Food experts at The University of Nottingham have helped Heston Blumenthal scientifically answer a question that has bothered him since childhood — yes, chocolate biscuits do taste better after they’ve been dunked in tea. Now he wants to produce an academic paper on the subject.
The team from the Division of Food Sciences in the School of Biosciences came to the Michelin Star chef’s aid during the filming of his latest Channel 4 TV series – Heston’s Fantastical Food. The results will be shown tonight in episode three of the new series which goes out on Channel 4 at 9pm on Tuesday nights.
The lab tests were carried out with the help of Dr Ian Fisk and his team. They had the TV chef hooked up to their special MS-NOSE mass spectrometer in their specially equipped Flavour labs. Heston said: “If you have chocolate on one side, if it melts a bit, you get a velvety smooth texture and then the delicious flavour as a result."
Dr Ian Fisk, an expert in food chemistry whose research focuses on aroma and taste, said: “Heston always makes the real science of food approachable. This is a good example, if a little quirky, of the science that exists behind normal food.”
Using a high powered X-ray Micro-computed Tomography scanner called the Nanotom the Nottingham scientists also helped Heston look at the structure of dunked and undunked biscuits.
Professor Sacha Mooney, from the University’s Division of Agricultural & Environmental Sciences, said: “Our X-ray scanner is mainly used for looking inside plant and soil structures, and even though we have previously scanned some chocolate bars, it was a first for us to actually look how the structure inside a biscuit changes after dunking. The high resolution of the scanner means that we can visualise even the smallest of changes that occur at only a few microns. The work was a great excuse to have a few tea breaks!”
He was taken to the flavour labs where the special MS-NOSE was used to understand the changes that occurred in the biscuit when it was dunked and could explain Heston’s reactions to the aroma of the biscuit and the changes that occurred in these responses when it was dunked.
The researchers, who are based on The University of Nottingham’s Sutton Bonington Campus, are no strangers to media interest. Their work on salt content in food and probiotics recently generated wide media interest. The Nanotom is an interdisciplinary piece of equipment that can analyse anything from soils and sediments, to chunks of pavement, archaeological remains and chocolate bars.
Heston’s Fantastical Food is attracting around two million viewers and supersizes ordinary food like biscuits and breakfast. The University of Nottingham will feature in the programme due for broadcast on Tuesday 20th November.
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