Archive for the ‘experiments’ Category

Harvard lecture series on science and cooking returns in September

Tuesday, June 28th, 2011

The immensly popular Science & Cooking public lecture series offered by Harvard will return on September 6. Seating last year was on a first come, first serve basis, and apparently many talks were full hours before they started. So be warned if you plan to attend in person. Luckily the classes are filmed and are freely available via Youtube and iTunes. This year’s schedule has some topics/speakers from last year as well as a couple of new ones. Just like last year, the public lecture series is given alongside the course “Science and Cooking: From Haute Cuisine to the Science of Soft Matter” which is reserved for currently enrolled Harvard students. The course is a joint effort of The Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (“SEAS”) and the Alícia Foundation.

The lecture schedule for the 2011 fall semester is as follows (exact dates and locations here):
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Copenhagen MG seminar: Ice cold world record attempt (part 7)

Friday, April 29th, 2011


Peter Barham on his way to beat the current world record for the fastest ice cream

In case you didn’t know the current world record for the world’s fastest ice cream is 10.34 seconds! To obtain the record you have to make one liter of ice cream from milk, sugar and flavoring (no eggs). Liquid nitrogen is used to rapidly cool and freeze the ice cream mixture. The current record was achieved by Andrew Ross (UK) at Cliffe Cottage in Sheffield,​ South Yorkshire,​ UK, on 6 June 2010. Prior to that the world record belonged to Peter Barham who in 2005 shaved two seconds of his previous record, ending at 18.78 seconds. To conclude his presentation on how food can be used to make students interested in physics and chemistry Peter decided to beat the current world record. Here’s a video of how it went:
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Copenhagen MG seminar: Food and science fun (part 6)

Thursday, April 28th, 2011


How much does air weigh? With a balloon and a microwave oven you can easily find out says Peter Barham.

Peter Barham’s presentation at the MG seminar in Copenhagen focused on how food can be used to make students interested in physics and chemistry (not a bad thing, especially since 2011 is the International Year of Chemistry) -Most people think science is boring and difficult, he said. But demos can help bring science to life, and believe it or not – experiments are much better when they go wrong. Using balloons, champagne, potatoes and liquid nitrogen Peter Barham proved his point. (more…)

Perfect egg yolks (part 2)

Saturday, April 23rd, 2011


Egg cooked for 40 min at 63.0 °C. The pictures were taken within 6 seconds and are shown in the order they were taken.

My immersion circulator is working again! And the first thing I decided to do was to cook eggs at 63.0 °C for 40, 60, 75, 110 and 155 min and show you the results. If you read my last blog post on Perfect egg yolks or have stumbled across the paper Culinary Biophysics: on the Nature of the 6X°C Egg you may recognize that these times correspond to egg yolks with textures similar to sweetened condensed milk, mayonnaise, honey, cookie icing and Marmite respectively. I used the iso-viscosity graph from the paper mentioned to determine the cooking times as shown below. (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…)

Copenhagen MG seminar: Playing with food (part 5)

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011

Sample #4: Precious instant coffee with hot and freezing milk. My favorite!

As part of the molecular gastronomy seminar in Copenhagen a group of food science students and aspiring chefs who meet regularily in Gastronomisk legestue (= gastronomic playroom) gave a short presentation of their work. With a yearly budget of €660 and no scientific or commercial obligations the goal is to let science and craft meet in order to foster culinary creativity. There are many notable chef-scientist collaborations in the realms of molecular gastronomy and modernist cuisine, but this is the first time I’ve heard about an initiative that establishes a dialogue between scientists and chefs while they are still students. Molecular gastronomy will always be an interdisciplinary field and what better way to encourage such a collaboration than in a “playroom”? The students are allowed to use course labs at Copenhagen University, and in return they are asked to do a least one event each year – in 2010 they contributed to Kulturnatten (= Culture night). I admire the initiative and I encouraged Mathias Skovmand-Larsen, one of the founders, to start blogging so the rest of the world can take part in their experiments. Their presentation included 4 samples for the audience to taste. My favorite was (more…)

Copenhagen MG seminar: Complexity (part 4)

Sunday, March 13th, 2011

Michael Bom Frøst addressed complexity in meals based on experiments done at noma

What’s in a meal? – The title of associate professor Michael Bom Frøst‘s presentation at the recent seminar on molecular gastronomy in Copenhagen may seem surprisingly simple, but it turned out that a main topic of his presentation was in fact complexity and how it influences the meal experience. Together with PhD student Line Holler Mielby he conducted experiments in a real restaurant setting and given that the experiment took place in noma‘s chambre séparée and that some of noma’s chefs helped out in the kitchen you can imagine how easy it was to find volunteers. Previous studies have suggested a correlation between complexity and liking following an inverted U-shaped curve, suggesting that there is an optimum amount of complexity for maximum pleasure as shown in the figure below [1]. The main purpose of the experiment was to test this hypothesis. The theory also suggests that due to the exposure effect, diners who often eat “complex” food at high end restaurants would prefer more complexity compared to people who eat high end food less often. To address this question it was made sure that the test group included people with and without experience of high end restaurant food. (more…)

Copenhagen MG seminar: Meat stock (part 3)

Thursday, March 10th, 2011

Pia Snitkjær’s thesis on Investigations of meat stock from a molecular gastronomy perspective can be downloaded free of charge. Part I includes an excellent introduction to molecular gastronomy, part II covers meat stocks with and without red wine.

Pia Snitkjær was the first student in the molecular gastronomy project at the University of Copenhagen to complete her studies. She defended her PhD thesis on Investigations of meat stock from a molecular gastronomy perspective in December last year, and this was also the topic of her presentation at the recent seminar on molecular gastronomy at the University of Copenhagen. Meat stock is typically prepared by boiling meat, bones, vegetables, spices and herbs, and after straining the remaining liquid it is reduced in volume by further boiling. The central question in the thesis was how the reduction affects the flavor and texture of the stock. Cookbooks only specify the concentration factor, but not the time needed to achieve this reduction.

If you’re only interested in the conclusion from a gastronomic perspective the take home message was (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?
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DIY mineral water

Sunday, January 30th, 2011

I’m quite fond of carbonated water, and last summer I bought a water carbonator so I wouldn’t have to carry all the water home from the shop. The working principle of the carbonater is very simple – a bottle filled with cold tap water is subjected to a pressure of carbon dioxide for a couple of seconds, allowing some of it to dissolved in the water. The result is an instant sparkling water. But even with the carbonation there is something missing. The big difference between my homemade instant carbonated water and bottled mineral water is the mineral content. True, tap water may also contain a number of minerals, but this varies and there are huge regional differences. In Norway most water is very soft (i.e. low in calcium and magnesium) and has a very low mineral content. But tap water rarely has a desirable mix of minerals compared with the really good tasting mineral waters.
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