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The Kitchen as LaboratoryReflections on the Science of Food and Cooking$
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César Vega, Job Ubbink, and Erik van der Linden

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780231153454

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231153454.001.0001

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Sweet Physics

Sweet Physics

Sugar, Sugar Blends, and Sugar Glasses

(p.186) Twenty-four Sweet Physics
The Kitchen as Laboratory

Natalie Russ

Thomas Vilgis

Columbia University Press

This chapter discusses the chemistry and physics of sugar. Sugar exhibits properties that go much beyond sweetness. For example, sugar molecules bind water molecules in a “hydrate shell”; in so doing, they increase the viscosity, especially at high concentrations, of the liquids that contain them. Sugar depresses the freezing point of water, a property that is exploited in the making of ice cream. Sugar can exist as a solid in both the crystalline and amorphous states. Granulated sugar has a crystalline structure. The sugar molecules are very much ordered with respect to one another, not unlike bricks in a wall. At the opposite end is the amorphous state, in which the molecules, randomly packed together, have no organization whatsoever. Scientists refer to solid, amorphous sugar as a glass, because its behavior is analogous to that of regular window glass—hard, brittle, and fragile. The remainder of the chapter discusses glass transition temperature and why it should be a culinary parameter.

Keywords:   sugar, sugar glass, cotton candy, science-based cooking, physics

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