Why does a slice of bread dolloped with honey on one side bend like a concave lens?

You may not be fond of bees, but you must acknowledge that they produce one of the most flavorful substances on Earth – honey. Not only it takes off the bitterness from your cup of tea, but you can also apply it to other food, such as pancakes, yogurt, cereals, and even on main dishes. They go perfectly with bread too. However, have you ever noticed that after you leave a slice of bread with a liberal topping of honey, it will begin concave? Why does it happen?

First, bread is composed of around 40% water. Meanwhile, honey is a form of sugar, which tends to be hygroscopic. That is a term used for products that contain little water in their natural states and can absorb moisture.

Whenever you dollop a slice of bread with honey, the honey will draw out the water from the bread through the process of osmosis. It is a process wherein water molecules move from a higher concentration, or where it is abundant, into a region with lesser concentration. You can observe osmosis in daily life when your skin soaks up water, when plant roots absorb water, or when slugs react or snails to salt.

The same way happens with honey and bread. If you apply honey, it will remove all water from the bread, making it shrink. However, since only one side is exposed to the honey, it will start to concave. Osmosis will not do its wonders if you apply butter first before adding honey, as the former serves as a shield. Butter functions as an impenetrable layer, prevent the water from the bread from getting absorbed by the honey.

With the given hygroscopic and osmosis-related capabilities, honey has been used as a preservative in ancient times. It works incredibly as a preservative as it can absorb all the water from bacteria or yeast that can cause food contamination. Very few microorganisms can survive such a dry environment. The process of osmosis quickly destroys their cells by absorbing all their water and drying them to death.

Salt is another preservative that makes use of osmosis to preserve food. It decreases the water activity on foods. When water isn’t abundant, it reduces the chances of chemical reactions and microbial growth. Nowadays, salt is now more commonly used as a preservative than honey.

But, the same idea is also responsible for honey’s longevity. Due to its high sugar concentration, the water content of honey is said to be at only 17%. The said water content is lower than any of that of fungi or bacteria. With that, water from the said microorganisms moves from their system onto the honey, causing dehydration. As no bacteria can thrive in an inhospitable region, nothing can contaminate it, making it resistant to spoiling.

While it makes your bread concave, adding honey to your slice of bread is undoubtedly beneficial. Honey is a very nutritious natural sweetener that is widely used for its energy and health benefits. Some of the vitamins you can get from honey include niacin, riboflavin, ascorbic acid, and pantothenic acid. Plus, other minerals such as copper, iron, manganese, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, and zinc.

More Readings:

Honey (Wikipedia)

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