Its about time this blog got some action again... And I can't think of a better way to get the ball rolling again than posting a treat recipe, along side some relevant science tidbits from Victoria Gilbert, who has a food science degree from UBC.
Why certain things taste better than others
By: Victoria Gilbert
So, artisan Marshmallows versus commercial marshmallows. Artisan or marshmallows made in small batches use a slightly different formula then commercial marshmallows which results in a completely different texture, taste and mouthfeel. Often artisan marshmallows come in a variety of flavours and may or may not be coated in things like cocoa powder or coconut shavings.
This may come as a surprise to you but a significant factor in a marshmallows ability to, well, be a marshmallow with its characteristic spongy consistency is the protein in it. I know what you're thinking, marshmallows don't have protein in them, it says 1g or less on the package. In actual fact many marshmallows have gelatin in them and gelatin is a protein. For a gel network to exist and be free standing, as we find in marshmallows, you need a minimum concentration of protein and when using gelatin that minimum concentration is 0.6%. Since this is a relatively small amount, and there are many rules and regulations surrounding nutrition facts panels and the rounding involved with the nutrient calculations marshmallows often show as having less then 1g of protein.
Not only does the protein, or gelatin, contribute to the ability to form a gel network it also affects how the marshmallowresponds when its heated and cooled. As we know when making Rice Crispy Squares we first have to melt those marshmallows before mixing them with the Rice Crispys. This in turn destroys the gel network. Artisan marshmallows when they cool after being melted and mixed with the Rice Crispys generally will not be as brittle and will be able to retain their flavour compounds well. This results in a smoother, softer, more flavourful Rice Crispy Square.
Unrelated to Rice Crispy Squares but probably of interest to many of you is why your protein powders taste better when mixed with milk, or a milk substitute, rather then plain water. We'll look at milk here and start by explaining that milk is homogenized product. When milk is homogenized the fat globules are reduced in size down to 2micrometers. This greatly increases the surface area of the fat particles and since fat is hydrophobic (meaning it doesn't like water) the fat globules surround themselves with milk proteins and stay evenly disbursed in the solution. As a result when you mix in your protein powder the milk is better able to hold the protein powder particles in suspension resulting in a smoother less chalky mouthfeel then if mixed with water.
Lemon Chocolate Rice Crispy Squares
Makes ~16 small squares
- 10 oz marshmellows (good quality ones - see notes above - I used ones from Butter Bakery)
- Zest and joice of 1 small lemon
- 3 tbsp butter
- 5 cups rice crispies
- 1/2 cup chocolate chips
- Place a pot over low heat and melt the butter
- Line a square pan with parchment paper, leaving a bit hanging on each side of the pan
- Add lemon juice, lemon zest and marshmellows. Melt slowly, stirring constantly
- Once melted, remove from heat and add rice crispies and chocolate chips. Stir quickly to combine
- Pour the mixture into the pan, place a piece of parchment paper on top and press firmly. Remove the parchment paper from the top and smooth with a spatula
- Cover and place in the fridge. Once firm, cut into squares and wrap individually