the latest food science

This post catalogues two very different weeks in my always-memorable food science lab.

The first week, after a lonnnnnnnng lecture on food safety and various governing bodies addressing food safety, we tackled poultry in the lab. (Frankly, learning about campylobacter and salmonella did not make me particularly enthused to take on this process).

My group made chicken with 40 cloves of garlic. I opted to peel the garlic cloves- I find smashing and peeling to be calming and contemplative, though it’s no joke when you’re tackling four heads of garlic. Sticky fingers!

Here’s a midway progress shot:


And the final product. I’ve heard raves about chicken with 40 cloves of garlic but I thought this was just okay (and I love me some garlic).


Another group made this BEAUTIFUL chicken and rice dish.


I was so impressed! A twist on arroz con pollo. It looked like paella, but was less complicated. Also, I just really love olives and don’t cook with them enough.


One group made oven baked buffalo wings that made everyone lose their minds. Plus a dipping sauce on the side (which was not quite bleu cheesy enough). Aren’t they beautifully plated?!


Someone reaching in for a nom. I think these were the crowd favorite.


Poor Nate- as the class’s sole pescetarian this wasn’t a fun week for him. His group sneakily made him some potatoes so he could at least enjoy the dipping sauce and garnishes.


One group made shepherd’s pie, using ground turkey in the filling and opting for edamame instead of peas to up the protein content. I found it most noteworthy for its BEAUTIFULLY crosshatched topping.


And the last group took way longer than the rest because they were making a fancy shmancy Rick Bayless recipe. Roasting poblano peppers and so on.


The final product was this stack of yumminess.


It was creamy cheesy chickeny corny goodness.


So that’s chicken week.

The following week, cake week, was ridiculous for a number of reasons.

Ridiculous: Our professor brought us cookies. Which I know seems nice, but we were about to make five cakes!


Ridiculous: Our not at all healthy materials for a nutrition class:


Our teacher went a little haywire about demanding everyone’s mise en place was perfect before beginning any baking, so we got to work.

My group was making a banana skillet cake.


This group assembled things for a buttermilk cake with marmalade filling…


And the red velvet group made a food coloring mixture that looked like toxic waste…


Everyone was being all adorable. Pan greasing!


Hazelnut peeling!


Butter chopping!


Ridiculous: all these lovely people making cake. Seems like such a joyful, experimental day, right? Yet somehow, our professor made two people cry (that I know of!) during this portion of the class. Whattttttt?! (She is a little bit crazy and mercurial).

Our cake was among the first to finish- it was relatively straightforward. No egg separating and things. Into the skillet it went.


Then out. On the right there is the bittersweet chocolate sauce that went with the cake.


We put Taylor in charge of decorating.


I thought it looked BEAUTIFUL and delish!


Ridiculous: Our professor came up and went “Ooh, loosey goosey.” And then said loosey goosey a lot. I guess that was her way of calling this cake a hot mess?

Whatever, it was beautiful. And I want to a cooking class the following weekend led by a professional chef (which I’ll blog about in a bit!) and that chef topped the tart she made in an identically “loosey goosey” fashion. So there!


I want you to imagine what the room was smelling like at this point.. five groups making five cakes. There was lots of torture like this, waiting for things to cool:


Ridiculous: the color of these cupcakes.


They were among the softest, springiest cupcakes I have ever beheld.


Ridiculous: our professor immensely penalizes us if we turn in any work with typos. Which, fine, we’re in grad school. However, her recipes are riddled with errors and missing information. Ahem.

My friend innocently started melting her chocolate and cream into a ganache because the recipe made it sound like you did that while the cake was baking. Right?!


Apparently not, since this induced another freak out from our professor. Let the record state, the ganache was a success.


The next portion of class consisted of a decorating frenzy.


Nate and Claire really went for it with their coconut cake. Fancy spatulas and so on.

IMG_4360 IMG_4363

Then coconut sprinkling…


Wrapping icing all around…


Flinging coconut onto the sides!


So beautiful.


I also had to walk past this softening strawberries situation a few times.


We were finally in business! Cupcakes were frosted.


Fillings and glazes were complete.


Completed cakes were laid out for admiration….


At this point there was a bit of a lull.

Waiting for one last group’s cake to finish cooling so they could get to the decorating phase.

Certain nutrition students may have stood around eating extra icing out of bowls… this class is SUPER WEIRD, DUDE.


Just as the last group wrapped things up and it seemed we were about to get to dig in… frantic text messages started arriving from the National Weather Service! UNC sent us ALL CAPS alerts! Sirens started wailing! My professor got even more hysterical than usual!

Ridiculous: due to a tornado warning, we then spent the next HOUR AND A HALF crammed into a VERY SMALL BASEMENT with 150 OTHER PUBLIC HEALTH STUDENTS, FACULTY AND STAFF.

It was a little exhausting.

Then, thank God, we got to come upstairs and eat cake.

Here’s that last one:


Ridiculous: I didn’t actually eat that much.

As I am watching the sugar, I packaged up my portion of cake servings in a Tupperware and delivered them to the boy later that day (the way to a man’s heart, eh?). I had a few tastes of things for the purposes of filling out my tasting sheet and called it a day.

But I made a plate for Helena who was too ill with a virus to expose the cooking to her germs but who was healthy enough to stay on campus and study and then join us for the tasting portion.

And she graciously posed with her lovely plate!


From the top, that’s coconut cake (milk in the batter, flakes in the frosting, swoon!), hazelnut torte with strawberries and cream, banana skillet cake with bittersweet chocolate topping, buttermilk cake with marmalade filling and chocolate ganache, and red velvet with cream cheese frosting in the middle.

Ridiculous: yes, I am in nutrition school.


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