincing evidence that adults and children who eat breakfast have lower cholesterol levels. This means that breakfast eaters are at a much lower risk of heart disease, yay!

But breakfast is eating things, how could that possibly lower cholesterol? Basically, eating breakfast kick starts your body’s response to insulin. So if you skip breakfast your body doesn’t start responding to insulin properly and it starts building up in your blood. Having so much insulin in your blood means that your sensitivity to it declines and low sensitivity to insulin means your body holds on to fats. Cholesterol just so happens to be a fatty blood fat and your breakfast deprived body is holding onto every fat it can so it doesn’t get rid of the heart harming fat like it should.

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So eat your breakfast! It’s a pretty easy (and thoroughly enjoyable) thing to do and you will end up being so much better at life. Or at least a little better.

 

And last, but not least…

A delicious healthy breakfast option

This is what I have for breakfast almost every day, and I love it!

It’s packed full of fibre, protein, calcium and vitamins. The perfect way to start your day!

  • 1/4 cup of museli
  • 1/4 cup of youghurt
  • 1 bananna
  • 1/4 cup of berries (I use frozen ones when they are out of season)

Put everything in a bowl, top with some milk and enjoy.

Benefits of Breakfast - Do You Want Science With That

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Fudgey, Cakey or Chewy? The Science of Brownie Baking

You’re getting all dribbly just from reading the title aren’t you?

 

The Ultimate Brownie - Do You Want Science With That

The humble brownie. There’s just something about it.

A wee while back I wrote a post about baking chocolate chip cookies and how to use science to make them crunchier or chewier. It was pretty popular, so I thought, why not make another baking “how to” post! So here it is, how to make your brownie fudgier, cakier or chewier.

It’s all about proportions

Just like crafting cookie, brownie baking takes some careful measurements, and changing the amount of each ingredient that you use will change the final brownie outcome.

There are three main ingredients that you can alter to make your brownie fudgier, cakier or chewier and they are chocolate, butter & sugar and flour. So lets get started!

Fudgier

For an intensely dense chocolate hit

Chocolate: The more the merrier! The fudgey texture of your brownie is amplified by the fats in your chocolate so more chocolate will result in a fudgier brownie.

Butter and sugar: Melt and mix. Like I said in my cookies post, melting the butter before adding the sugar stops air bubbles from forming and making your brownie fluffy. So don’t cream your butter and sugar, gently melt your butter on the stove with your sugar instead.

Flour: Less is more. When flour is mixed with wet ingredients it forms gluten. Gluten is what makes baking tall and crunchy, which is the exact opposite of what you want in a fudgey brownie, so keep the flour to a minimum.

Cakier

For those who like them light and fluffy

Chocolate: Don’t overdo it. Chocolate is full of fats which will weigh your batter down. If you want a lovely cakey brownie limit your chocolate so that your batter will be able to rise.

Butter and sugar: Beat them into cream-mission! To create a truly cakey brownie you need to get some air bubbles into the batter. You can do this by softening your butter instead of melting it and then whipping the sugar in. The sugar will forge little holes in the butter which trap air and leave your brownie feeling light as a feather.

Flour: Less is again more. While you want your brownie to be nice and cakey, you don’t want it to be crunchy like a cookie. Since you’ve creamed the butter and sugar you have already got some air bubbles into the mixture so your brownie will be fluffy. The gluten formed by flour can turn this cakeness into crunchiness and that just isn’t what you want.

Chewier

For those who crave the chew

Chocolate: Take it out alltogether. It sounds like a bad idea, but trust me, it isn’t. Cocoa actually contains more pure chocolate liquor than chocolate anyway because it isn’t diluted with milk and sugar, so your brownie won’t be any less deliciously rich. By taking out the chocolate though, you’re removing fats and allowing for a chewier, more delicious brownie.

Butter and sugar: Melt and mix. You want chewy, not fluffy, so the melt on the stove option is the way to go for those after a chewy treat.

Flour: Go for gold! Flour is the key to a good chewy brownie. Adding more four will transform your brownie from a flat fudge to a cheerful chewy by creating some glutenous support during baking.

