Archive for the ‘science’ Category

Ginger milk curd

Monday, February 24th, 2014

ginger-milk-curd-syneresis
With only 3 ingredients you can make a tasty gel within minutes. The gel is very fragile and easily “looses” liquid, in this case whey, which is seen as a clear drop under the spoon. This loss of liquid from a gel is known as syneresis.

Some weeks ago, while doing research for Texture on gel formation in foods where no “external” hydrocolloid is added, I came across ginger milk curd (in Chinese: 姜汁炖奶/薑汁撞奶). With only three ingredients – milk, ginger and sugar – it immediately caught my attention. I found a recipe and my first attempt was successful. I was amazed! With three seemingly simple ingredients I was able to form a tender, fragile gel within minutes. I loved the strong ginger taste with a touch of sweetness. After my first success I had several failed attempts, so I looked up some more recipes. What puzzled me was that, as I dug up more recipes, the different instructions were specific, but also contradictive. I couldn’t let go at this point, so I continued reading – also scientific papers. Now that I have a fairly good understanding of the science behind ginger milk curd it is clear that the many recipes I had found were full of kitchen myths. (more…)

Brining salmon to avoid formation of white exudate

Sunday, January 5th, 2014

salmon-unbrined-brined
Avoid the white exudate (left) by brining salmon (right) prior to cooking

Salmon is a wonderful fish that can be prepared at nearly any temperature between raw (as in sushi) and fully cooked. In between these extremes lies a range of temperatures that with the advent of sous vide have become accessible for more and more (try for instance salmon confit: 18 min @ 42°C). Beyond temperature salmon can be combined with salt, sugar, acids, liquorice or even smoke. And the more adventurous even leave it to ferment for a couple of days to yield a gravlax (which used to be fermented, but today normally is only cured) or – for the strong hearted – rakfisk (which is still produced by fermentation). But exotic preparations aside. A problem encountered when heating salmon is the liquid that oozes out as the muscle is heated, and solidifies once it hits a hot surface. (more…)

Nordic food lab

Wednesday, January 9th, 2013


Tables set and decorated for the best lunch at a scientific conference ever!

I mentioned in my blog post on “The Emerging Science of Gastrophysics” symposium held at the Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters in Copenhagen that we were treated with what was for me the best conference lunch ever. Later on the same day we even had a chance to visit the Nordic food lab, located on a house boat anchored up in Christianshavn, right next to restaurant noma. Here are some pictures and impressions from the lunch and the following visit to the Nordic food lab. (more…)

Gastrophysics symposium in Copenhagen

Sunday, September 9th, 2012

On August 27-28 the symposium “The Emerging Science of Gastrophysics” was held at the Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters in Copenhagen. The symposium poster said “interdisciplinary”, and with presentations by scientists in fields ranging from physics and chemistry to neuroscience and psychology I think it lived up to its name. In this post I share with you what I found interesting and useful from my own, subjective perspective. I must admit that I didn’t understand everything presented. Perhaps this is even a general challenge for the whole field. It illustrates how difficult it is to do science that is simple enough for chefs to understand yet scientific enough for scientists. César Vega and Ruben Mercadé-Prieto’s study on egg yolks is perhaps one of the best examples of a paper that manages to balance the two. A couple of the presentations were very successful at this, and I think that if we continue to meet at similar symposiums we will see many more papers that manage to catch the attention of chefs and scientists at the same time.

Throughout the symposium (more…)

Maximizing Food Flavor by Speeding Up the Maillard Reaction

Monday, June 4th, 2012


Is there a way to speed up the browning of onions? (Photo: Frying onion from Bigstock)

An idea that struck me once was to add baking soda to browning onions. I chopped an onion, melted butter in a frying pan, and added the onions together with a pinch of baking soda. And voilà (as Louis-Camille Maillard himself would have said): the color of the onions changed faster than without the baking soda. The taste of the browned onions was remarkably sweet and caramel-like, and compared with conventionally browned onions, they were softer—almost a little mushy. By the addition of baking soda, I had changed the outcome of an otherwise trivial and everyday chemical reaction, and the result seemed interesting from a gastronomic perspective!

The idea of the baking soda addition was not taken out of the blue but based on (more…)

Help needed on “natural sous vide”

Thursday, April 26th, 2012


Eggs boiled in onsen (japanese: hotspring), Nagano, Japan (Photo: Miya.m. Permission: GFDL, cc-by-sa-2.1-jp).

In Japan eggs cooked in hot springs (onsen) are known as onsen tamago. I’ve also read that Māori women used boiling pools at Whakarewarewa to cook. In fact I wouldn’t be surprised if many people with access to hot springs would have considered using them for cooking. But finding examples isn’t so easy, so now I need your help: Are you aware of other examples of “natural sous vide”? By this I mean cooking of food at temperature below 100 °C/212 °F without the use of a temperature controlled water bath. It could be in a hot spring, near volcanoes, in steam baths or even in saunas (in a previous post on eggs I mentioned Finnish sauna eggs and Korean Maekbanseok gyeran). Any help finding other examples would be greatly appreciated! I’m interested in modern-day examples as well as traditional practices.

The new journal Flavour went live today

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012

It’s quite amazing that two journals so relevant to gastronomy and science have gone live within little more than a month. Last month we saw the appearance of International Journal of Gastronomy and Food Science, and today the first few articles in Flavour appeared, a few days ahead of the official launch event on March 28. If you’re in London you should consider attending the seminar “Flavour and the new nordic cuisine” jointly hosted by the London Gastronomy Seminars, the Centre for the Study of the Senses and BioMed Central, the publisher of Flavour.

The articles that appeared today include a paper on umami from the Nordic food lab, a study which shows that you take smaller bites of food with a strong aroma and finally an interesting paper exploring why you often perceive taste and smell as one. Oh, one more thing – did I mention that Flavour is an Open Access journal? I suggest you check out their content section immediately!

First issue of International Journal of Gastronomy and Food Science is out

Saturday, February 18th, 2012


I first wrote about this journal in March 2009 and finally it is here, the International Journal of Gastronomy and Food Science. The official launch of the paper version was during Madrid Fusion 2012, but last week the electronic version became available. All 10 articles, nearly 80 pages in total, are available for free download. At the moment I’m not sure if IJGFS will remain an open source journal, but let’s hope so! I see no point in listing all the contributions here, just head over to the table of contents and start reading!

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.
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