A group of mechanical engineers from Columbia University have 3D printed an edible, albeit slightly odd-looking, cheesecake, and it may not be too long before these types of printers become common in home and industrial cooking spaces, according to the university’s School of Engineering. The team behind the desert believes 3D printing multi-layered food may improve food safety, promote customizable meals, and let people choose nutritional content.
The 3D cheesecake was made of edible food inks. The team created a slice consisting of banana puree, strawberry jam, cherry drizzle, peanut butter, graham cracker, and frosting. The desert features graham cracker as the foundational element for each layer of the cheesecake. Supporting, pool-like layers consist of peanut butter and Nutella, which hold the softer ingredients (banana and jam) in place.
The cheesecake features multi-tiered structures like what you would see in an architectural space. The key in its construction was to include additional structural elements to support softer substrates for multiple ingredients.
It took about 30 minutes to cook one slice of cheesecake, according to CNN. But more importantly, what does it taste like? It has been compared to Willy Wonka’s three-course dinner chewing gum, which Violet Beauregarde tried in the famous film “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” Different waves of flavor from the cheesecake hit the palate at different times.
3D printers for cooking have the potential to do the jobs of ovens, stovetops, and microwaves, eliminating the need for these appliances. The question is: will people be open to using them? They could potentially allow users to dial in the exact micro and macro-nutrients they want in a meal, which could promote healthy eating habits.
The team of researchers behind the 3D cheesecake worked in Columbia Professor Hod Lipson’s Creative Machine’s Lab to determine the pros and cons of this type of technology, how 3D-printed food compares to the type of food people eat today, and how it will affect modern kitchens.
Lipson’s lab has been experimenting with food technology since 2005. However, up until this point the food was uncooked and not particularly appetizing. Study lead author, postdoctoral fellow in the lab, and 3D cheesecake chef Jonathan Blutinger opted to create a dish with seven ingredients, that were cooked with a laser.
Blutinger noted that successful 3D printed food technology would need to be assisted by industries such as food cartridge manufacturers. There would also need to be a space to develop and share recipes. “Its customizability makes it particularly practical for the plant-based meat market, where texture and flavor need to be carefully formulated to mimic real meats,” he explained.
The Printable Benefits
3D printing involves making processed foods, which is typically low in nutrients. But there are potential benefits, according to Pace University Nutrition and Dietetics professor Christen Cooper. It will give some people more personalized nutrition. In addition, it could potentially help those with swallowing disorders by “mimicking the shapes of real foods with the pureed texture foods that these patients—millions in the U.S. alone—require.”
This is what happens when food science and 3D printing collide pic.twitter.com/RN4Vrulbem
— Mashable (@mashable) January 5, 2020
Another benefit of 3D foods and laser printing is it could give chefs the ability to use local flavors and textures more precisely. It could also provide convenience for a variety of different people: athletes, nursing home dieticians, and those with food restrictions, for example. In addition, in wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, less human handling of food could lessen the likelihood of foodborne illness and disease transmission. 3D cooking uses high-energy targeted light for heating, potentially making it more cost-effective and sustainable than other options.
Still, more research is required. Since food needs to be “assembled” in different ways, different meals would require “novel ingredient compositions and structures,” according to Lipson.
By Noelle Talmon, contributor for Ripleys.com
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