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Two more tips before you hit the mixing bowl

For maximum chocolate flavour: The secret to a super chocolatey brownie is in how you treat the cocoa. You want to really release the delicious flavour, and you can do this with heat. If you pour boiling water over your cocoa, or add it to your butter as you’re cooking it on the stove, the lovely flavour molecules will be broken free from their protein confines and your brownie will be all the chocolatier.

For a crunchy top: There’s nothing like a little texture contrast in food, and brownie is no exception. I love a good fudgey brownie with a crunchy top, it’s just so satisfying. And easy to achieve! The crunch is all in the sugar. You want o use white sugar, not brown. The granulated white sugar will rise to the surface as your batter bakes and dry out, creating a delightfully crunchy crust. Yum!

 

Okay so it’s finally time. I am going to share with you my absolute favourite brownie recipe. I am a huge fan of the chewy brownie, and this is hands down the best chewy brownie I have ever made. It is just so delicious!

 

Amazing Brownie - Do You Want Science With That

 

The Unbeatable Brownie Recipe

  • 140g butter
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla essence
  • 2 large, cold eggs
  • 1/2 cup flour

Preheat your oven to 160°C and line a 20cm square pan with baking paper.

Fill a fairly large pot with water and bring to a gentle simmer. Put the butter, sugar, cocoa powder and salt into a heatproof bowl and put it into/sit it on top of the pot. Stir while the butter melts. Once the mixture is hot and the butter is melted, take it off the pot and let it cool.

Once cool, stir in the vanilla, then the eggs, one a time. Stir vigorously until the batter looks shiny and well-blended. Stir in the flour until no streaks remain and then beat the batter for about a minute more.

Pour the batter into your lined pan and bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpic comes out of the middle with just a little bit of batter on it.

Ultimate Brownie - Do You Want Science With That

 

Mmm Brooownie…

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Super Easy Peanut Butter Easter Eggs

Peanut butter Easter eggs

 

Chocolate, bunnies and hot cross buns. Easter is totally my favourite holiday. 

For weeks in advance shops start filling up with foil wrapped goodies and smiling cardboard bunnies. Seasonal delicacies like marshmallow eggs and how cross buns lure you in every time you go to the supermarket because, well, it’s only Easter once a year right, you have to take advantage!

Crunchy Peabut butter Easter eggs

You can get easter eggs in all sorts of shapes and sizes which are filled with all kinds of fun and wrapped in all the colours of the rainbow. Aaand the internet starts getting filled up with photos of melted chocolate and outrageously delicious home made Easter treat recipes. 

Like I said, Easter is my favourite holiday.

Which is why I would like to share with you a wee recipe I recently dreamed up which uses only four simple ingredients and makes outrageously delicious eggs! As an added bonus the eggs are gluten free and are just as delicious without the chocolate coating which makes them a great option for those who are dairy free as well. 

Plus one of the main ingredients is peanut butter which has some lovely sciencey health benefits!

How is peanut butter healthy? You ask. Well, here are a few ways…

It’s full of good stuff: Peanut butter is full of protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals which are all essential for good health and successful bodily functions. Which is really what we all want. 

It’s good for your heart: In 2003 the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) backed the claim that eating 2 and a half tablespoons of peanut butter a day may reduce your risk of getting heart disease. Wohoo!

It might help keep the cancer away: Peanuts contain a chemical called resveratrol which is also found in grape skins and red wine. A German study on this chemical found that it might be reducing your chances of getting cancer. 

It might help with Alzheimer’s detection: In very exciting science news recently, researchers have figured out that the part of the brain that can smell peanut butter is very close to the part which is affected in those with Alzheimer’s disease. Basically if a person with Alzheimer’s disease sniffed a tub of peanut butter with their left nostril they wouldn’t be able to smell it as well as someone without the disease. This means that peanut butter could be a cheap, easy, non-invasive Alzheimer’s detection method. So cool!

 

So what are you waiting for? Scroll down and start making these magic balls of magnificence already!

