Okey-dokie arti-gnocchi + pesto

For the final lab, we made potato ricotta gnocchi with CarolAnn’s father’s recipe for pesto. In our test run, we used Russet potatoes and did not have a potato ricer, so the dough was chewier and had more of a bite than what we made in our final project. The gnocchi had the slightest of bites, but essentially melted in your mouth with a very light, delicate texture. The Yukon potatoes have less water in them than Russet potatoes, so that helped in keeping the gnocchi from becoming too dense, and allowed for the ricotta to shine through in the gnocchi. The ricotta also gave them a lighter texture that melts away in your mouth and leaves you feeling satisfied rather than heavy and weighed down by the strong potato presence. They came out a perfect color too, having a slight yellowish tinge to them, but are lighter than just potato gnocchi because the ricotta lightens the color. The pesto came out a nice green that was only slightly browned, as it should be. We added more oil in this pesto than in the one we made in practice, which allowed for it to nicely coat the gnocchi; it was not too thick or too runny. Because the pesto recipe calls for red pepper flakes that was a little strong of a flavor, especially paired with the garlic, but we both found it to be very palatable. The balance of flavor was a bit strongly towards the spicier side, but the basil and cheese were also nicely present.


The first thing we did was put the pine nuts in the oven to toast at 350 degrees, checking on them every 5 minutes, waiting for them to toast to a golden brown, undergoing a Maillard reaction caused by a reaction in the proteins and sugars, which also increases the aroma of the pine nuts by releasing aroma molecules from the nuts and the toasting. Since making gnocchi involves waiting for potatoes to cook, we started by submerging the potatoes in cool water with salt in the water, placing it over high heat to bring the water to a boil and then lowering it to a simmer when the water boils to cook the potato all the way through without it being a very uneven cook.


Heatin’ em up


As we waited for the potatoes to become tender, we measured out all the other ingredients and put them in the food processor. When the pine nuts were toasted, we added them to the food processor too. We then pulsed the ingredients until they became a smooth pesto, adding a little extra oil to get it to the desired consistency. This released more of the volatile aroma molecules in the basil, giving the pesto a strong odor which was very strongly detected by anyone near our station, because the molecules were travelling into everyone’s noses, binding to the GPCRs in our nasal cell membrane and going through the passages, sending the signal to the brain that there was a strong basil scent.

So tasty!


We waited for the potatoes to finish cooking. We knew they were done when we could pierce them with a fork and it would go in easily, proving they were nice and tender, the starch molecules having loosened due to swelling, having drawn more water into the potato, allowing for the potato to soften and some of the starch to loosen and be released into the water, leaving the potato ready for making the gnocchi. We removed them from the water – dumping out the water and refilling it for when we have to cook the gnocchi – and let them cool for only a minute or two before peeling the potatoes as they cannot be too cool when you start peeling them. Once peeled, we cut them up a little and put them through the smallest blades of the potato ricer.

Making rice(?)


Once they were all riced, we passed the ricotta through a sieve to remove all lumps.

There she goes


We mixed the ricotta into the potatoes. Once fully mixed, we made the mixture into a circle with a well in the center. We put the egg yolks, salt, and flour into the well and mixed it all together, adding extra flour until the dough was no longer sticky.

Combining everything


We cut slices of the dough from the block, rolling it out and cutting small pieces of the dough rope, and then rolled it over a fork to have small ridges in the gnocchi. These ridges are to allow the pesto to hold better to the gnocchi.



After the gnocchi were shaped, we put them in almost boiling, but not a rolling boil. Rolling boiling water will not cook the gnocchi well as they will either fall apart, cook only on the outside, overcook, or undercook. When the gnocchi rose in the water, pulled up by the gaseous bubbles that attach to the gnocchi while in the water, we knew they were ready to be taken out of the water. We pulled them out and set them aside until all the gnocchi were cooked, as we could only do about ten at a time.


There they go!
So pretty


After the gnocchi was done, we repulsed the pesto to remix in the oil that had separated out and then added a couple spoons of the pesto to the gnocchi. We plated them in ramekins with extra cheese on top with a small basil leaf on top.

