The popular Science & Cooking lectures at Harvard are back again (in fact they started September 4th). Classes are filmed and freely available via Youtube and iTunes. Like in previous years 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 line-up for 2012 is quite impressive: (more…)
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): (more…)
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: (more…)
Remember the public cooking lectures at Harvard that I mentioned in September? According to the website they are *very popular* and the auditoriums are packed! This is good news, but the best thing is that the lectures are made available through YouTube and iTunes for free! So far 9 of the sessions are available, but I guess all will be available soon. If the picture is difficult to read, here’s the list of all the lectures: (more…)
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
If you’ve played around with sous vide cooking there’s a good chance that you’ve visited the massive eGullet thread on sous vide (currently spanning more than 100 pages and 3000 posts), and in that case you’ll be familiar with Nathan’s many well informed posts on sous vide. There have been rumours about an upcoming book for quite some time, and things are getting more and more exciting. The last I heard was that he had a team of 5 people working on a book about sous-vide. This has now increased to a team of 15 people, including 5 professional chefs, a photographer, an art director, writers and editors. And there’s more:
“The project has grown in size and scope. Originally planned as a 300-page discussion of sous vide, an increasingly popular restaurant technique of cooking food in vacuum-sealed bags in warm water baths, the book has swelled to 1,500 pages that will also cover microbiology, food safety, the physics of heat transfer on the stove and in the oven, formulas for turning fruit and vegetable juices into gels, and more.”
Wow! Let’s hope that Nathan’s “one year left” statement is actually true this time. I’m really looking forward to see this book!
There’s a new weekly cooking show you shouldn’t miss. It’s about cooking and science, or “Kamikaze cookery” to be more precise. And there’s a good dash of humor as well which doesn’t hurt. The first episode out is on how to cook that perfect steak (it’s embedded below, but on their site you can watch it at a better resolution). I’ve covered the topic before in my post on DIY sous-vide, but their video is much more entertaining They use a vacuum cleaner to suck out the air and a blow torch for the Maillard reaction! There is also a blog accompanying the videos. Hereby recommended!
Here’s some pictures and a video of my first experiments with sodium alginate and spherification. I used sodium alginate from the Texturas series and calcium chloride from a drug store. Needless to say, I’m very fascinated by the texture and the whole process. I have blogged about the chemistry behind previously.
2.0 g sodium alginate
200 g water (with low calcium content!)
50 g blueberry syrup
2.5 g calcium chloride
500 g water
2 g sodium alginate and 200 g water were mixed vigourously in blender. The mixture was then left to stand for some hours to get rid of the air bubbles. 50 g blueberry syrup was then added to the sodium alginate solution. A calcium chloride bath was prepared by dissolving 2.5 g calcium chloride in 500 g water. The sodium alginate/blueberry mixture was dripped into the calcium chloride bath using a plastic syringe with a steel cannula. After 1-3 min the pearls were removed and rinsed with water.
More detailed procedure with pictures and video:
I had to obtain a scale with a 0.1 g accuracy to weigh out 2.0 g of sodium alginate (my first experiments using a normal kitchen scale failed). The model I got cost about $100 and is inteded for school laboratories. Amazonprovidesseveralscales with this accuracy.
I used a blender to dissolve sodium alginate in water. This incorporates a lot of air in the mixture which we don’t want. It could possibly be avoided by using an immersion blender/mixer. However, I just left the alginate solution on the bench and after 3-4 hours the air bubbles had all escaped from the solution.
Plastic syringes and cannulas can be obtained from your local drug store or pharmacist. I found it was easier to produce evenly sized drops with a sharp cannula (CAREFULL!) than with just the plastic tip of the syringe. This of course depends on the viscosity of the solution. By thickening (with xanthan for instance) you can produce larger drops.
After 1-3 min the spheres were removed from the calcium chloride solution and rinsed with clean water. I dried the spheres carefully using a kitchen towel or paper.
Definitely looks like caviar when presented on a spoon like this!
Larger spheres were made by filling a small measuring spoon with the alginate mixture (I used a syringe for this so the outsides of the spoon would not be covered with alginate solution) and carefully emptied it into the calcium chloride bath. It takes some trial and error to achieve good results.
The spheres are suprisingly robust and can be handled without rupturing.
If cut with a knife, the spheres rupture and the liquid contents flows out.
The small spheres didn’t taste much, so I could have added more blueberry syrup. The large spheres however had a nice taste. The surprise element when they rupture in your mouth is very nice!
Dialogos de Cocina took place in San Sebastian, Spain, on March 12 and 13. Monday’s program featured a session on Technology, Technique and Science which should be of great interest to the molecular gastronomy community. The sessions have been made available as webcasts available in English, French and Spanish. Look out for the following topics:
Did you read about how I make my own mineral water at home in Wired's November issue? Then you might be interested in Mineral waters à la carte (where you find the latest version of the mineral water calculator) as well as my original post on DIY mineral water.