The Chemistry of Custard

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Love it or hate it, custard can be a simple example of how basic ingredients can be used to make complicated mixtures, completely different in appearance, texture and consistency from their original form, as such, it can be 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. Ever since a young age I have always been fascinated watching my mother 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 I was fascinated with what worked and what didn’t, and of course, I liked the taste when it went right.

And so, how can custard be used to teach chemistry? I was beaten (no pun intended) 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.)

Watch this space for a video I am preparing for a friend of mine that teaches in a primary school, an experiment and follow-along video to explain solids and liquids using custard.