From STEM to Stem Glass
“I haven’t failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” These famous words by Thomas Edison can be heard in STEM classrooms all over the world. For anyone unfamiliar with the term, STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
In a basic Google search, examples of some careers found on the STEM list are as follows; zoologist, microbiologist, network and systems administrator, health and safety engineer, aerospace engineer, physicist, and astronomer. Not found on the list, is chef.
This came as a surprise to me because cooking is actually a form of science…food science to be exact. Both professional chefs and home cooks need at least a basic knowledge of chemistry in order to be successful. Sugar, salt, acids, thickening agents, leavening agents, and temperature all work together in different ways. Recipe makers combine ingredients in varying ratios and cooking methods to create a new product. Hopefully, if calculations were correct, that product is appetizing. If not, the recipe maker reworks the recipe until they reach the desired outcome.
Now, I love to cook. Not only do I enjoy the science of it, I enjoy adding my own creative flare in order to make recipes my own. The only time you will find me following a recipe to a T is when I am trying a recipe out for the very first time. I like to think of it as my control sample. When I start experimenting with ratios or adding in new ingredients, I will be able to judge what worked and what didn’t since I know the intended outcome.
If you’ve been following along thus far, you know that food in our house is a complicated topic. If you’re new to my site, let me catch you up to speed quickly by using the STEM method of mathematics.
One night while mindlessly scrolling through my phone, I stumbled upon a recipe for healthy gummy snacks that were peanut free, dairy free, dye free, and with no added cane sugar. All the recipe called for was 1 cup juice of choice, 2 tablespoons of honey (if needed), and 4 tablespoons natural gelatin. Bring the juice and honey to a near boil, add in gelatin, whisk until dissolved, drop into gummy molds, and refrigerate until set. Find the link to the recipe I found here. Sounded simple enough!
The next morning, I took off to the store. Like my old friend Road Runner, I disappeared into a cloud of dust as I beelined it to the juice section. Aisle after aisle blurred past until something in my peripheral vision caught my attention. The wine aisle…
As soon as I stopped walking, the little angel poofed onto my shoulder. “Are you really thinking about using wine as your ‘juice of choice?’” I replied with “Well, obviously not for the kids but…” Before I could finish my thought, the little devil poofed onto the other shoulder and said “Just picture it. You’re soaking in a bath. Candles are lit. Kids are sleeping. and there, on the side of the tub, sits a bowl of Moscato gummies…” I looked at the angel and the angel looked at me. “Well, what would Jesus do?” Asked the angel. After thinking about it for a second I replied “Well, Jesus did turn water into wine. Wine into gummies doesn’t seem like that big of a leap.”
So, off I walked with my wine in hand, when something else caught my attention. The coffee aisle… Let me tell you that if I’m mad enough to turn wine into gummies, you bet your bottom dollar coffee is coming along for the experiment too.
I finally entered the juice aisle, with my wine and coffee in hand, ready to pick out juice for the kids. After some light label reading, I picked tart cherry, apple, and pineapple. I rushed to the checkout, raced home, and immediately dove in to the experiment.
Bring It On
I followed the directions to a T. I was amazed at how quick and easy the process was. I started imagining the endless possibilities and concoctions I could make using this method. The mix was near boil, I added the gelatin, and was on to the next step.
It took me a couple tries to get the technique down. There’s about a one drop difference between not enough, just right, and too much. Hold the dropper just right so extra mix doesn’t drip out. Stop squeezing before you get to the bubbles so you don’t end up with froth in your molds. It’s simple once you get the hang of it.
The next batch looked better. It still had some froth, but I was getting quicker and there was hardly any drips or spills. Once filled, I popped the gummy molds into the fridge and waited for them to solidify.
When the timer beeped, I ran to the refrigerator in anticipation. I threw open the door, popped the gelatinous shape out of it’s bed, and tossed it into my mouth. As soon as the gummy hit my tongue, I knew something was wrong. There was zero flavor. I quickly took a swig of the nearest open juice container just to make sure that I could taste because…well, you know… COVID. I breathed a sigh of relief as the familiar sweet taste of the juice crossed my palette.
“Maybe it was just that flavor” I thought to myself. I grabbed one from each tray and started my gummy taste test. One by one, less and less flavor. My disappointment reached a climax when I reached my beloved wine and coffee shapes to find them worse than the rest.
At this point, I concluded this experiment had failed. I started to investigate what happened. How does juice go from tasting delicious to no flavor in just a few minor steps? The recipes changed each time…what didn’t? The conclusion was the gelatin. Without getting too scientific, gelatin can act like an acid or a base depending on it’s pH. In this case, the PH created a flavorless product. What a shame!
Better Luck Next Time
Failure happens. Was I disappointed to spend a small fortune on this experiment and reap no gummy rewards? Sure. Alas, my journey to healthy homemade gummies is not over yet. There’s other gelatin types, other juices, other sweeteners that have yet to be explored. Until then, I am pouring myself a bottle of the Moscato d’ Asti, topping it off with the tart cherry juice, and garnishing it with the flavorless, gelatinous shapes. When life gives you lemons, make a faux Boba spritzer.glass! Cheers to next time!