Oof, look at that



Summary of ingredients, materials, and instructions to make this at home

For the Gnocchi


  • 14 oz of Yukon potatoes
  • 7 oz of ricotta cheese
  • 3 oz of all-purpose flour (plus a little extra in case the dough is too sticky)
  • 2 egg yolks
  • Salt for water and a pinch for the dough


  • Small pot (i.e. 2 quart saucepan or a small stock pot)
  • Potato Ricer
  • Sieve
  • Pastry board
  • Knife
  • Fork or Gnocchi Paddle
  • Slotted Spoon
  • Kitchen Scale


  • Bring water to a boil with potatoes in the pot then reduce to a simmer until they can be pierced with a fork
  • Peel potatoes while hot (but not too hot, don’t burn yourself)
  • Rice the cooked potatoes onto the pastry board
  • Pass the ricotta through a sieve onto the riced potatoes and mix until combined
  • Create a well in the mixture and add the salt, egg yolks, and flour
  • Mix together until the dough is no longer sticky, adding extra flour if needed
  • Create a block of dough and cut slices and roll into ropes that are about ¾ inches in diameter
  • Cut off pieces that are about ¾ inch long and roll over a fork or gnocchi paddle
  • Place about 10 at a time in lightly boiling water (not rolling boiling) and stir a little to make sure they don’t stick to the bottom of the pot
  • Wait for gnocchi to float, then lift out with a slotted spoon and put in a bowl
  • Continue cooking until all gnocchi are cooked


For the Pesto


  • 4-5 cloves of garlic
  • 5 oz of walnuts
  • 5 oz of pine nuts (toasted)
  • 4 cups of loosely packed basil leaves
  • 4 oz of oil (+ extra to get pesto to personal desired texture)
  • Salt to taste
  • 5-2 oz of Romano or Parmesan Cheese
  • 1 hot pepper or 1 tsp dried red pepper flakes


  • Food processor or blender
  • Cheese grater if using a block of cheese
  • Kitchen Scale


  • Measure out all ingredients
  • Place in food processor or blender and pulse until all ingredients are blended
  • Add more cheese, salt, red pepper, garlic, or oil to desired amount and consistency
  • Toss with desired pasta

Panna piu fredda che cotta

Today, CarolAnn and I made panna cotta with a caramel sauce and caramel glazed hazelnuts. This was a two part lab, so on the first day we made the panna cotta.


  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2  teaspoons unflavored gelatin
  • 1 cups heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • Cooking spray

First, we greased the ramekins and set them aside. Then in a saucepan we bloomed the gelatin by sprinkling 2 teaspoons of gelatin onto the milk and letting it sit for five minutes. We then moved the saucepan to the burner and began to heat her up, stirring frequently.

Bloomin’ the gelatin


We checked to make sure the gelatin was dissolved after two minutes by rubbing a bit of the milk mixture between our fingers. Satisfied with how dissolved it was, we added the sugar to the mixture, dissolving it but not letting it boil.

Rubbin’ it between the fingas


After about 5 minutes, we took the saucepan off of the heat and whisked in the vanilla, salt, and heavy cream. Then we poured the mixture into ramekins and allowed them to cool overnight in the refrigerator.

Lettin’ em cool


The next day, we made the caramel sauce and the glazed hazelnuts.

For the caramel

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 7 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt, crushed

For the caramel hazelnuts:

  • Whole hazelnuts, toasted and peeled
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 4 ½ tablespoon sugar
  • 1 pinch salt

First we melted the butter in the cream in a saucepan.

BUttery- creamy- flaky- crust(?)


Next we poured the cream and butter mixture into a measuring cup to sit. After we cleaned out the saucepan we then put the water, sugar, and salt into the pan and made a grainy paste by mixing it all together.

Grainy paste


Then we put it over medium/high heat. When the mixture hit 250 degrees F, it began to boil rapidly and turn translucent.

Ooh she’s at 250


We kept heating the mixture until it reached 320 degrees F, and until it reached the color we were looking for. We then removed the pan from the heat and poured the hot butter and cream mixture into it, stirring until there was no more to add. We poured the caramel off into a measuring cup and let it sit to cool to room temperature.



While the caramel sauce cooled, we made a batch of caramel to coat our hazelnuts which at the time were in the oven toasting at 350 degrees F for 12 big ones. We repeated the process for making the beginning of the caramel sauce by melting sugar and water over medium heat.

