The Chemistry of Custard

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Love it or hate it, custard is a simple example of how basic ingredients can be used to make a complicated mixture, completely different in appearance, texture and consistency from its original form, as such, custard is a starting point for explaining chemistry.

So, as my first post, I should indulge in the custom of explaining my initial thoughts behind this blog, and yes… where the custard idea came from. I have always been fascinated with custard as I used to watch my mum in the kitchen open a colourful tub of yellow powder, add milk, and heat over the hob in a saucepan with some frantic stirring. (No- she didn’t have the time to make it from scratch.)  I often saw her flapping as the mixture became lumpy, causing her to scurry across to the kitchen sink for it to cool, with even more frantic stirring. I never understood what was happening with this lurid yellow substance, but I loved the drama it seemed to evoke in our kitchen when it didn’t go right. My naturally inquisitive mind was already beginning to problem solve and wonder what was happening. I would always ask her why it worked and why it didn’t some times, and of course, I liked the taste when it went right.

And so, how can custard be used to teach chemistry? I was beaten to it by the RSC with a short video, aimed at primary school teachers, which demonstrates an experiment called “Bouncy Custard” that can be used when learning about solids. The video is available on the National STEM Centre website here: http://www.nationalstemcentre.org.uk/elibrary/resource/9098/bouncy-custard. (However you may have to register- for free- to gain access to the resources.)