Corn Starch vs. Gelatin
Today we are going to learn about two different food thickeners, and compare their effects by making a delicious dessert! Why would we need anything to thicken our food? Can you think of any examples? Make a list.
One common food thickener is cornstarch. Many people use cornstarch to thicken gravies, soups, or sauces. The result is a creamier texture with an opaque appearance.
Another thickener is gelatin. Gelatin is more often used for custards, pie filling, or Jell-O® desserts. Unlike cornstarch products, gelatin allows foods to hold their shape more rigidly, and the appearance of these foods is typically more transparent.
While cornstarch and gelatin are different in some ways, both thickeners require heating to work their magic. Cornstarch thickens food as it is heated, but gelatin thickens food as it cools.
How exactly do these ingredients work?
Starch is a carbohydrate that can come from a variety of plants or grain products, such as potatoes, pasta, or rice. Starch is stored within the plant as an energy source, and is one of the most common carbohydrates in the human diet. If you try to mix starch with water or other cold ingredients, it will eventually settle to the bottom. As starch is heated, the molecules swell, and the tiny grains of starch absorb water. Once that water is trapped in the starch molecules, the food thickens. When the food is removed from heat, it will thicken even more as it cools.
Gelatin is a product that comes from collagen derived from animal skin or bone. In contrast to starch, gelatin is actually a protein. When mixed with cold ingredients, gelatin will not readily dissolve. Once heated, the protein strands lose their bonds with one another and the gelatin becomes a clear syrup. While warm, gelatin causes some thickening, but not much. Once cooled, the protein strands twist together, trapping liquid in between the amino acid bonds, creating a gel. The longer it cools, the firmer the gel becomes.
Now that you understand these two culinary ingredients, let’s move on to the fun part! Today you’re going to make two chocolate pudding desserts! Make sure you take notes along the way to compare your two recipes. Chart the differences in appearance, consistency, and at the end, taste!
YOU WILL NEED:
* 2 ¾ cups Milk
* 3 tablespoons Cocoa powder
* ½ cup Sugar
* 1 teaspoon Vanilla
* ¼ teaspoon salt
* ¼ cup Cornstarch
* 1 tablespoon Gelatin
* 2 Saucepans
* Measuring cups and spoons
* Mixing bowl
* Whisk and stirring spoon
Before you start, look at the cornstarch and gelatin. Write down observations, feel it, notice differences in texture. You may even try mixing each with a bit of water. What happens?
1. Measure the dry ingredients, excluding the gelatin (sugar, salt, cocoa, cornstarch), into one saucepan and mix together. Set aside.
4. Measure 2 ¾ cups milk into the first saucepan of dry ingredients.
5. Place both saucepans on the stove over medium heat. Remember which one is which!
6. Stir both as they heat. You should notice the ingredients begin to dissolve as they heat.
9. Pour the heated milk mixture into the mixing bowl of gelatin and whisk until evenly distributed.
11. Now we wait! You can eat the leftover warm cornstarch pudding while you wait for your gelatin pudding to set. This will take about 2 hours.
12. Once two hours is up, remove both puddings from the refrigerator. Compare the appearance. Scoop a spoonful of each and compare consistency. Try them both! What do you notice? Record your results!
If you want a recipe that’s done fairly quickly, cornstarch pudding is the way to go. It’s thickened within 10 minutes or so, and can cool off in the fridge or even be eaten as a warm creamy treat (yum!).
Gelatin pudding does take a while to set, so you have to plan a few hours in advance. But the result is decidedly different! If you want a fancier dessert that holds its shape and can be layered (think different flavors, colors, or toppings) this is the way to go! Even the basic chocolate recipe we used settled into two different layers, which was really cool! The top layer was a little more jelly-like while the bottom was creamier. You can whip the pudding to have an even consistency, but leaving it in layers makes for an interesting dessert!
Either way, have fun comparing and consuming your delicious puddings!