One more time


Once the sugar started turning brown, we removed it from the heat. By this time, our hazelnuts were toasted, so we inserted toothpicks into them to dip into the caramel sauce. After dipping them we set them over the sink to drip into icicles. Once the hazelnuts were ready, we removed our panna cotta from the fridge, and used a knife to loosen them in the ramekins, set them in a water bath for 3 seconds, inverted and shook ’em out into bowls.



We then dressed it with the caramel sauce and glazed hazelnuts.

HEY nice


We checked to see how the inside of the panna cotta turned out:

Pretty smooth, I’d say


-Why is the darker caramel, less sweet?

Darker caramel is less sweet because the more sugar that breaks down over the heat, the more caramelin, caramelen and caramelan molecules there will be (these give caramel it’s brown color), and the less sweet sugar molecules there will be.

-At what temperature did YOU see caramelization chemistry occuring? How did you know?

We saw it occurring around ~320 degrees F, we could tell because the mixture started turning brown and looking more complex than it had before.



Integrative Assignment #3

Caprese salad is nothing without fresh basil, with it’s pungent aromas and strong flavor.



I have never been a huge fan of tomatoes, but my mother used to make this caprese salad when we had guests at the house that consisted of mozzarella, tomato slices, and fresh basil. This was the only way I was able to tolerate, and even enjoy, whole tomatoes.  At the time, I thought it must’ve been the mozzarella that made the dish bearable, but now I suspect that the flavor of the basil may have played a larger part in that dish than I had first realized. Turns out, basil is an incredibly important staple of the Italian kitchen.



Caprese salad consists of fresh tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil, and can also be topped with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar.


Chemical Analysis:

Perhaps more important than the taste is the smell of basil. The odorants (aroma molecules) contained in basil are experienced through our noses, which contain about 350 different GPCR proteins that the molecule can bind to. When this happens, an enzyme called adenylate cyclase triggers a second messenger called cyclic AMP (cAMP). Terpenes are aroma molecules that are very volatile, and are experienced more in fresh basil than phenolics are. So, the basil used in a caprese salad will have more of a citrusy, fresh, floral aroma than if the basil is cooked which would trigger the phenolics to be released which would give the basil a warmer, sweeter scent. The phenolics can also be triggered as we eat, which is why the basil in a caprese salad has a warmer taste than one might expect from the scent.


Cultural Analysis:

The modern word for basil comes from from the Greek word basilikón, meaning king or kingly. Another word with the same root is “basilica”, which is a designation given by the pope to certain churches. Like with these churches, basil is thought to be “more holy” than other herbs. Greek orthodox used to place a leaf of basil on their tongues as they spoke to give their words sweetness and truth. This has lead basil to become important in culinary practices, especially in Italy, where it has become an essential ingredient in many dishes, like caprese salad.

Lisabetta waters the basil plant with her tears and oils, keeping the plant alive and therefore ensuring that Lorenzo’s passage to heaven is completed.



In Boccaccio’s Decameron, basil plays a central role in the story of Lisabetta and her lover, Lorenzo. In the story, Lorenzo is tricked into going into the foothills with Lisabetta’s brothers, who there kill him and bury him without ceremony. Lisabetta is overcome with grief when Lorenzo does not return, but she eventually discovers the truth and goes to where his body lies. Not knowing what else to do, and unable to leave him, Lisabetta rends Lorenzo’s head from his body and takes it back home with her where she buries it in a pot of basil. The basil here serves several functions, one of which being that it masks the scent of the decaying head with a sweet, pleasant aroma, from the terpenes in the plant interacting with the receptors in the noses of those who were in the area around it. Because of the religious connotations that basil has, burying the head in the pot also grants a somewhat holy status to Lorenzo’s memory, as his body is now providing nutrients for and sustaining a holy entity, giving him a crown of basil to lead him to heaven.

Figuring Out Food Part 3



Foods: Dried coconut strips, maple syrup, cardamom, sea salt, cayenne, cocoa powder, vanilla bean extract

None of the ingredients are additives because none of them are intended to alter to food in any way, they are all present to influence the taste.



