Archive for the ‘equipment’ Category

TFP2010: Gadgets (part 5)

Saturday, March 13th, 2010

Crycotuv – a combined vacuum chamber and super fast freezer with internal spray nozzle.

If I were to name a topic for this year’s Flemish Primitives event I guess gadgets would be it. I’ve already covered the high pressure processing in a previous post. Regrettably we were only shown pictures and movies of this machine (it is to large/complex to be brought on stage) but there was much more that would qualify for a post focusing on some of the gadgets presented.

The most obscure machine in my opinion was the Crycotuv – a vacuum chamber which could be cooled to any desired temperature between -150 and 0 °C in seconds/minutes. (more…)

TFP 2010: Inspiration from Asia (part 2)

Friday, February 19th, 2010

Shellfish after treatment for 2 min @ 6000 bar. Fresh, juicy and tasty!

The available litterature in English (including blogs) on popular food science focuses mainly on Western cooking, although the academic litterature on Asian foods is catching up quickly. Although widespread and apparently “well known”, Asian cooking is still largely being referred to in broad categories such as Chinese, Indian etc. Having spent 10 years of my childhood in Asia I’ve always had the feeling that this wasn’t quite right, and I do indeed look forward to learn more about the science aspects of Asian food in the years and decades to come. In one of the breakout sessions (more about those in a separate post) Alok Nandi made a point that Indian cuisine is as diverse as the European cuisine. With this background it is interesting to note that two of the chefs presenting at The Flemish Primitives 2010 had taken their inspiration from Asia.

The Flemish Primitives 2010 (part 1)

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

Again I was lucky that all the practical details worked out so I could attend this year’s Flemish Primitives in Brugge. For some one who’s not attended, it’s not so easy to grasp the concept and ideas behind The Flemish Primitives (TFP). And I admit, even though I’ve been there twice it’s not so easy to convey it in a short way. First of all the name is rather cryptic (unless you’re into art) as it refers to early Netherlandish painting. The link to food is described as follows by the organizers of the event (my highlights):

In the 15th and 16th century, ’The Flemish Primitives’ were masters in combining their talent with new techniques. Techniques they developed by interacting with other disciplines like manuscripting, sculpting, etc. This way of working changed the painting techniques in all of Western Europe forever. The event ‘The Flemish Primitives’ wants to continue in the same spirit. Respect for food products and beverages, the knowledge of the classic cooking techniques combined with a stimulation of new techniques and creativity. By promoting interaction between scientists, the world’s most famous chefs and artists, the event wants to deliver a creative boost for the food industry and gastronomy in Belgium and the world.

Considering last year’s sucess it was no big surprise that this year’s event was sold out (and the foyer of the Concertgebouw was equally full in the coffee breaks). And with the memories from last year I arrived in Brugge with great expectations. One main difference from previous years was that the scientific parts were much better integrated throughout the day. Scientists were on stage alongside the chefs, explaining their work. Also, contrary to last year’s back stage kitchen, they had now moved the kitchen onto the stage, flanked by a bar, some sofas and laboratory mezzanine. A good decision!

Superfast scrambled eggs

Saturday, October 24th, 2009


Miss Silvia is full of surprises! She’s been around the house for a year, but only now did she reveal one of her hidden capabilities. Did you know that you can make scrambled eggs with the steam wand of your espresso machine? Me neither. It’s a brilliant idea and one can wonder why no one has done this before. I mean, espresso machines have been around for a while. And as it turns out – according to Kelly’s comment below this was done in San Francisco back in the 90’s. It seems as if the credits for rediscovering these scrambled eggs should go to Chef Jody Williams (and thanks to Jessica at FoodMayhem for posting this). I’ve tried it several times and it works very well. I’d even say that this gives you another reason to purchase an espresso machine with a proper steam wand! Many other reasons can be found in my first post about Miss Silvia. (more…)

Sourdough work in progress (part II)

Sunday, October 18th, 2009

A sourd dough bread made from a spontaneous starter

After 7 days of feeding my sour dough starter “took off” and was ready for baking. Even with a water bath set to 28 °C it took longer than expected. yeast_kinetics I started off with 100% hydration as this is convenient when you have to feed your starter frequently. Using only whole grain rye flour and water, I fed my starter every 12 hours (I’ve included details of the “feeding schedule” at the end of this post). This time interval is based on the growth cycle of yeast, where the yeast after an exponential growth phase reaches a plateau after 8-12 hours. This is the best time for feeding the starter.

