Use caution when making the caramel, it is extremely hot and can burn severely if it gets on your skin. Adult supervision is required.
*Note: This is an abbreviated Project Idea, without notes to start your background research, a specific list of materials, or a procedure for how to do the experiment. You can identify abbreviated Project Ideas by the asterisk at the end of the title. If you want a Project Idea with full instructions, please pick one without an asterisk.
Caramelization is the name of the cooking process that occurs as sugar is heated and the molecules begin to break apart. But what happens to the sugar as it breaks apart? And what do the physical changes mean for the flavor of the sugar? Using the Internet or cookbooks, read up on the chemistry of caramelization, then head to the kitchen with an adult to caramelize your own batch of sugar. With an adult's help, dissolve 1 1/3 cups of sugar in 2/3 cup of water. Heat the mixture in a pan over high heat, using a candy thermometer to constantly keep track of the temperature. Take out a spoonful of the mixture every time the syrup increases approximately 50°F in temperature and set the spoons aside. Label the temperature for each spoonful, and let each one cool. The last spoonful should be taken out when there is no significant increase in the temperature for at least 3 minutes of cooking. Examine each cooled spoonful. Is there a difference in coloration? Taste each spoonful and describe the flavor. What happens to the amount of sweetness? Can you explain your observations based on your background research? Note: Caramel candies take advantage of the caramelization process, but are usually made with milk, butter, or cream, rather than with water. Once you've tried this experiment with the sugar and watery syrup, you might want to compare those results to ones obtained using a traditional caramel candy recipe.
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If you like this project, you might enjoy exploring these related careers:
Food Scientist or Technologist
There is a fraction of the world's population that doesn't have enough to eat or doesn't have access to food that is nutritionally rich. Food scientists or technologists work to find new sources of food that have the right nutrition levels and that are safe for human consumption. In fact, our nation's food supply depends on food scientists and technologists that test and develop foods that meet and exceed government food safety standards. If you are interested in combining biology, chemistry, and the knowledge that you are helping people, then a career as a food scientist or technologist could be a great choice for you!
Everything in the environment, whether naturally occurring or of human design, is composed of chemicals. Chemists search for and use new knowledge about chemicals to develop new processes or products.
Food Science Technician
Good taste, texture, quality, and safety are all very important in the food industry. Food science technicians test and catalog the physical and chemical properties of food to help ensure these aspects.
The role that the chemical technician plays is the backbone of every chemical, semiconductor, and pharmaceutical manufacturing operation. Chemical technicians conduct experiments, record data, and help to implement new processes and procedures in the laboratory. If you enjoy hands-on work, then you might be interested in the career of a chemical technician.
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