Vitamin C: 1.7mg (out of 28g/serving)

Vitamin C structure


Vitamin C is a very important part of the diet. It provides antioxidants, it aids the formation of collagen and connective tissue, aids in the function of the immune system, and is an important part of healing wounds.

Potassium:  170mg (out of 28g/serving)

Potassium is of particular concern to the American diet, as it helps to regulate blood pressure, carbohydrate metabolism, fluid balance, growth and development, heart function, muscle contraction, nervous system function, and protein formation.


The sugar in this food item comes from the coconut and the maple syrup.  The sugar from coconuts is 50% fructose and 50% glucose. The sugar in maple syrup comes primarily from sucrose, which again is glucose and fructose.

The primary source of fiber in the food item is coconut, which has 93% insoluble fiber. There are 40 calories from carbohydrate, because there are 4 calories/carbohydrate, and there are 10 carbs/serving in this food item.

Merengue con Zumbaglione

This week CarolAnn and I had the pleasure of making a lil Meringa con Zabaglione


  • 1 cup superfine sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
  • 5 egg whites, at room temperature

Zabaglione Custard:

  • 5 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup of superfine sugar
  • 2 tbsp almond extract

Because we did not have super fine sugar, we ran a cup and two teaspoons of granulated white sugar through a food processor for 30 seconds. This gave us the fine sugar that would dissolve nicely when we put it in half a cup of water and began to heat it so it would dissolve and create a simple syrup.

While waiting for the water to reach the right temperature we separated 5 egg whites from their yolks, added 1/4 teaspoon of cream of tartar, and began to beat them furiously until we achieved soft peaks.

The softest of peaks


Once the soft peaks had been attained, we added the water and sugar mixture once it had reached ~236 big ones Fahrenheit. We knew that the water/sugar mixture was ready to be added to the egg whites once it formed a soft ball after being dropped into cool water.

Look at that


We then continued to beat the egg white mixture while slowly adding the water/sugar mixture until the whites formed stiff peaks.

Dang, look at them stiff peaks


We then stuck the beaten egg whites into the oven, that had been preheated to 200 big ones Fahrenheit. We then left them there for two hours while they cooked, rotating them so they all received equal amounts of heat.

Next we did a whole bunch of waiting, and when the meringe had half an hour left we began to make the zabaglione. We started by boiling about an inch of water in a pot, and once it got there we put a metal bowl with the five spare egg yolks, a half cup of super fine sugar, and two teaspoons of almond extract on top of the pot with the boiling water.

Beginning to stir the zabaglione
Gettin’ crazy


We stirred the zabaglione until we were able to see tracks from the whisk in the sauce. Then we removed it from heat and set it onto a kitchen towel and kept stirring. However because the bowl retained the heat, the custard overcooked and was not as runny as it should’ve been. To remedy this we could have put the metal bowl into an ice bath to cool it faster.

At this point, we were able to pull the meringa out of the oven, and they were a nice golden brown color.

Look at that!


Next we piped the zabaglione into the finished meringas, and topped them with berries.

Che belle!


1.What chemical changes occurred when you made the meringue/meringa? What did you observe that told you these chemical changes were happening?

The proteins in the egg white denatured due to the agitation by beating. We used a hand beater to whip the egg whites, watching them go from clear and liquidy to opaque and fluffy.

2.What was responsible for the thickening of the zabaglione as you stirred it over the hot water bath?

The cooking of the eggs with the denaturing and coagulation of the protein which thickens the zabaglione.

3.Overheating (too fast and or too hot) the zabaglione can leave you with “scrambled eggs” – a lumpy grainy mess of clumps in watery liquid. What is happening in this case?

In this case, the eggs are getting too hot and the proteins and fats end up lumping together, excluding the water from the mixture, making it thick and lumpy.



Integrative Assignment #2

Olive Oil for dippin’



I didn’t have terribly too much experience with olive oil growing up, and what experiences I did have usually took place in an italian restaurant before the meal was served. I very much enjoyed the couple of times a year when I was able to dip my bread in the little bowl of olive oil and balsamic vinegar(and still do enjoy it, might I add). However it has come to my attention that this is not done in Italy! Apparently this is an American invention that the Italians do not partake in. Turns out olive oil is used in many different ways that I had never imagined it could be, and not just for dipping bread into.



