Man lives for science as well as bread
Have you ever assumed that a particular food would be tasty or flavorful simply because of its name or fame? well my friend and I did. There is an old saying ” when we assume it makes an ass out of you and me”In this case I could easily substitute the word you for her and make this our story.
The famous Christmas Song, Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire is one of my favorite, especially the reggae version. Listening to this song always makes me salivate as I imagine myself sitting around a warm, cozy fireside roasting and enjoying crunchy delicious roasted chesnuts. But that never happened.
A few weeks ago , on my way from church, I stopped at my friend’s house and took my usual seat at the kitchen counter. She offered me a snack then popped the question: “have you ever had chesnuts?” I responded no! but that should be very tasty, remembering the words of the famous christmas song. My friend then handed me a bag of chesnuts which I hurridly open and put one in my mouth. What disappointment! first of all there was no crunch, and secondly this thing had a very bland flavor. This needs to be roasted! I yelled at my friend, who calmly replied “read label” It indeed had the word ” roasted” next to the name. Oh no! this can’t be, I thought to myself. My friend took the remainder of the nuts and headed toward the garbage bin, but I stopped her and offered to take them home.
On my way home I kept thinking about chesnuts, then it suddenly dawned on me that I knew absolutely nothing about them. My curiousity heightened and as soon as I got home I started my research. The first thing I learned about chesnuts was that they are “true nuts” in the botanical and culinary sense. Unlike peanuts which are legumes and almonds which are seeds, chesnuts are the real nuts. They are described as starchy food with sweet taste, are primarily a source of carbohydrate and offer a fairly good source of vitamins and minerals. I also learned that chesnuts offer moderate amounts of fiber which may provide health benefits. Additionally I read that chesnuts have a few potential drawbacks. They are high in oxalates and therefore unsuitable for low oxalate diets, plus horse chesnuts are toxic; yet, they look similar to the sweet chesnuts.
After ensuring that the bag I brought home was not horse chesnuts, I began to think of ways to use these chesnuts. I immediately put on my scientist and baker’s hat. How about designing an experiment with the aim of improving the flavor of these true nuts. But how? Those of you who know me well would agree that I turn pretty much any thing edible into bread. However, transforming these chesnuts will definately pose a challenge. But that is exactly what the Scientific Method is all about: recognition and formulation of a problem, the collection of data through observation and experiment, and the formulation and testing of hypotheses.
I thought of all the exotic tropical fruits that would elevate the flavor of these bland chesnuts. After surveying my freezer and refrigerator, I decided to try the passion fruit. This fruit has sweet tart flavor and comes from the passion fruit vine, a climbing vine with beautiful flowers. It is thought that christian missionaries gave the vine its name when they observed that parts of the flowers resembled christian teachings about the resurrection of christ. Inside of the thick wrinkly rind are sacs filled with orange- colored juice and small crunchy seeds. The juice mixture is known as pulp. I was fortunate to have both the fresh fruit and the frozen pulp. A recent study of Evidence- Based Complementary and Alternative Medecine, reported that purple passion fruit reduced cardiovascular risk factors, such as systolic blood pressure and fatty blood glucose in people with type 2 diabetes. Not a bad choice after all.
Here are the details of The Chesnut Passion Fruit Bread Experiment applying the steps in the Scientific Method.
1. Question: Can the flavor of chesnuts be improved by the addition of an exotic fruit such as passion fruit?
II. Background research: Chesnuts are starchy true nuts, they are less sweet and flavorful than passion fruit.
III. Hypothesis: If I add a sweet tarty fruit to chesnuts when used as an ingredient for a quick bread, then the flavor of the chesnut will be improved.
IV. Experiment: Materials (Ingredients)
- 3/4 cup margarine or butter
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 4 eggs
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 cup passion fruit pulp(thawed)
- 1/2 cup fresh passion fruit
- 1/2 cup raisins
- 1/2 cup chopped chesnuts
1. Grease 2 – 9×5 inch loaf pans and preheat oven 325 degrees F
2. Cream butter or margarine and sugar using a hand mixer
3. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Add vanilla
4. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt
5. In a small bowl, combine passion fruit pulp( thawed), with the fresh passion fruit
6. Add dry ingredients then passion fruit mixture alternately to the creamed mixture. Fold in raisins and chesnuts.
7. Put mixture aside, make a second batch using all the above ingredients except the passion fruit. Substitute 1/2 to 3/4 cup of water.
8. Spread each batter in the prepared tin and label pans using sticky labels. Bake for 50 – 60 minutes or until inserted knife comes out clean. Cool in pan for 10 minutes on a wire rack, then cool completely out of the tin.
V. Data Analysis: A Taste- Test Evaluation Form was completed for both products with directions and a scoring system. Twelve tasters were asked to score the products for flavor from 1= poor to 5= excellent. The forms were collected and analyzed.
VI. Data Interpretation:The results from the data showed that Product B (Passion Fruit Chesnut Bread) was rated 4’s and 5’s while product A (Chesnut Bread) received lower scores of 2’s and 3’s.
VII. Conclusion: My hypothesis was supported by the data. The flavor of the chesnut was indeed improved by the addition of exotic sweet passion fruit.
Thanks Jennifer Johnson for sharing the chesnuts and the West Pines Bible Study Group for participation in the taste test.