Chocolate dipping

Ali’s Excellent Easter Eggs

Gluten free and dairy free if you skip the chocolate coating

  • 2 cups Peanut butter
  • 1 cup Icing sugar
  • 4 cupsCornflakes
  • Chocolate melts

Makes 28

Soften the peanut butter in the microwave and add the icing sugar and cornflakes. Mix until combined.

Roll the mixture into easter egg sized balls. Eat a couple of these eggs with a nice cup of tea and refrigerate the rest for half an hour.

Melt your chocolate melts and dip each ball into the molten chocolate and then place it on a sheet of baking paper.

Refrigerate until hard.

 

Gluten free Easter eggs

Try not to eat them all at once!

 

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The Health Benefits of Pizza

 

Healthy margarita pizza

You could cook a decent sized pizza in 9 seconds if you were standing on Venus. True story. Well according to Neil deGrasse Tyson anyway.

As far as I’m concerned, pizza is deliciously angelic food from the gods. There’s something about the hot, cheesy, interactive finger food that gets my mouth watering worse than a basset hound at dinner time.

And as much as I wish we could get giant American style floppy pizzas in New Zealand, I’m really a sucker for the home made version.

Poor pizza tends to have a bit of a bad rep these days though, so I felt that it was high time someone batted on pizza’s side for once.

So today I would like to tell you about some of the good deeds pizza does for you. It really is a kind food, and although it is a little on the fatty side, it means well.

The secret is in the sauce

When you’re making a pizza, you always start with a deliciously tomatoey base paste. The thing you might not have known though is that this tomato paste is doing wonders for your health.

Tomatoes and paste

Tomatoes are high in an antioxidant compound called lycopene. Lycopene is the stuff in tomatoes that makes them red, and some studies have found it to be pretty darned fantastic. A number of studies, like this one, have found that lycopene can reduce the risk of us getting prostate cancer, yay! The racy red caroteniod has also been found to protect our skin from getting burnt! BBC even conducted their own study to test the effectiveness of this wonder compound and found that people who ate 55g of tomato paste a day were a third more protected from sunburn! That’s pretty convincing stuff.

But we eat lots of things with tomatoes right? And often the tomatoes on pizza are in paste and cooked form and not as fresh as the ones, say, in a salad, so why they hype? Well, that’s just the thing! It turns out that the more processed and cooked the tomatoes, the more of their lycopene becomes available to us. So cooked, canned, mushed up tomatoes are ideal, and that’s just what we spread all over the bases of our pizzas because it’s just so darned delicious.

Tomatoes and cheese

And there are more pros for pizza! Lycopene is fat soluble, which means that if you eat it with fatty, oily foods it is absorbed better. So the oily, stringy, outrageously scrumptious cheese that we cover our pizzas with is halping us really get the most out of this magical pigment. Who’d have thought?

But what about the base?

A group of heroic food chemists from the University of Maryland have been looking into pizza doughs. They want to use chemistry to give this popular and magnificent food a few more health benefits, such good guys right? They found that if you cook your pizza base for longer and at a higher temperature it actually increases the antioxidant content of the dough.

So, for the best possible base, go for one which is wholewheat and deep dish, because the thicker the base, the longer it will have had to have been cooked for.

Plus, pizza is helping out brain surgeons!

A bundle of scientists from Monash University in Australia are studying the art of pizza tossing to make tiny tiny brain surgery tools. They are using the forces applied in pizza tossing to design very small motors which can be used in minimally invasive neuro-microsurgery. So the humble pizza is even influencing the medical world, horay for pizza!

Admittedly, pizza isn’t the healthiest choice for your hips, but it clearly isn’t as much of a bad guy as you might think. And on that note I would like to share with you a delicious pizza recipe, because nothing beats a home made pizza. Aand thins little beauty is specially formulated for maximum health benefits, wohoo!

 

Magnificent Margarita Pizza

For the base

  • 1 1/4 cups of very warm water
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp dry yeast
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 tbsp mixed herbs (optional)

Toppings

  • Tomato paste
  • Mozzarella cheese
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Fresh basil

Dissolve the sugar in the water and sprinkle the yeast on top. Let this sit for about 1o minutes, until it gets all foamy and funny looking.