The dish? Biscotti. The main source of fat? Olive oil. The term “biscotti” refers to hard cookies that are often dipped in coffee here in America. However, in Italian, “biscotto/i” refers to any sort of cookie. The biscotti we made in class were the kind that you might dip into a mug of coffee, and one of the central ingredients was the olive oil that took the place of butter as the source of fat in the dish. The olive oil gave the dish a different taste when compared to the biscotti made with butter. The butter biscotti were a little crispier, while the olive oil biscotti were a little softer and melted in your mouth. 

Biscotti made with Olive Oil


Chemical Analysis:

Olive Oil is made up of strings of hydrophilic and hydrophobic triglycerides. These triglycerides are made up of a glycerol backbone with three side chains coming out of it, and are unsaturated, making them liquid at room temperature.

A triglyceride molecule, made up of a gycerol backbone, and three fatty acid side chains


The reason we add olive oil to the biscotti dough, is so the dough is not able to form as much gluten as it would be able to without the added oil. The oil coats the flour and makes it harder to form a strong gluten matrix. The gluten matrix is unable to form because of the hydrophobic fat coating the flour particles. This prevents what little water there is in the recipe from working with the flour to produce the gluten matrix. The result of this is still a cohesive cookie, but not one that will break your teeth.

Cultural Analysis:

The Italian people love their olive oil, and none more so than the people of Puglia in southern Italy. Here, olive groves cover the landscape and olive oil is produced by the barrel. The most sought after oil, the extra virgin stuff, comes from from a special and highly regulated process involving strict steps and timelines. For instance, to make extra virgin oil, olives must be picked from the tree and delivered to the press within twenty four hours. Any longer delay, and the olives might begin to lose their ability to make the freshest oil possible. Once it is produced, the extra virgin oil is enjoyed on many types of food, and in many recipes around the country. In Extra Virginity, the family that produces artisinal extra virgin olive oil enjoys their product on nearly everything they eat, as it has such rich flavors and health benefits. Instead of simply sopping up the oil with bread, these kinds of families enjoy their oil on raw vegetables, or in other cooked dishes. 

Because there is such a demand for high quality extra virgin olive oil, and because it is so costly to produce correctly, there has been in recent years an increase in olive oil fraud. Shady individuals looking to make some money have been known to cut the extra virgin oil with less pure or fresh oil called lampante. It is very hard for people to tell the difference between 100% extra virgin and bastardized oil, so often times these frauds go undetected. Only recently have Italian police forces been training their officers to be able to detect fraudulent oil by smell. There are many other ways of bastardizing extra virgin olive oil, from performing chemistry on it, to simply lying or misleading customers about where it came from. The United States alone imported over 306,844 tons of olive oil in 2016 (Olive Oil Times), and where many of those bottles of oil say allude to coming “straight from Italy” or being 100% Italian, many might have come from other countries such as Morocco or Spain. There is a such high demand in the United States for “real, authentic Italian cooking” that people are drawn to fraud for the money. In my experience olive oil has more or less always been used as an appetizer in the fashion I mentioned above, and only recently have I discovered it’s other merits. I find it likely that I was the only person who was ignorant to the full glory of extra virgin oil, and will now do my best to inform people about this tasty product.


It seems that in almost every Italian recipe you come across, olive oil can be included in some way. From making biscotti, to preparing a salad, to when Secondo prepared eggs for breakfast in Big Night. Olive oil is a staple in Italian households that could not be done without when families immigrated to the United States in the 1880’s. In this way olive oil can be seen as the glycerol backbone that holds together the side chains of Italian cooking.  Without it olive oil, many Italian recipes would lack a critical ingredient that gives the dish character. These recipes are the free fatty acids that need that glycerol backbone of olive oil to ground them, and give them identity and a purpose. 

Food Journal

Over the break I didn’t encounter too many Italian dishes, but my father did make spaghetti and meatballs one night. I got home from work that night around 9pm, and had to heat the now cold spaghetti and meatballs in the microwave. This rendered the pasta sort of warm, but I knew that I wouldn’t be able to achieve the genuine heat that the pasta would’ve had had it just come out of the pot. The resulting meal was more or less satisfying, but I could not help but think about how the dish was a far cry from the pasta that real Italians would enjoy. As I was eating the lukewarm noodles I thought about how the dish didn’t exist until Italian immigrants invented it when they came to the United States in the late 1800’s.

