As a rule, I’m not a big fan of food in the science classroom. Labs and snacks just don’t mix! However, every once in a while, I just have to make an exception. These agar/grape juice brains make an ideal treat after an anatomy and physiology unit test for my high schoolers. They are also very good for elementary and middle school classes that happen to fall on Halloween.
How to Make Agar Brains
Agar brains are easy to make. The most challenging part is finding a mold. I use a silicone ice cube tray with brain-shaped wells. Food-grade agar is available at many well-stocked supermarkets (at least in NYC). You can also find it in Asian grocery stores. Once you have your agar and brain-shaped molds, simply follow the directions on the agar package, substituting purple grape juice for water (or whatever liquid the package suggests). If you don’t add anything else, the brains will be ok, but a little bland. I like to jazz things up by adding a touch of sugar and a couple of drops of orange or lemon extract.
Once made, agar brains are surprisingly sturdy. This is important to me as I almost always have to travel with them. However, if you are able to make them on-site, you get an even better, more jiggly and slippery brain by using a carrageenan-based jelling agent. I think “Simply Delish Strawbery Jel Dessert” gives a particularly good end result… but it is far too delicate for brains that need to travel.