Tuesday, January 13, 2009

I (Really) Heart Food T-Shirts

Here's one for the food scientists . . . I found this t-shirt on Jim Dandy's Haberdashery Cafe Press site. If you're not familiar with Cafe Press this site allows you to upload your original designs and produce t-shirts, mugs, bumper stickers and more. You can print them for your own enjoyment or set up a shop to sell your designs. Maybe you'll see some Foodspiration logo wear sometime soon?

"Maillard browning" is the result of the Maillard reaction, wouldn't you know? When foods turn brown it is usually via three principle routes: enzymatic browning, caramelization, and Maillard browning. The classic example of enzymatic browning is when a fruit or vegetable is cut or bruised and the enzyme polyphenol oxidase is allowed to mix with the other contents of plant cells and polymerizes phenolic substrates into brownish pigments. In carmelization brown pigments are formed by the breakdown of sugars alone under very high heat--think about when you flame the granulated sugar on top of that creme brulee and the sugar melts and browns. In Maillard browning amino acids (from a protein source) and reducing sugars (many of the sugars we are familiar with like fructose and glucose with the notable exception of sucrose, i.e. table sugar) combine under somewhat elevated temperatures and then form an amazing myraid of the brown colors and flavors that we know and love. For me the elegance of the Maillard reaction (actually many reactions) is how simply it starts and then proceeds through a few key intermediates (Amadori and Schiff) to a lend the delicious complexity of flavor to baked bread, roasted coffee, or grilled beef. Think about how bread, coffee, or beef would taste with out the bake, roast, or grill flavors that emerge when we cook or process those foods.

Celebrate the Maillard browning that is all around us!