The other encounter I had with “Italian cuisine” while delivering pizza at my job. The pizza I delivered was made in about 15 minutes, and then shipped out the door to homes around Essex Junction. I’m sure that this isn’t pizza that would be acceptable in Italy, but it’s pizza that is acceptable in the United States. The real good stuff, that has been carefully hand tossed and covered in sauce made with an ancient recipe remains the property of the Italians and select places in the States, such as L&B Spumoni Gardens (Brooklyn, NY). This pizza was a revelation for me because it wasn’t covered all over in cheese, but rather the sauce was the star ingredient. The crust was thin, and the sauce was not too overpowering. This was pizza that Italians would be proud of! (I think, at least. . . I really couldn’t say for sure)

Figuring Out Food Part Two


1. What is protein?

Proteins are chains of amino acids that have many functions. Proteins are amphiphilic, meaning they have polar and non-polar charges and can act as an emulsifier in cooking. The structure of proteins consists of alpha helices and beta strands and are hydrophobic and hydrophilic.

2. What is the % DV of Protein in this item?

About 2% of your daily protein comes from this item. This means that one half cup of this food will only provide you with 2% of the protein you need when eating a 2,000 calorie diet. There are about 2g of protein in this food, and the recommended daily amount of protein for a 2,000 calorie diet is about 100g.

3. Which ingredients contribute to protein?

All of the protein in this food comes from the coconut strips.

4. How many calories come from protein?

8 calories from protein, because there are about 4 calories/gram of protein.

5. What is fat?

Fats are hydrophobic substances, meaning they have only non-polar charges. The triglycerides that fats are made of can be either: monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, or saturated.

6. What is the % DV fat in the food?

There are 78g of fat in a 2,000 calorie diet. This food has 13g of fat, which turns out to be about 20% of your daily value of fat.

7. What ingredients contribute to the fat content?

Most of the fat in this food comes from the coconut, while trace amounts come from the cocoa powder, cardamom, and cayenne pepper.

8. How many types of fat does the food contain

11g of saturated fat, 2g of unsaturated fat.

9. How many calories come from fat?

About 120 calories from fat here, as there are 9 calories/g of fat.



Tomato? Potato? Biscotto!

Today in class we made biscotti! We followed the classic southern Italian recipe that uses olive oil as its fat.

  • 1/2 cup roasted almonds, coarsely chopped
  • 1 large egg
  • grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

First we toasted the almonds at 350 degrees F for 12 minutes, took them out to cool, and then chopped them.

Them chopped toasties


While the almonds were toasting, we mixed the sugar, olive oil, vanilla and almond extracts, 1 egg, and lemon zest.

Once the almonds were chopped, we added them to a mixture of flour, baking powder, and salt. Then we slowly added the dry mixture into the wet one, stirring it as more was added.

The stiff dough


The end result here was a very stiff, sticky dough that we then shaped into an 8″ long rectangle that we then stuck into the oven at 350 degrees F for 28 minutes total, rotating the dough halfway through the process.

The log


Then we took her out to cool for 12 big ones, while turning the oven down to 250 degrees F. After the log was cooled, we cut it up into 11 beautiful baby biscotti.

Cuttin’ her up


I nostri figli bellissimi: Grazia, Piero, Gigio, Francesco, Lauretta, Maria, Secondo, Paolo, Rosalba, Iacomo, e Fiorina


Next, we put the now cut biscotti back into the oven for 14 big ones total, rotating them halfway through.

Post oven biscotti


We compared our olive oil biscotti side by side with some other biscotti that another group made using butter as the fat element.

butter vs. olive oil biscotti


Baked in a buttery-fll–flake-cRIspy crust.


1.Why is butter a solid at room temperature while olive oil is a liquid.

The saturated fat in butter allows the molecules to stack and use Van der Waals attractions, due to its structure, to ‘nestle’ closely with other triglycerides which allows butter to be a solid. Olive oil is comprised of unsaturated fats which have double bonds between carbons which cause the structure to curve, preventing stacking from being structured the way it is with saturated fats, and causes oil to be a liquid at room temperature.

