Food & Beverage Science
SpaceBread Rises in 5 Seconds

Sam Wilkinson wrote in to share his SpaceBread experiment, part of the International Space Apps Challenge:

By using the process of bread aeration, by which carbon dioxide is actually forced into the bread, the only ingredients required to produce dough are water, flour and carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is mixed with water to form a 8.4×10-2 mol/L solution of carbonic acid, as well as excess aqueous carbon dioxide. If the partial pressure of the carbon dioxide is maintained at 2.5 atm, this concentration of carbonic acid will be maintained as the system enters a dynamic equilibrium between the aqueous carbonic acid and gaseous carbon dioxide. The solution is mixed thoroughly with ordinary flour (and any other required flavourings i.e. salt, sugar etc.) at a (20/7):1 water:flour ratio in a sealed container with the carbon dioxide at a consistent partial pressure of 2.5 atm (about the same pressure as carbon dioxide in a soda bottle). The pressure in the sealed container is then released. This decrease in pressure causes the carbonic acid which is mixed into the flour to be converted into carbon dioxide gas. The carbon dioxide that is evolved from the mixture will be maintained in suspension within the mixture. Combined with microgravity, this will cause an even, leavened dough to be formed.

32 thoughts on “SpaceBread Rises in 5 Seconds

  1. This sounds terrible. Not bread at all. Kind of like Chun King Soy Sauce-like substance, which is made using hydrolyzed yeast extract and caramel color. This is more like a CO2-infused gluten matrix, lacking the yeast metabolic byproducts that contribute to a bread’s flavor.

    1. Those byproducts are formed from autolysis or cell death, and so would not occur if the bread was leavened in space. They are pretty hard to distinguish anyway! Plus because nothing is being metabolised, bread made in this method is more nutritious!!!

    1. A[“e]rated bread, bread raised by charging dough with
      carbonic acid gas, instead of generating the gas in the
      dough by fermentation.
      [1913 Webster]

      I’ve gone over this with my colleagues and it’s our belief that that method uses a different principle. The description of their process is incredibly vague, but we think that the gaseous carbon dioxide is forced into the dough instead of being mixed in in it’s aqueous form. In this context, charging means “to fill to the full or proper extent”, so the dough is filled with the gas.

  2. Ever heard of “beer bread”? You can do the same thing using ginger beer or soda water, not microgravity required.

    1. Probably just of flour. The leavening isn’t really the point of fermentation with yeast. All the flavours of a really good bread come from the metabolic byproducts of the yeast eating the sugars in the flour. I’m a bit of a bread geek, and nothing is more important than a good, slow ferment. Well, maybe bacterial action too, if it’s a sourdough.

  3. I think this is an important experiment, whatever one thinks of the likely result. We know virtually nothing about cooking in a microgravity environment. It’s an almost entirely unexplored area of research. We often see the proposition of farming in space discussed. It’s one of the more convenient methods of in-situ resource utilization. Yet for 50 years astronauts have been eating only camping food. Entirely new culinary processes are going to be needed to fully produce food in space. Even the nature of flavor is different in microgravity. It’s about time someone actually started exploring this rich yet overlooked field.

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