Thursday, October 26, 2006

There is no such thing as an uninteresting subject....

Even Chocolate Cake can provide a interesting subject as we found out today. Our dessert after dinner was chocolate cake and we started to discuss how difficult it would be to make chocolate cake without buying anything. Our recipe for chocolate cake needs; white sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, salt, eggs, milk, vegetable oil, vanilla and hot water.

Cocoa beans and sugar cane grow in similar climates, wheat can grow in many places. We are not sure where you can get baking powder and baking soda but if anyone else knows please let me know. Salt you can get from the sea, for eggs you need a chicken and for milk a cow is necessary. You need a vegetable and a press for vegetable oil, vanilla beans grow in warm climates just like cocoa beans and sugar cane, and water is likely to be in any place where people live.

Okay so you have the backround, now I have a challenge for you. Find a place, or several places where you could have a farm that produces all of these things. Use books, internet, whatever and have fun. Please comment back and tell me what you found.


Anonymous said...

The mapguy and I were working on this for a while. This is our "half baked" research - - - we have to go to bed without finishing all the details:

Chocolate has to be made from the cocoa bean. These grow within about 10 degrees of the equator (with some exceptions eg. Mexico).

Vanilla is from the Orchids of the genus Vanilla. Orchids grow best in warm humid climates. Mexico is favored. Plenty in Madagascar and Tahiti too. We may want to get the vanilla outside Mexico. Interestinly Mexico is the only place it is naturally polinated - by a bee that doesn't like other countries. Thanks to what a 12 year old slave, Edmund Albius, developed in 1841 we can do the polinating ourselves using his technique with just a needle. Once polinated the flower will produce the fruit. The fruit has the vanilla we want.

Baking Soda (Sodium Bicarbonate) is made in different ways but one easy way is with Trona (a mineral) dissolved in water and treated with carbon dioxide (exhale). Trona can be found in a number of places in the US and also at Lake Magadi in the Rift Valley in Kenya.

Sugar cane also grows well in the humid tropics.

Lake Magadi is in an arid region ... not humid. So we would preferably have to locate somewhere within a decent (walking?) distance of the lake. Narobi may be humid enough. Otherwise we could head over towards Lake Victoria. As a last resort we could situate down near the coast where we are SURE it is humid.

We will have to look for strains of wheat and corn that can grown well in a hot climate - they usually prefer more temperatre regions.

We also need some chickens and cows for eggs and butter.

Feel free to correct us!

Dr. Thursday said...

In a pinch, you can substitute a mixture of baking SODA and sour milk or buttermilk for baking POWDER. (I've read it, forgotten it, and never tried it.) Baking SODA is NaHCO3 (Sodium acid carbonate) but baking POWDER is a mixture of baking soda with powdered EDIBLE acids such as tartaric acid, derived from grapes. Food is such a fantastic branch of chemistry - and besides, it's fun to eat!

Some other needed items you might wish to add to your list:
1. a "modern" oven (that is, with a temperature dial) - ask an ancient relative about how hard it was to bake in the old-fashioned wood or coal stoves - cakes were the TRUE TEST of a baker.
2. a timer, though there are ways of checking doneness without.
3. a powered beater - I've beaten any number of mixtures for baking (usually when helping my mother around Christmas!)
4. the other utensils - bowls, spoons, measuring tools, cake pans, and so on
5. a work area
And, because I am a computer scientist even when I bake,
6. THE RECIPE. (Gotta have the algorithm!)

Anonymous said...

This article caught my eye a few weeks back (isn't the internet wonderful?). A chemistry focused cookbook. I haven't bought the book but it does sound fascinating. It usually helps to know the underlying reasons when your project is running into problems. It happens in my world daily.

BTW that tunnel of fudge cake looks pretty sad.

Ana Braga-Henebry said...

So-- did you find sources for all of the ingredients yet?