The Chemistry of Cooking

This past week our students put their cooking and chemistry skills to work as they studied the chemical processes behind how bread is made. Most of us might be unaware of the chemical equation that shows how yeast, a leavener, produces a gas in dough. Or that when you use a leavening agent, thermal decomposition is responsible for the production of carbon dioxide. But, our students became familiar with these equations and terms as they made banana, french and sourdough bread in a project block last Saturday.

“I enjoyed learning about the different ingredients and the chemical reactions that take place in making something as simple as bread. It’s really cool to know,” says Audrey Sellers, a junior at White Mountain.

Curiosity is an essential element of White Mountain’s curriculum, and is a building block to creating the lifelong independent learners we encourage our students to become. Along with curiosity, we are also a school that promotes sustainable living and knowing the food the we eat. Nathaniel’s chemistry class challenged students to take it a step further by understanding the chemistry behind one of the more popular pieces of food in our diet.

What is the role of gluten in dough? What are the names of the two common leavening agents used to make quick bread? What is the chemical equation for the reaction of baking soda and acetic acid? These questions were met with answers and more questions at the end of Nathaniel’s project block. Students were intrigued, and so am I!

“I still can’t believe I was able to extract pure gluten from whole wheat flour in a science class on a Saturday,” says Milo Kasparek, a sophomore. “And we were able to eat the bread we made at the end of class.”

Hmm, maybe next time they hold a bake sale? Just an idea!

Learn more about our science course offerings here.

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