Archive for the ‘equipment’ Category

Merry Christmas to all geeks

Friday, December 20th, 2013


Some say 2012 was the year when 3D printing hit the mass market. Well, here’s my small contribution based on my own christmas tree design as well as the classical Penrose kite and dart. (I know. It’s 2013 now, but the cookie cutters were actually printed in 2012!) As a follow-up to my post on cookie tessallations a friend helped me print cookie cutters so I could make ginger bread cookies with a minimal waste of dough. The files needed for printing can be downloaded (more…)

Recreational kitchen mathematics: Cookie tessellations

Thursday, January 19th, 2012

Is there a way to avoid all that extra dough in between the cookies? (Photo: Christmas Tree Cookie Cutter from Bigstock)

It should come as no surprise that food, chemistry and mathematics meet in baking. For once I will leave the chemistry aside for a while and turn to the mathematical aspects of baking. More precisely I will delve into geometrical problems encountered in baking. When cutting cookies from a rolled out dough or placing cookies on a sheet for baking you actually attempt to solve a mathematical problem known as a packing problem. The purpose is to maximize the distance between the cookies and maximize the size of the cookies, paying attention that the cookies should not touch. Many will perhaps start with a square packing (see below), but soon figure out that a hexagonal packing will fit even more cookies onto the rolled out dough or onto the baking sheet (especially when the dough/sheet is large compared to the cookies). The optimum way of placing 2-17 circles in a square are shown below (and the solution for up to 10.000 circles is also available).

My challenge for you however is a different one as I’m interested in eliminating the leftover dough when cutting cookies. To achieve this the cookies cannot be circular. Using a square cookie cutter (or simply a knife) would be the easiest way to leave no gaps, but how cool are square cookies? What I’m really looking for are cookie tessallations which are aesthetically pleasing, and at the same time transferable to a baking sheet. Oh yeah: a tessallation “is the process of creating a two-dimensional plane using the repetition of a geometric shape with no overlaps and no gap” according to Wikipedia. So – no gaps – no leftover cookie dough! (more…)

Mineral waters à la carte

Wednesday, January 4th, 2012

Cloning popular brands of mineral water is now simpler then ever before with the updated version of the mineral water calculator!

When I blogged about DIY mineral water last year it was mainly a theoretical exercise since I didn’t have the required salts at hand. My experience was limited to adding some baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) to water before carbonation. Luckily Paul Hinrichs tested the calculator! In the meantime I have purchased the required salts and with several kilograms in total I’m probably well stocked for the next decade! Based on the output from the calculator, I mixed the salts required to clone San Pellegrino, added water and carbonated the mixture. And the good news is that it works! The water tastes great and I’ve been enjoying cloned mineral waters every day now for the last couple of weeks.

Wonders of extraction: Brewing beer

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011

Talking to a friend last year who is an avid home brewer made me realize how little I knew about beer and brewing. Inspired by what I learnt from the conversation I started reading Palmer’s How to brew which is essential for starters, but soon I also turned to Brigg’s Brewing – Science and practice and Priest’s Handbook of Brewing which are more rewarding if you’re a scientist. The first two steps in brewing beer – mashing and wort boiling – are really quite sophisticated extractions. And there is a lot of chemistry involved, so brewing beer seemed to me like an obvious extension of all my other interests. This is also the reason why I wanted to include a post about brewing in the Wonders of extraction series. The pictures for this blog post were taken as I brewed and bottled my latest batch, an American India Pale Ale.

Having read quite a lot about beer I soon found myself in the kitchen brewing my very first German wheat beer in August last year. I had decided that to familiarize myself with brewing (more…)

Perfect egg yolks

Monday, April 18th, 2011

Maybe I have a hangup on soft boiled eggs, but I’m deeply fascinated by how something simple as an egg can be transformed into such a wide range of textures. I’m talking about pure eggs – no other ingredients added. Playing around with temperature and time can result in some very interesting yolk textures – yolks that are neither soft nor hard, but somewhere inbetween. Two examples from the blogosphere are Chad Galliano’s 90 min @ 63.8 °C egg yolk sheets and David Barzelay’s 17 min @ 70.0 °C egg yolk cylinders (both bloggers giving credit to Ideas in food and Wylie Dufresne respectively).

In 2009 I wrote about my journey towards the perfect soft boiled eggs. Equipped with a formula I knew what I wanted, but it wasn’t so easy after all. Since then I’ve tried to model experimental data from Douglas Baldwin as well as data from my own measurements of egg yolk tempereatures when cooked sous vide (pictures of how I did this at the end of this blog post). I never got around to blog about the results, and now there’s no need for it anymore: The egg yolk problem has been solved! And the question that remains is: How we can utilize this in the kitchen?