Stir in the olive oil and salt, and then add most of the flour gradually as you stir. When you just have a little bit of flour left, sprinkle it on the bench and knead your dough into it. Keep kneading until the flour has been absorbed and the dough is smooth. This usually takes 10-15 minutes.

Put the dough into an oiled bowl, cover it with a tea towel and let the mixture sit for about an hour. It will get way bigger, about doubling in size.

Roll your dough out into one or two bases, keeping them nice and thick so you can cook them for longer.

Add all of your toppings and bake at 220°C for about 20 minutes, or however long it takes for your base to be crisp and deliciously brown.

Enjoy!

Margarita pizza

 

Mmmmm…

 

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The Secret to Fabulously Fluffy Buttermilk Pancakes

 

berry pancakes

Whenever I’m home and mum says she’s making pancakes for breakfast, I dedicate the hour or two afterwards to a food coma.

There’s just something about pancakes. Their soft fluffieness and alluring sweet taste. Not to mention the topping choices. Lemon and sugar, bacon, bananna and maple syrup, yoghurt and berries. So much delicious!

Nothing beats a big fat fluffy pancake. But it isn’t always easy to get them so fluffy. It takes a fair amount of skill, and a little science.

Pancakes aren’t too high maintenance, the only ingredient you might not have at home already is buttermilk. This ingredient is essential though and one of the most important when it comes to making a delightfully light pancake.

Ingredients

So how do we get the fluffy?

The lovely lightness of your pancake is all thanks to three ingredients; buttermilk, baking soda and baking powder.

Why buttermilk and not standard cow milk you ask? It’s all down to the acid. You know how buttermilk is sour and tart tasting? That’s because it’s acidic, whereas normal milk is neutral. This is a super important difference when it comes to the baking soda.

Baking soda is super basic (that means it is the opposite of acidic buttermilk). When a base reacts with an acid, it results in a chemical reaction which produces salt, water and carbon dioxide. As you mix your buttermilk and baking soda this reaction causes little carbon dioxide bubbles to form in your batter.

You want to make the most of these bubbles too, because they won’t last forever. So make sure your pan is hot and buttered before you mix your wet ingredients with your dry ones.

Mixing

So how do pancakes with regular milk rise you ask?

They use baking powder! Baking powder is just baking soda with a powdered acid added. The acid reacts with the basic baking soda when water is added, which releases the same carbon dioxide bubbles. These days baking powders are pretty fancy, and actually release a second round of bubbles when the mixture is heated, but if you want to take advantage of both rounds of bubbles (for maximum fluffy) you need to cook the batter as soon as you’ve combined the wet and dry ingredients too.

So if baking powder does the same thing as baking soda, but with less effort, why bother with the soda?

It’s all about the browning.

Have you ever wondered how pancake chefs achieve that glorious golden brown colour, when your pancakes are always a pasty off white? Their recipes are taking advantage of the Maillard Reaction. This is when your pancake batter starts to cook and the amino acids from the protiens bond with the carbon and oxygen in your sugar. The result is a delicious combination of lots of delightful smelling flavour molecules. The Maillard reaction is the genius behind the deliciously bold and aromatic flavours in coffee, malt whiskey, maple syrup and baked bread.

Sounds fantastic right? And it’s super easy to get it to happen in your pancake too.

This is where the baking soda comes in. The Maillard Reaction happens in basic conditions, and baking soda is a base remember? So once you’ve added enough baking soda to neutralize your buttermilk’s acidity, the rest will make your pancakes lovely and brown. Like a friendly bear.

Cooking

And now, the part you’ve all been waiting for, the recipe!

This is (in my humble opinion) the most intelligently engineered fluffy pancake recipe. It is delightfully fluffy and oh so brown. Mmm.

 

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So Fluffy I’m Going to Die Pancakes

Wet stuff

  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 50g melted butter

Dry stuff

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt

Combine all the wet ingredients in one bowl, and all the dry ingredients in another.

Heat up your pan until it makes water sizzle when it touches it.

