Archive for the ‘fun with food’ 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…)

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:

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…)

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…)

TGIF: Food related “Periodic videos”

Friday, August 20th, 2010

I believe most chemists are familiar with the “periodic videos” from the University of Nottingham, covering all the known chemical elements. The series features professor Martyn Poliakoff who’s grey hair is really worthy of a professor! They have now covered the complete periodic table of elements, and have even started to update some of their previously posted videos. There are also thematic videos as well as videos covering specific molecules appearing now. As a chemist I think the videos are great fun to watch since they show a number of exotic experiments I’ve never seen before combined with plenty of nice-to-know facts. I certainly recommend all these videos (for an overview, check out their website), but the reason I chose to blog about this is that I was delighted to find a number of more or less food related videos! These are definitely not going to make you a better cook. But some of them are quite amusing to watch, and you may even learn some chemistry as you go. But most of the food related videos are really just for fun :)

Cheeseburger in hydrochloric acid


Food geeks socially accepted

Saturday, January 16th, 2010

Gizmodo recently featured a gallery of socially acceptable nerds and food geeks finally made it onto the list. I quote:

Food Geeks: Liking to eat is one thing, but becoming really familiar with the exact time and water temperature to cook the perfect soft-boiled egg? … This elevates hunger to a seriously geeky level…

I kind of feel a finger pointing at me :) But believe it or not, there were more than 30.000 who visited the page Towards the perfect soft boiled egg last year (and it was first published in April), so my dear fellow food geek reading this: You are not alone!

Cheer up with some gingerbread for Christmas

Monday, December 14th, 2009

The gingerbread cookies pictured are made with ginger, cloves and cinnamon. I didn’t use ammonium carbonate as a leavening agent for these, so no amphetamines were created “in furno” in this case. But I’m sure the cookies can cheer you up anyway!

A while ago I came across the article “Christmas gingerbread (Lebkuchen) and Christmas cheer–review of the potential role of mood elevating amphetamine-like compounds formed in vivo and in furno” (abstract from NCBI, free full text pdf download from publisher). The paper reviews a hypothesis proposed by Alexander Shulgin in a series of papers appearing in Nature in the 60′s. Shulgin noted that allylbenzenes and propenylbenzens found in many spices are “merely lacking ammonia to become amphetamines”. The author reviews the evidence that such substances may be converted in the body to psychoactive metabolites, but concludes that the evidence is equivocal at best. However, the author launches an alternative theory:

TGIF: Science stunts for Christmas parties

Friday, December 11th, 2009

Richard Wiseman has posted a lovely video with Top 10 science stunts for Christmas parties:


TGIF: Periodic tables of food

Friday, October 30th, 2009

Does food fit into this table?

Here at Khymos I aim to cover things related to food and chemistry, and as I stumbled over a periodic table of cupcakes (with clickable “elements” linked to recipes) I couldn’t resist to dig a little deeper. And look what I found! The periodic table of elements is iconic, but the periodic table has also become an organizing metaphor for all sorts of things, including food. The Internet database of periodic tables holds more periodic tables than you could ever dream of, but it’s not complete – at least not with regards to food. Here are the food related periodic tables that I’ve been able to find. Fun? Yes! Useful? No, not really :) At the end of the post I’ve also included examples of how the real periodic table of elements can be illustrated in a more or less edible fashion. All images are linked to the page where I found them. Are you aware of other periodic tables of food? Please let me know and I’ll include them in this post.