The break through came this year (more…)

TFP 2011: Sous vide master class (part 2)

Friday, April 1st, 2011

Sous vide fish should be cooked at several temperatures followed by stepwise cooling for the best texture

Bruno Goussault started the sous vide master class at The Flemish Primitives 2011 by arguing that precise temperature or right temperature cooking is a better term than low temperature cooking. It’s really about knowing at which temperature the desired change takes place (or even better: knowing which time-temperature combinations will yield the desired results – this is a topic I will come back to soon).

Recounting the early days of sous vide, Bruno Goussault explained how he was once asked about how to produce prepare tender meat from a though cut. He was aware of a science paper on a slow cooking technique from USA (anyone know which paper this was?). It utilized a water bath, but the water washed away the juices. To avoid this Bruno wrapped the meat in cling film. A roast beef cooked at 58 °C turned out tender with a nice pink color. Then a friend working with plastics suggested that he should look into polyethylene (PE) bags in combination with a sous vide machine (boil-in-bag had already been around for some time apparently). Interestingly Bruno mentioned that during a recent Bocuse d’Or competition in USA where Bruno trained the American team, they replaced the plastic with a “skin” made from shrimps. Maybe we will see more “edible” skins used in sous vide in the future?

Bruno then went on to talk about the vacuuming process and how time/pressure profiles should be adjusted (more…)

Interview with Chris Young

Thursday, February 24th, 2011

The authors of Modernist Cuisine: Maxime Bilet, Chris Young and Nathan Myhrvold

In 2003 Chris Young had an epiphany of a meal at The Fat Duck outside London, and by the end of the meal he knew he had to work with Heston Blumenthal. Things worked out well and after a stage he was hired to build and lead the experimental kitchen at The Fat Duck. In 2007 he returned to Seattle to work with Nathan Myhrvold who at that time was very active on the eGullet forum sharing his research on the sous vide cooking technique. The project that started off as a book on sous vide eventually grew into Modernist Cuisine with 6 volumes spanning more than 2400 pages. After many delays (one being due to Amazon’s drop test which showed that the casing wasn’t sturdy enough for the books totaling 20 kg) Modernist Cuisine is ready for release in March, and will be presented at The Flemish Primitives event in Oostende, Belgium on March 14. That’s one more reason to visit the event!

Martin Lersch: Congratulations with Modernist Cuisine – it is a truly amazing accomlishment! Will you be present in Oostende?

No-knead bread

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010

Update: I’ve written up a short post about no-knead bread in Norwegian – Brød uten å kna – to accompany my appearance in the popular science program Schrödingers katt.

I know – since the NY Times article about Jim Lahey in 2006 the no-knead breads have been all over the internet, newspapers and now even appear in numerous books – this is really old news. But the no-knead breads are really tasty as well, so I hope you’ll forgive me! When I give popular science talks about chemistry in the kitchen the one thing I’m always asked about is the no-knead recipe I show, so I thought it was about time to publish a recipe. Surely, everyone can google it – but regrettably many (if not most?) recipes are given in non-metric, volume based units – even Jim Lahey’s original recipe. And for baking this is really a drawback because the density of flour depends so much on how tight you pack it. Oh yeah, and I will also try to explain why and how the no-knead bread works.

Wonders of extraction: Pressure

Saturday, August 21st, 2010

Cream chargers containing 8 g of nitrous oxide each (N2O) to be used with an iSi whipper for whipping cream, making foams/espumas or pressurized infusions.

A little more than a week ago Dave Arnold posted a great, new technique: pressure infusion using a conventional iSi whipper! Just think of it – the whipper has been around for decades, and years a go Ferran Adrià pioneered it’s use for espumas. Several have suggested it’s use for carbonation of fruit. But no one had thought of utilizing the whipper for infusions – until August 11th when Dave Arnold of Cooking issues posted the results of his experiments in “Infusion Profusion: Game-Changing Fast ‘N Cheap Technique”. The first blogger to pick up the technique and post about it on August 12th was Linda of playing with fire and water who termed it a revolutionary technique. A couple of days later, on August 17th Aki and Alex of Ideas in food posted a combined pressurized infusion of basil and marination of mozzarella. And then on August 20th James of Jim Seven describes his results comparing conventional cold brewed coffee to cold pressure brewed coffee. It’s really fascinating how fast the idea spread, and it illustrates the benefits of an open and sharing approach to food innovations.

Coffee for lazy summer days

Monday, July 5th, 2010

A perfect cup of coffee for a perfect morning!

I have spent lazy summer days in a “Sommerhus” (e.g. “summer house”) in Denmark with my family and one thing I will share with you is the coffee I enjoyed every morning. My wife doesn’t drink black coffee, so to keep things as simple and easy as possible I brought my Aeropress and a glass of preground coffee (for obvious reasons I decided not to bring my coffee grinder, but I did use a nice coffee from Tim Wendelboe though). At home I have enough equipment to prepare coffee in a dozen ways, but none are as simple and fast as the Aeropress (well – maybe except for Nescafe, but does that count?). I would even dare to say that no other method of preparing coffee offers a better quality-price-convenience ratio! (more…)