Today’s stealth homeschool project: making caramels.
So PK mentioned last night that he wished we had some caramel around. Thinking of my need to become more flexible and get him to do things other than play video games all day, I said “we could make some tomorrow.” Which he bought into.
Then this morning he mentions it again. So, clever me, I hauled Harold McGee down from the shelf (having bought it in the first place on my boyfriend’s recommendation, both b/c it sounded really interesting and thinking PK might learn something from it–but PK never seemed too interested) and said, “here, look up ‘caramel’ in this.”
While he was doing it, I played a little dumb. “I think caramel is just melted sugar, isn’t it?”
“No, mama, it’s not exactly the same as sugar, because there’s a chemical reaction that actually changes the molecular structure.”
“Hm. I wonder how.”
“The heat changes it.”
“No, I mean, I wonder what the specific molecules are.”
“If I remember, I think it’s something like C12H11O10, or something like that. At least they’re all double-digits, and I think it’s carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen.”*
“I’ll be impressed if you’re right.”
From McGee, he learned that caramel is, in fact, caramalized sugar (i.e., melted sugar–the melting is a chemical reaction, but I didn’t fuss at him about that), and that caramel, the candy, is caramelized sugar with milk fat added.
“This says that the more milk fat, the less the caramel sticks to your teeth. So since I have braces, we’ll have to add a lot of milk fat.”
Since PK has expressed an interest in learning to cook, I’m beginning to see how the chemistry component of this, at least, might work.
*I couldn’t get him to look it up himself, or to look up “Maillard reaction,” which is something McGee talks about. Nor has he yet looked up an actual recipe for caramel; as soon as he got back on his laptop it was back to the video games. But baby steps; the summer’s not even over yet.