Equipment for NEA 1 investigations

My list of essential equipment for investigations – things I have used for my experiments for NEA 1 Food Invesigations 10 Tasks.

Digital scales – you need accurate measurements for testing recipes

Digital scales

Food probe  – use to test setting temperatures of egg mixtures, sauce thickening temperatures and cooking temperature.

Nutrition Program! use to find the nutritional value of flours, sugars, beans, … to help you make choices for foods to investigate.

Digital camera – use your phone

Use phone to capture images

measuring cylinder

NEA 1 Food Investigations 10 Tasks
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Word it out food scienceCaramel

Caramel is made by heating sugar until it turns brown. It is used as a flavouring or colouring for food and drink.


The science bit

Caramelisation is the process of cooking sugar until it turns brown.

If you cook the sugar too much it burns, blackens and breaks down to carbon.

Sugar used in cooking is called sucrose. When you heat sugar, water is removed and the sugar melts. As the sugar cooks it turns from sucrose to glucose and fructose.

Caramelisation starts at very high temperatures so you must not touch or taste until the food is cool.

Sugars in foods all caramelise.

Fructose is a sugar found in honey and fruits and it caramelises at low temperatures, so if you bake products such as cakes with honey, they cook to a darker colour.

Flour sugar is called maltose.


How is it used in food products?

Caramel is used in food and drink products to give a brown colour and creamy, sweet flavour and is labelled E150.

Caramel is the most widely used food colouring. It is made by heating sugar beet or sugar cane.

It is used in ice cream, biscuits, soya sauce, caramel sauce, gravy browning, cola, dessert mixes like Angel Delight.

Allergen alert – caramel can be made from wheat, barley and milk so people with allergies must check the ingredient list.


Make some caramel

You need

A non stick pan, 50 g white sugar, wooden spoon

Making caramel is dangerous as it reaches a very high heat.

Put the sugar in the dry pan and place in the heat.

Let the sugar dissolve and gradually turn dark brown. Swirl the pan – try not to use a spoon as a metal spoon will get very hot.

Do not taste or dip your fingers in it! If hot caramel contacts your skin, run under the cold tap.

To make a praline, can add nuts such as almonds and walnuts to the sugar then pour onto a greased baking sheet, spread and leave to cool for about 1 hour.

Break into pieces or bash with a rolling pin.

What can I cook?

Caramel is used to make sweet dishes such as creme caramel which is a creamy custard cooked on top of a layer of caramel.

Creme caramel

Makes 2


50 g sugar

2 tbs water


2 eggs

10 g caster sugar – 2 tsp

vanilla extract

200 ml whole milk


Heat the oven to 150C/Gas2. You need to ramekin dishes or oven proof tea cup  to cook the custard in.

Make the caramel by heating the sugar and water in a saucepan to dissolve the sugar, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Boil without stirring until the sugar turns dark brown.

Pour the caramel into each of the ramekin dishes and leave to cool.

Whisk the eggs, sugar and vanilla extract with a whisk until smooth. Beat in the milk.

Stain into a measuring jug then pour into each of the ramekins.

Put the ramekins in a roasting tin which is half filled with boiling water.

Cook for 20-30 minutes in the oven until the custard is set.

Cool before serving. Chill in the fridge if possible.

To serve loosen the edges of the custard, cover with a plate and tip out the custard onto the plate with the caramel topping.


Oranges in caramel – serves 4

Slices of orange soaked in caramel sauce – delicious with Greek yogurt.


2 large oranges

100 g sugar

100 ml water


Prepare the oranges by cutting off the peel with a sharp knife.

Slice each orange into very thin rounds and put in a dish along with any of the juice.

To make the caramel, heat the sugar and water in a large saucepan and swirl around to dissolve the sugar. Bring to the boil without stirring and let the syrup become a dark gold colour.

Add the oranges to the pan and stir very quickly to absorb the caramel. If you take too long the caramel will stick to the pan. Tip the oranges onto a flat plate and leave to cool.

Take care not to touch or taste the caramel as it reaches a very high temperature!


Did you know

The lady owner of a grocery shop in Seaford, Sussex made up jars of caramel syrup by heating sugar until golden brown and then adding water. She sold it to customers to use in gravies and puddings.


To do

Use the internet to find 10 products which have caramel as one of their ingredients. In each case explain why it is used.

Why do I need to know the science of caramelisation?

Cooking cakes – the ingredients

Cooking cakes – ingredients matter

What happens if I leave things out?

In this experiment you make a batch of small sponge cakes.

Each time you leave one ingredient out and see what happens.

Why do I need to do that?

If you leave an ingredient out, the look and the taste of the cake changes.

This picture shows sponge cake with no egg, no fat, no baking powder

Cakes with ingredients missing

What to do

Make 4-5 batches of sponge cakes – each batch has an ingredient missing.

Sponge cake basic recipe – makes 6 cakes

60 g margarine
60 g caster sugar
1 egg, beaten
60 g plain flour
1 level teaspoon baking powder
Preheat the oven to 180C.
Beat the margarine and sugar together until creamy.
Beat in the egg and stir in the sieved flour and baking powder until smooth.
Spoon equal amounts into 6 baking cases and bake for 20 -25 minutes until firm and golden.
Cool on a wire rack.

Leave out the egg
Follow the basic recipe but replace the egg with 60 ml (60g) water.
Share into 6 baking cases and bake in the same way.

cake no egg

Leave out the fat – margarine
Mix together the sugar, flour, baking powder and egg to a batter.

Spoon into 6 baking cases and bake in the same way.

cake no fat

Leave out the baking powder
Make the same as the basic recipe but don’t add the baking powder.

Share into 6 baking cases and bake in the same way.

Leave out the sugar
Mix the margarine, flour and baking powder together.
Share into 6 baking cases and bake in the same way.

Use the chart to compare results

Cake Flavour Texture
Basic recipe Buttery, sweet, delicious Spongy with air bubbles and well risen
No egg Sweet and buttery but difficult to eat Dough collapses in middle and is stringy
No fat Dry and sweet but not delicious Spongy and light, but tough
No baking powder Sweet and firm, buttery Firm and rather hard
No sugar No sweetness or butteriness Hard and chewy

What does each ingredient do?
Work it out from the change in flavour and texture of the cakes.

Ingredient in cake What does it do?
Margarine – fat
Baking powder

Of course I didn’t try and cook a cake without flour!