Archive for the ‘science’ Category

New project: Exploring culinary claims

Saturday, December 17th, 2011

My fellow bloggers Anu Hopia (Molekyyligastronomia) and Erik Fooladi (Fooducation) together with Jenni Vartiainen and Maija Aksela have embarked on a collaboration project to explore claims about food and cooking. If you are a researcher (from any field), teacher at any level, chef or simply a foodie who finds this interesting you can find info at the end of this email on how to contact them. I bring here their description of the project in extenso:
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Wonders of extraction: Brewing beer

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011

Talking to a friend last year who is an avid home brewer made me realize how little I knew about beer and brewing. Inspired by what I learnt from the conversation I started reading Palmer’s How to brew which is essential for starters, but soon I also turned to Brigg’s Brewing – Science and practice and Priest’s Handbook of Brewing which are more rewarding if you’re a scientist. The first two steps in brewing beer – mashing and wort boiling – are really quite sophisticated extractions. And there is a lot of chemistry involved, so brewing beer seemed to me like an obvious extension of all my other interests. This is also the reason why I wanted to include a post about brewing in the Wonders of extraction series. The pictures for this blog post were taken as I brewed and bottled my latest batch, an American India Pale Ale.

Having read quite a lot about beer I soon found myself in the kitchen brewing my very first German wheat beer in August last year. I had decided that to familiarize myself with brewing (more…)

Available for pre-order: The Kitchen as Laboratory

Monday, August 22nd, 2011

A book I’ve been looking forward to for a long time is The Kitchen as Laboratory: Reflections on the Science of Food and Cooking. It is now available for pre-order with expected delivery on January 31st, 2012. Work on the book began back in 2008, and that year coincidentally marked the 20th anniversary of But the crackling is superb, a refreshing anthology on the science of cooking and eating edited by Nicholas and Giana Kurti. The editors of The Kitchen as Laboratory, Cesar Vega Morales, Job Ubbink and Erik van van der Linden, wanted to continue in the spirit of this book. Through 35 essays the invited chefs, scientists and cooks explore topics of their choice, often based on experiments in their own kitchen. This includes a contribution by me on the Maillard reaction and how we – often without thinking about it – increase it’s rate in different ways when cooking. As for the other contributions, based on the preliminary lists all I can say is that I look forward to read the book!

Cooking science – condensed matter

Monday, August 22nd, 2011

The book Cooking science – Condensed matter by Adria Vicenc came out last year, but only recently did it appear on my radar. This 75 page preview suggests that it is part coffee table book and part documentation of modern Catalan cuisine combined with short essays on various topics such as food preservation and synaesthetic cooking. Add to that a dash of technology and large photos and descriptions of a sous vide water bath, a rotary evaporator, a freeze drier etc. It’s kind of like a light version of Modernist Cuisine. In his introduction Ferran Adria states that: (more…)

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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Book review: Cooking for geeks

Monday, June 13th, 2011


Jeff working on a recipe in his kitchen. (Photo by Shimon Rura. © 2009 Atof Inc.)

For a book about food this is a rather unusual book. The author states in the preface that the goal of the book is to “point out new ways of thinking about the tools” that are found in the kitchen. It’s not a book you’ll pick up for its recipes, even though the 100+ recipes included are fine. And it’s not a book you would pick up because of mouthwatering photographs of food. It is however a book that could trigger a lifelong interest in cooking among those who are scientifically minded. Where an experienced chef can read between the lines of a recipe, the rest of us can turn to books like Cooking for geeks to get hints on how to turn a recipe into a tasty dish.
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Flavour right around the corner

Wednesday, May 4th, 2011


The launch of Flavour, the journal I mentioned recently, is right around the corner. To celebrate the launch they give away 10 copies of Peter Barham’s Science of Cooking to anyone who registers for their article alerts before 1st July. The nice thing for those of us who don’t have free access to scientific litterature through an university library is that it’s an open access journal. There’s some more info in this blog post or you can follow them on Twitter.

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

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…)

Yet another journal looking for MG contributions

Monday, April 18th, 2011


Juan Valverde (a former student of Hervé This) who is now on the editorial board of the Journal of Culinary Science & Technology informed me that they are looking for new contributions in the molecular gastronomy field. The scope and coverage of the journal is as follows (quoting from their webpage):

  • Culinary innovation
  • Blurring lines between food technology and culinary arts
  • Issues and trends related to human nutrition
  • The collaboration between food science and culinary innovation
  • Techniques and technology and their role in quality of life/guest satisfaction associated with culinary, wine and food experiences
  • Trends in molecular gastronomy and its derivates
  • Annual review of trends in culinary science and technology
  • Applied research
  • Relevant research notes
  • Management styles, methods and principles
  • Techniques and innovations

While you wait for Flavour and International Journal of Gastronomy and Food Science to appear you can always browse through some back issues of this journal.