2. Remember that butter has 20% water – what will happen to that water in the hot oven? How might that impact the texture?

The water will evaporate and render the dough crispier than the biscotti made with the olive oil.

3. When mixing the ingredients you added the flour mixture slowly to the fat/oil mixture. What effect does the fat/oil have on gluten formation in the dough? What about your biscotti supports your conclusion?

The oil prevents too much gluten from being formed because it coats the flour as it is added to the liquid ingredients. The dough is able to form enough gluten to be cohesive, but not enough to yield a crunchier cookie.


Integrative Assignment #1


I have always assumed that a staple of Italian food was pizza. I believed this because it seemed a relatively easy meal to put together because it does not require many ingredients. I was surprised to learn that pizza had not always been so prevalent in the diet of Italians, and even when it was I was more surprised that it was primarily eaten by poor people. It seems to me that people of all classes in the modern day enjoy pizza, but back then it was an easy meal to make and sell on the street, alongside being relatively mess-free.


The dish I have learned the most about so far in the course is bread. We have studied how it is made, what ingredients go into making it, and the science behind how the ingredients work together to produce a satisfying loaf.


The most important ingredient in the process of baking bread is the gluten. Without gluten, bread would not be able to rise as effectively. Porous, light bread is essential to the Italian diet, so gluten is especially important here. Gluten is formed by the two proteins glutenin and gliadin, that exist in wheat, barley, and rye flours. The other important part of baking bread is the protein concentration in the flour. The less protein there is in the recipe, the less gluten will be formed, and the less the bread will rise. Bread flours have the highest concentration of protein (~14%), and then all purpose flours(~8%), and finally cake flours (~4%).

The gluten  forms a hexagonal matrix when combined with water that makes the dough come together. This matrix effectively forms a balloon that allows the dough to rise with it is filled with a gas. Yeast are added to the bread dough as the producers of the gas that will fill the gluten balloon. These unicellular organisms will perform the processes of glycolysis and fermentation, which along with producing ATP for the yeast to use will produce CO2 gas that will fill the gluten balloon. Depending on how extensive the gluten matrix is in the bread dough (which kind of flour was used in the recipe), the dough will rise different amounts to produce different textures.

The ciabatta bread pictured above was leavened with yeast, which resulted in it’s porous interior. Without the yeast’s fermentation, this light, airy bread would be impossible to make.


While bread is still an important staple to the Italians today, it used to have a much more serious role. For some farming families during the middle ages and renaissance, bread was their primary source of nourishment. Farmers either siphoned off small portions of the grain they grew to bake bread, or used their meager earnings to purchase tough loaves from bakers in town.  In Fenoglio’s Ruin, a boy and his family spend every day worrying and fighting for their next meal. The boy’s father sells his son into servitude for a few napoleons per year, and the mother would endure long walks to far off towns just to get a better price on what she could sell.

In Manzoni’s The Betrothed, Renzo enters a town to find it in turmoil. The townspeople are up in arms because the town leadership has been withholding resources from them, and they are going hungry. The townspeople resolve to break into the bakeries and steal the precious bread and flour. The ensuing chaos sees bakeries destroyed and looted, and the town ultimately is worse off because now it no longer has the means to produce bread, as the ovens had been destroyed in the mob’s rage. We can see from this that towns were built upon and razed because of bread. So important was this means of sustenance to the people that they were willing to do whatever they had to to get enough to feed themselves so they might survive another day.


The gluten matrix in bread dough is what allows it to rise and become everything it can. It can only rise with the help of yeast performing the processes that it needs to to provide itself with sustenance. The Italian people can be compared to the gluten matrix in that they are what hold Italy (the entire loaf) together. Without its people, Italy would not be a country of any import. Meanwhile, the yeast can be compared to the bread that the people need to stay alive. Without the yeast undergoing fermentation, there would be no CO2 gas to make the dough rise. Ultimately, this would result in an unsatisfyingly tough loaf. Give the Italian people enough bread to live, and they will no longer need to spend every waking moment worrying about where their next meal will come from, and thus be able to focus on improving their lives in other ways. The bread makes the people rise and become all they can be.