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Food Science


The twists and turns of Oreo cookie cream, and flavorful fun with tasty toy bubbles

by Mitch Jacoby
June 6, 2022 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 100, Issue 20


Cookie cream rheology

Oreo cookies.
Credit: Shutterstock
Let's do the twist: A new study explores Oreo cookie cream rheology.

In 2016, Newscripts told a tale of twisting tasty treats, a story about Princeton University engineers who tried to figure out where the cream filling will end up when Oreos are split apart by rotating the wafers in opposite directions. By separating many cookies by hand, the group found, surprisingly, that the filling nearly always adheres to just one of the wafers—likely a result of the manufacturing process.

That quirky finding led Massachusetts Institute of Technology graduate student Crystal E. Owens to take a deep dive into the curious cookie conundrum, probing the fluid mechanics of the tasty cream using the tools of rheology, her specialty. “When I was little, I loved eating Oreos by twisting them apart,” Owens tells Newscripts. Still fond of the playful pastime, Owens recently discovered that it has educational value. “Oreos are the perfect model to explain to students how a laboratory rheometer works,” she says: put a fluid between two parallel plates and counter rotate to measure the sample’s viscosity.

Owens usually uses that approach to characterize inks for 3D printing, but she realized it was an ideal way to study cookie cream. Using a rheometer, she measured the cream’s fracture mechanics, probing the influence of rotation rate, amount of cream, flavor components, and other variables on the stress-strain curve and postmortem cream distribution. The quantitative results were consistent with the earlier qualitative ones. The cream nearly always ends up on one of the wafers—the one to which the warm ball of filling is applied during manufacturing. That wafer can be identified by the cookies’ orientation within a package.

Inspired by the results and educational opportunity, Owens designed an open-source, 3D-printed Oreometer, a device powered by rubber bands and coins—with a materials cost of $6, versus $100,000 for the lab version—to encourage home experimentation in the new field of Oreology (Phys. Fluids 2022, DOI: 10.1063/5.0085362).


Fancy flavors for edible bubbles

A child playing with toy bubbles.
Credit: Shutterstock
Pops of flavor: Toy bubbles are now made with food-grade ingredients.

To most people, blowing soap bubbles and catching them on the tongue may seem like a simple, safe, time-honored tradition—happy, harmless, and hardly worth a second thought. Not to Jason Tiger. Four years of working at a major manufacturer of bubbles and bubble toys led him to rethink the playful pastime.

“The toy bubble industry is so saturated—no innovation, just a race to the bottom to cut cost and use the cheapest ingredients,” Tiger tells Newscripts. And although bubble trouble is rare, he says, allergists note that the soap solution can cause rashes and upset stomach if ingested.

“I wanted to produce a bubble product that’s a more safe and more fun alternative,” he says. Enter BubbleLick, a line of flavored bubbles made from food- and pharmaceutical-grade ingredients by Bubble Universe, the company Tiger founded and leads as CEO.

The blissful bubbles, which come in watermelon, cotton candy, milk chocolate chip, cinnamon, and other flavors, contain a sweetener (Advantame), citric acid, sodium lauryl sulfate, potassium sorbate, sodium benzoate, and other ingredients, all of which are approved by the US Food and Drug Administration.

“Think of it as flying candy,” Tiger says. “Not only are our bubbles safe to ingest, they’re fun and tasty, too.”

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