Pour your wet ingredients into the dry ones and mix until just combined. The mixture should be thick and lumpy, don’t overmix it!

Melt a small lump of batter in your pan and start cooking your pancakes. They’re ready to be flipped when you can see lots of bubbles have risen to the surface.

Top with whatever you like and enjoy!

 

Yoghurt and berries

Yoghurt and berries is one of my favourite pancake toppings.

Bacon

Although some prefer a manlier option!

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Do You like it Hot? Spicy Food and your Pain Tolerance

I love spicy food. I’m that friend who everyone looks at funny because she’s asking for her curry to be “Indian hot” when everyone else is choosing medium.

Spicy Garlic Aioli 2

 

For me it really is a taste thing. I genuinely like a bit of bite, but for lots of people who don’t enjoy the burn quite so much I think that it gets to be a sort of competition. Who will break a sweat first or reach for their glass of water?

But is there more to hot food than meets the eye? What is spicy and why do we like it so much?

What makes food spicy?

That wonderful muscle we call a tongue is able to taste five distinct flavours: sweet, sour, bitter, salty and umami. Every delicious (and not so delicious) bite that we swallow is made up of a combination if these flavours. So where does hot food fit in?

Well spiciness isn’t technically a taste, it’s a feeling. As well as being covered in taste receptors, your tongue is also covered in lots of tiny tiny pain receptors. There is a chemical found in the seeds of chilli peppers called capsaicin which targets these pain receptors.

When you eat something spicy, the capsaicin molecules bind with the pain receptors on your tongue, creating a burning sensation. This burning sensation is caused by your brain and is identical to what you feel when you put your hand in a hot oven. Do you know what the best part is though? There is no actual damage done! So spicy food gives you all of the burning feels, with none of the painful aftermath.

If it hurts, why do we like it?

Some people believe our love of spicy food comes from the health benefits it has been proven to give us. Chilli foods can lower your blood pressure, increase salivation (which is a good thing, I swear) and be slightly antimicrobial. But scientists argue that these effects are too small to actually be making an evolutionary difference.

Paul Rozin from the University of Pennsylvania believes that we really are in it for the burn. He thinks we get a kick out of the pain. Rozin says it’s a matter of “mind over body. My body thinks I’m in trouble, but I know I’m not”.

This certainly isn’t a natural thing in the animal kingdom as the capsaicin in chillis is there to stop animals from wanting to eat them. In fact, in another study scientists found that capsaicin stings us in the same way tarantula venom does. Ouch!

So is there more to this than the thrill of the pain? Scientists seem to think so. In April 2013 a study was published which found that our personality could be affecting whether or not we like it hot!

Really though, there doesn’t seem to be one thing that predicts whether or not we like spicy food, but a bundle of factors combined. How you were brought up, how much spicy food you eat, your physiology and personality all contribute to how much you enjoy that Indian hot curry and your tastes are likely to change throughout your life anyway.

Without further ado though, I would like to share with you one of my favourite capsaicin rich foods – spicy aioli! Garlic, mayonnaise and chilli, could life get any better?

aioli2

 

Chicken and Bacon Burgers with Spicy Aioli

For the burger

  • Chicken breast
  • Paprika
  • Chilli flakes
  • Bacon
  • Burger buns
  • Brie cheese, sliced
  • Tomato
  • Lettuce

For the aioli

  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tbsp Tabasco
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp chilli flakes

To make the aioli, combine all ingredients in a bowl and chill until needed.

Slice the chicken into burger sized pieces and coat in paprika and chilli flakes. Cook the chicken and bacon in a skillet with a little oil.

Place the burger buns on an oven tray, halved with the inside facing up and place the brie on top of the bottom burger bun. Grill until bread is toasted and cheese is melted.

Layer ingredients on the toasted buns and don’t forget the aioli!

burger

Enjoy! The aioli is also great with home made onion rings, yum.

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How Do You Like Your Cookies – Crunchy or Chewy?

Cookies

I have a serious weakness when it comes to cookies. Cookies are my Kryptonite. I choose cookies over human contact at least twice a week.

