What Is Food Coloring Made Of?

Colorful Foods Day 5
Q. What is natural food coloring made of?

A. Well...
Red: Cochineal beetles, Beets, Paprika
Orange: Achiote blossom seeds
Yellow: Saffron stems & flowers
Green: Chlorophyll from algae, Pandan plant
Blue: Elderberry juice, Butterfly pea flowers
Brown: Caramelized sugar

Yum. :) Although most of the common things we eat are made from artificial food coloring... which is a subject for some other day!


Red Wine From Purple Grapes?

Colorful Foods Day 4

Q. Why do the same color grapes produce red wine but purple grape juice?

A. Yes, both are made with a combination of red, purple, and black grapes, but...

As I understand it, for red wine, the grape skins, stems, and seeds are all used. In the skins and seeds of red grapes are compounds called Tannins, which release a red color during the fermenting process. Tannins can also be released from the barrels used to store the aging wine, which can add a bit more redness, too.

Grape juice, however, is mashed and strained, and therefore contains mostly just the juice. Without the extra tannins from the skins, etc, and the barrels, the color ends up more as a blending of the natural grape-color. Plus, most commercial grape juice is made from Concord grapes, which tend to be more bluish-purple in color anyway.

That's my best guess at least. :) I have a very limited wine knowledge, so if you know other reasons, please comment!


What Makes Dirty Rice Brown?

Colorful Foods Day 3

Q. What makes the traditional Cajun side "Dirty Rice" brown?

A. Chicken liver and giblets.

Think I was going to say some sort of spice? :) That's what I thought! The rice starts as white rice, but after it's cooked with some small pieces of chicken liver and giblets, it becomes its more distinctive "dirty" color.


Why Is Red Velvet Cake Red?

Colorful Foods Day 2

A. What makes Red Velvet Cake red?

B. Food coloring and sometimes beetroot.

Originally, some of the reddish color may have occurred naturally. One of the ingredients in the cake is cocoa. Cocoa possesses a natural pigment called Anthocyanin, which can appear red or purplish. In early red velvet cake recipes, before the cocoa was more thoroughly pre-processed, bakers may have seen the red pigment come out when mixed with vinegar, baking soda, or buttermilk (again because of chemical reactions). Regardless, most ended up adding some sort of food coloring anyway!


What Makes Pumpernickel Bread Brown?

This week is dedicated to the unusual colors of common foods. For some reason, it's been coming up randomly a lot recently in my life!

Colorful Foods Day 1

Q. What makes American pumpernickel bread dark brown?

A. Molasses, cocoa powder, coffee, and possibly food coloring

The original German pumpernickel bread got its rich chocolaty-coffee flavor and color from a chemical reaction between the amino acids and sugars in the dough while the bread baked for an exceedingly long time (16-24 hours).

Americans changed the recipe for economic reasons, in case you were wondering. :)


How Well Can People Pay Attention?

There was a really cool bit on NPR's Science Friday this afternoon evaluating how aware humans are while focusing on a specific task. The conclusions are pretty fascinating!

The following videos were part of a study from Daniel Simons and Christopher Chabris, testing how well people can pay attention. Try it out!

How did you do? Were you surprised by the result?

Now try this test:

Tricky, huh? It kind of made me wonder if things like talking on the cellphone while driving should be illegal!

To listen to the entire segment from Science Friday, you can find the podcast here.