How to make delicious bacterial culture jellies

So a few weeks back we had a super-nerdy science party, and I thought you might like to know how to mount your own. So here's how to make delicious desserts that look like bacterial cultures. This works builds on previous research carried out by Rehorst et al.


You'll need:

  • Petri dishes
  • Jello
  • Rice pudding
  • Angel Delight
  • Lab notebook
  • Protective clothing
  • Rum (optional)
  • Jelly sweets
  • Food colouring
  • Icing for decorating cookies
  • And any of the following: cocoa, brown sugar, maple syrup, cake decorations, chocolate drops...

Click below the fold for more....

1. Collect your ingredients. If you're planning to make your jellies alcoholic, I suggest something that goes well with fruit flavours, like rum.


2. Don lab coat. Make up your Jello. For alcoholic jellies, you can melt the raw Jello in the microwave with a small amount of water, then add booze and water as desired. Too much alcohol will prevent your Jello setting; we used a half-water half-rum mix.


3. Line up your Petri dishes. If you want some texture in the "agar", add some jellies. These were arranged to look like chromosomes, for artistic purposes.


4. Pour your boozy Jello into the dishes. Make sure your lab assistant records the process in your lab notebook so your technique can be optimised later on. Observe GLP at all times.


5. Take a moment to appreciate the nude beauty of your plates. They're ready for some culture!


6. Begin decorating your plates with "bacteria". Food colouring doesn't dissolve well in half-set Jello, and sinks to the bottom in big dollops. Perfect! Put the plates in the fridge to set.


7. Now the Jello has set, you can decorate the upper surface. Use the cookie icing to put little mounds of culture on top of the Jello. This looks very realistic but will dissolve into the agar after 15 minutes, so probably best to do just before serving. Make up some Angel Delight and pour small cultures onto the Jello. Be quick though - Angel Delight sets very quickly! Add anything else you think looks icky - experiment with sugar, icing, cake decorations, etc.


8. Alternative: Get a can of rice pudding and spoon the mixture into the plates. Add food colouring as required, and decorate with anything sweet you can get your hands on. Honey and maple syrup look great, and cocoa powder stains really well, looking just like fungal spores. These type are actually much more delicious than the Jello plates, but were less popular at the party because they look so disgusting.


8. Store any uneaten plates in the fridge. Do not do what we did and put them in the spare fridge after unplugging it, allowing REAL cultures to develop on your fake cultures.

9. Write up the results of your experiment. Publish them so that the findings can be replicated by other researchers.

Rehorst, M. Bacterial Cultures (NOT!) for Dessert

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I would like to add that cows and goats digest bacteria all the time. They use their sequential stomachs as bioreactors to break down the cellulose of plant matter and convert it to food (that is, bacteria).

By Birger Johansson (not verified) on 23 May 2011 #permalink

A friend and I made these *years ago* using a mix of lemon and orange jello, with spatters of whipping cream as "colonies" ... we took them to the lab, inserted them into stacks of actual experimental plates, and proceeded to collect the data from the experiment. When we got to one of the jello plates we cried something to the effect of "Damn! This one didn't work -- oh well, no use letting it go to waste!" and proceeded to eat the contents of the plate. Yum!

Cool! Wait, so what ingredient had the Fungi/bacteria in it?