There seems to be a consensus that a wet starter (more…)

TGFWT #17: Frozen rosy apple foam

Thursday, May 7th, 2009

As I mentioned in the previous post I put the leftover rose froam from TGRWT #16 in the freezer and was surprised by the result. Inspired by this I thought I would extend this and substitute apple juice for water for TGRWT #17. As apple juice is quite sweet I started off with 20 g sugar, but once frozen it lacked sweetness and even was a litte icy, so I upped the amount to 40 g. The picture above may suggest that the foam could be served for dessert, but read the verdict before you make huge amounts of the foam.


Accelerated aging of wine

Monday, February 2nd, 2009

Can the natural process of aging wine in corked bottles be accelerated?

I recently found an interesting article on how an electric field can be used for maturation of wine (New Scientist news coverage of the article). Applying a AC field of 600 V/cm for 3 minutes resulted in an accelerated aging of wine and according to the authors of the paper, it made “harsh and pungent raw wine become harmonious and dainty”. They observed changes in concentrations of higher alcohols, aldehydes, esters and free amino acids. But I was quite surprised that they don’t say anthing about astringency and polyphenols (tannins). I’d expect some changes there as well, but alas it’s so much more difficult to measure the polyphenols than the low molecular compounds. A sensory panel identified both positive and negative effects of the electric treatment which helped identify an optimum treatment. Apparently several Chinese wine manufacturers are testing the technology on a pilot scale now. Many people have a romantic impression of how wine is made, but the extensive catalogues of “corrective chemicals” available to the modern wine maker should perhaps make you reconsider the romatic idea of wine making. Even professor Hervé Alexandre at the University of Burgundy has given the technology a thumbs up: “Using an electric field to accelerate ageing is a feasible way to shorten maturation times and improve the quality of young wine”. Who knows – maybe you’ll soon be drinking a wine that has been zapped?

A mathematician cooks sous vide

Sunday, January 18th, 2009

Douglas Baldwin with two immersion circulators and a vacuum chamber sealer.

Since I got my immersion circulator in December I’ve discovered that there are two critical questions that always come up as I hold a piece of meat in my hands, ready to cook it sous vide: At what temperature should I cook this? And for how long? Despite the fact that two books were published on sous vide last fall it is the short yet comprehensive guide “A Practical Guide to Sous Vide Cooking” by Douglas Baldwin that I’ve found most useful to answer these questions. Those who have followed the eGullet thread on sous vide cooking will probably recognize Douglas Baldwin as one of the major contributors alongside Nathan Myhrvold. Out of curiosity and eager to learn more I therefore emailed Douglas and asked if he would be interested in doing an email interview.

ML: From your homepage I see that you are a PhD student in applied mathematics, how did you become interested in sous vide?

DB: I have always loved to cook. Before last January, though, I mainly cooked slow food. That is when I saw sous vide mentioned in one of Harold McGee’s NY Times articles. Wow. Cooking meat at its desired final core temperature is so obvious! As a mathematician, I kicked myself for never asking “if overcooked meat is bad, what temperature should the meat be cooked at?” A question which many mathematician would instantly answer, “just above the temperature you want it to end up at.”

Santa came early this year!

Friday, December 12th, 2008

An brown box arrived today!

Wonders of extraction: Espresso (part I)

Tuesday, November 11th, 2008

I have recently come to know Miss Silvia. She’s from Italy, weighs a good 14 kg and even my wife welcomed her in our kitchen! As home brew espresso afficionados will know by know, I’ve become the proud owner of an espresso machine from Rancilio! She’s been around for a number of years, and is one of the most popular among prosumer espresso machines available before you take the step up to double boiler machines that allow simultaneous brewing and steaming. Every place that is (proud of) serving espresso uses these machines, but their price is well beyond most coffee lovers budget. The good news however is that even single boiler machines can produce excellent espresso!

The first time I offered the science of espresso any thought was when reading Jeffry Steingarten’s accounts of his espresso adventure (in “It must’ve been something I ate”) which brought him all the way to Italy and Illy and then back again to Manhatten where he set up 14 home espresso machines in his kitchen. This is also where I first was made aware of the fact that 7 g of coffee should be used for a single espresso (which is considerably more than the 5-6 grams found in the Nespresso capsules).

Since I decided to buy an espresso machine I have been devouring sites written by and for coffee enthusiasts: CoffeeGeek, Home Barista and Espresso! My Espresso! to mention a few. You’ll be surprised how much one can possibly write about espresso!