Chocolate: Do you know the science of Oreos?

Chocolate: Do you know the science of Oreos?

A study concluded that there is an ideal ratio of cream and chocolate.

A study concluded that there is an ideal ratio of cream and chocolate.

©Flickr/Kel Bailey

In search of the perfect cream ratio

A study concluded that there is an ideal ratio of cream and chocolate.

Atlantic: I’ve published an Oreology study, the break and flow of my “favorite cookie in milk”. Your study concludes that there is an ideal ratio of cream and chocolate. What is this ratio? How did you manage to find it?

Crystal Owens: Choosing the perfect cream-to-chocolate ratio is a bit personal. Personally, I go for symmetry, which means I want half of the cream with one chocolate waffle, and the other half with the other waffle. Other people seem to like the other proportions, but I think the wafers are too dry without at least a little cream. If you dip it in milk, it’s good in any proportion.

I used a machine to find the perfect way to break the cookie. Is it impossible with the hands of bears?

Our machine is precise, but it doesn’t break cookies in half, but rather breaks them with a pure twisting motion, something that would be hard to do by hand. (The machine’s magic is that it also takes measurements, which tell you how hard to twist a cookie. In our study, we found that the torque required to twist an Oreo is about the same as that needed to turn a doorknob, and slightly less than that required to unscrew a soda bottle cap. According to data that Posted by NASA, a human should be able to roll a cookie 100 times stronger than Oreo, and therefore very soft.

Why focus on Oreos?

Childhood dreams! I follow my heart when it comes to research, sometimes that leads me to engineering new technologies (I’ve filed 5 patents) but most of the time it leads me to food. I have another article that tested mayonnaise.

You’re a PhD student in mechanical engineering at MIT, what’s the point of science with Oreos?

I study complex fluid mechanics, i.e. the flow of unusual fluids. Turns out Cream Oreo is one of those complex liquids, and its physics is similar to my favorite nanomaterials ink that I use on other projects, so that was interesting and fun to study.

What could be the possible extensions of oncology?

I wish everyone would tinker with their food a bit more and explore the complex liquids that surround it, from mud and sand to ketchup and jelly. From a scientific standpoint, the measurements we made on Oreos could help develop gluten-free versions. The taste comes not only from the ingredients, such as the amount of sugar, but also from the crunch or creaminess. If you really want to re-create a gluten-free Oreo, the taste and mechanics have to be right. The study could continue with other foods to follow suit, such as gluten-free croissants, lactose-free cheeses, or low-sugar whipped cream.

A CERN scientist sent me the results of a home test he had done in Geneva. He took four macarons from Pierre Hermé to see how they would separate and found that the meringue broke before the ganache for all four flavours, so they behaved similarly to Oreos. Our research clearly has useful extensions.

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If kids today can enjoy playing with and understanding Oreos, in 10 or 20 years we may have a new group of scientists working on more difficult problems related to soft liquids, such as landslides and avalanches, managing thawing permafrost and creating more nutritious foods.

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