agitation · baking science · candy · chocolate · chocolate tempering · crystallization · ESL · food science · language · sugar · sugar crystals · words

Agitation

Agitation.  What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think of it?  Your first thought is of something negative.  In fact, it is a verb meaning “to excite and often trouble the mind or feelings of,” according to m-w.com.  I would argue that in cooking and baking, agitation is something you depend on to make things happen.
In the culinary world, to agitate means to move around, stir, mix, whisk, whip, shake, etc.  Doing so can interfere with the setting process and can bring things together.  In candy making, agitation influences sugar crystallization, depending on what you want your final outcome to be.
I remember vividly working with chocolate in pastry school.  Chef would constantly talk about agitation especially with regard to the tempering process.  Types, sizes, and the number of cocoa butter crystals are affected by moving them around.  The basics of chocolate tempering are:  temperature, time, and agitation.  You’re melting and reforming the crystals to recombine them into smooth and shiny usable chocolate for various applications.  Stirring, or agitating, the melted chocolate ensures that the crystals are evenly distributed within the melted chocolate.
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Melting chocolate is a serious business!
It may be the nerd in me, but I find it fascinating how words can be contextually based.  In one situation, it means one thing, yet in another the word can take on a completely different meaning.  As a teacher, I like to collect these words because I know that they will come up especially with English language learners.  How words work and exceptions to rules are the biggest challenges to these learners.
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