Because of this I have baked far more than my fair share of the crumbly morsels of magic and have lots of cookie recipes under my belt.

The way I see it, in the wonderful world of cookies there are two families – the soft, chewy cookies and their crunchy rounder cousins. In my eyes, both kinds of cookie have their merits and I don’t want to go around picking favourites. With that said, it is true that sometimes you want a chewy cookie and sometimes you crave the crunch. Luckily, this is where science comes in to play.

Any cookie recipe, whether it be for  afghans, peanut butter cookies or good old choc chippies, can be used to make both a chewy or a crunchy cookie. All it takes to switch between the two is a little science.

There are three ingredients which can be altered to change the type of cookie you create: butter, egg and sugar.

Butter

Butter

How many times have you popped your lump of butter into the microwave, punched in a random combination of numbers and pressed start, then opened your microwave door later to find that the fluffy soft butter you expected had transformed into bubbling butter juice? Figured it won’t make any difference? It does!

Melted butter = Chewy cookies

Softened butter = Crunchy cookies

Butter - Soft vs Melted

Why? I hear you ask.

When you beat sugar into softened butter it creates air bubbles in the batter. This is because the sugar crystals create little holes and the fat molecules trap air in them. When you bake the cookies these bubbles fill with carbon dioxide from the baking soda resulting in an airy, crunchier cookie.

Melted butter, on the other hand, doesn’t add to the structure of your cookie. This is because both the crystalline and the soft fats are liquid and so won’t trap any air. Butter in this form will just add delicious rich flavour and moistness to your cookie.

Egg

Lets talk about eggs ba-by, lets talk about you and me.

Eggs

Eggs play a vital role in holding together your scrumptious cookie, and can be easily divided into two parts; the crunch maker and the orange balls of chew.

White = Crunchy cookies

Yolk = Chewy cookies

Eggs - Yolk vs White

As any good gym buff knows, eggs are full of protein. When it comes to you cookies though, it is the water and fat in the eggs that are most important.

Egg whites contain a lot of water, which is great for the crunchy cookie lover. When water is combined with flour it makes gluten. This is a strong, stretchy bunch of connected proteins which hold up your cookie, making it taller and crunchier.

On the other hand, egg yolks are full of a bundle of fat. Gluten can’t form in fat, which means less will be formed, resulting in a softer, chewier cookie.

Sugar

Mmmm, sugar.

This is the ingredient that has us giggling like a tickled penguin when we bite into our freshly baked cookie. White, brown, caster, coarse, raw or powdered, as long as it isn’t an artificial sweetener it’s good right? Right. But the type of sugar you use also affects the chewiness of your cookie.

sugars

Brown sugar = Chewy cookies

White sugar = Crunchy cookies

I love brown sugar. I could eat it by the tablespoon. I do eat it by the tablespoon.

Brown sugar is mostly sucrose, along with some glucose and fructose. Glucose and fructose are hygroscopic, meaning they hold onto water. This means that when you use brown sugar it doesn’t release much water, resulting in less gluten formation. And what does less gluten mean? More chewy!

White sugar on the other hand is pure sucrose. Sucrose isn’t very hygroscopic at all, which means it gives up lots of water as it bakes. This means (you guessed it) more gluten formation and a crunchier cookie.

So there you have it, everything you need to make batches of cookies Nigella would be proud of.

So get baking!

Cookie stack

Here is one of my personal favourite cookie recipes

Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • 200g softened butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup caster sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla essence
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips

Cream butter and sugars, then add eggs and vanilla essence.

In a separate bowl combine flour, baking powder and salt.

Pour dry ingredients into butter mixture and fold a few times. Add chocolate chips and fold again until just combined. Don’t over mix!

Refrigerate for 12-36 hours. I understand that this isn’t always easy (or possible) to do. When you need cookie, you need cookie. But it really does make a huge difference to how delicious your cookie is. It will be worth it i swear!

Form into evenly sized balls and bake at 180°C for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown.

cookies with milk

Now pour yourself a tall glass of milk and enjoy, after all, cookies are best served warm!

 

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