Archive for the ‘tips & tricks’ Category

The Flemish Primitives 2011

Friday, January 7th, 2011

It’s soon time for the third edition of The Flemish Primitives and registration has now opened. The Flemish Primitives wants to challenge Belgian gastronomy and bring together chefs from all over the world to meet and exchange ideas built on innovation. The top name this year is without doubt the chef René Redzepi of Noma, the world’s best restaurant according to Restaurant magazine, but “the Flemish primitives” will be present (a group of Belgian chefs) as well as guests and scientists. And there are a lot of new things going on as well. (more…)

Wonders of extraction: Pressure

Saturday, August 21st, 2010

Cream chargers containing 8 g of nitrous oxide each (N2O) to be used with an iSi whipper for whipping cream, making foams/espumas or pressurized infusions.

A little more than a week ago Dave Arnold posted a great, new technique: pressure infusion using a conventional iSi whipper! Just think of it – the whipper has been around for decades, and years a go Ferran Adrià pioneered it’s use for espumas. Several have suggested it’s use for carbonation of fruit. But no one had thought of utilizing the whipper for infusions – until August 11th when Dave Arnold of Cooking issues posted the results of his experiments in “Infusion Profusion: Game-Changing Fast ‘N Cheap Technique”. The first blogger to pick up the technique and post about it on August 12th was Linda of playing with fire and water who termed it a revolutionary technique. A couple of days later, on August 17th Aki and Alex of Ideas in food posted a combined pressurized infusion of basil and marination of mozzarella. And then on August 20th James of Jim Seven describes his results comparing conventional cold brewed coffee to cold pressure brewed coffee. It’s really fascinating how fast the idea spread, and it illustrates the benefits of an open and sharing approach to food innovations.

Norwegian egg coffee

Wednesday, August 4th, 2010

Egg coffee – a mild and refreshing drink that can be served warm as well as cold

I recently stumbled over “Norwegian egg coffee”. At first I thought it was a joke, but it turned out that this is indeed an “egg coffee” – coffee prepared with an egg! I have never heard about it here in Norway, but the fact that it’s popular among Americans of Scandinavian origin in the Midwest suggests that it could be something immigrants brought with them from Norway (feel free to fill me out on the historic origins of this!). I mentioned egg coffee to my mom, and although she had never heard of it before, she did mention that skin or swim bladders from fish were used when boiling coffee to help clearify it. In fact the Norwegian name for this – klareskinn – literally means “clearing skin”. The English name is isinglass (thank’s Rob!). Could it be that the fish skin originally used was replaced by eggs, perhaps due to a limited availability of fish in the Midwest? After all, both are good protein sources.

Update: Texture version 2.3

Tuesday, May 4th, 2010

An updated version of “Texture – A hydrocolloid recipe collection” is now available for download (version 2.3). The longer I work on this, the more I realize that it will never really “finish” – there’s always more to add. And believe me – my todo list is still quite long (and I even have some feedback which I haven’t had time to incorporate yet). But I thought that since it’s more than a year since the last update, it was about time to share with you the things that have been changed. Major changes and updates include:

Pictures: This is the biggest visual change! Some recipes are now equipped with pictures which may give you an idea of the texture AND they indicate that the recipe has indeed been tested. But I need your help to add more pictures to the recipe collection (please follow the link to read more about how you can contribute pictures)! And of course – a big thanks to those of you who have already contributed your pictures!

Recipes: Recipes have been added and the total number is about 310 now. I’m getting a little more picky now with regards to which recipes I add. Ideally each new recipe added now should illustrate something new.

I should mention that I’m very grateful for feedback from readers and users of this recipe collection. Thank you very much with helping me improve the document! If you find typos, wish to comment on something or have suggestions on how to improve the collection, please do not hesitate to write me an email at webmaster (at) khymos (.) org or just write a comment in the field below.

Please head over to the download page for the links.

A pinch of salt for your coffee, Sir?

Sunday, March 21st, 2010

A small sprinkle of salt will suppress bitterness – and in some cases it can benefit the overall coffee flavor. I’ve tried it with an espresso and somehow it works, but it’s difficult to describe the flavor.

I prefer my coffee black, and politely decline when offered milk and sugar. However, if offered salt I would probably smile and say “Yes, please!” Salt???! It turns out that adding salt to coffee is not as weird as it may sound at first. There is a tradition for adding a pinch of salt to coffee in Northern Scandinavia, Sibir, Turkey and Hungary. And when available, such as in coastal areas where fresh water from rivers mixes with the salt sea, one would simply use brackish water when preparing coffee. This water typically has a salt content of 0.5-3%, which is lower than the average 3.5% in seawater. This results in a more intense taste and more foaming. And if living far from the sea, the Swedish food blogger Lisa Förare Winbladh let me know that in Northern Sweden one would deliberately add salt if using melt water from glaciers for making coffee. But tradition aside, is there a scientific explanation of this widespread tradition of preparing coffee with addition of salt?

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:


Superfast scrambled eggs

Saturday, October 24th, 2009


Miss Silvia is full of surprises! She’s been around the house for a year, but only now did she reveal one of her hidden capabilities. Did you know that you can make scrambled eggs with the steam wand of your espresso machine? Me neither. It’s a brilliant idea and one can wonder why no one has done this before. I mean, espresso machines have been around for a while. And as it turns out – according to Kelly’s comment below this was done in San Francisco back in the 90’s. It seems as if the credits for rediscovering these scrambled eggs should go to Chef Jody Williams (and thanks to Jessica at FoodMayhem for posting this). I’ve tried it several times and it works very well. I’d even say that this gives you another reason to purchase an espresso machine with a proper steam wand! Many other reasons can be found in my first post about Miss Silvia. (more…)

Cooking by ratios – new book by Ruhlman

Tuesday, April 14th, 2009


kochen-backen-grundrezeptenOne of the more curious cookbooks I own is a German one entitled “Kochen und Backen nach Grundrezepten” (Cooking and Baking with Base recipes). It was first written in 1932 and has been updated regularily ever since. Each section typically has a standard recipe which indicates the ratios to use followed by suggested variations (just like The improvisational cook). It also has nice summaries of dos and don’ts (just like BakeWise and CookWise), and what really makes the book stand out is that is so compact yet still comprehensive. It’s one of those books I actually use when cooking. Many other books have a little too much text – you have to read a lot to pick up the key points. Anyway – the reason I mention this is that as I read about the new “Ratio” book by Michael Ruhlman (MR books, MR blog), the German cookbook was the first book that came to my mind.

Accelerated aging of wine

Monday, February 2nd, 2009

Can the natural process of aging wine in corked bottles be accelerated?

I recently found an interesting article on how an electric field can be used for maturation of wine (New Scientist news coverage of the article). Applying a AC field of 600 V/cm for 3 minutes resulted in an accelerated aging of wine and according to the authors of the paper, it made “harsh and pungent raw wine become harmonious and dainty”. They observed changes in concentrations of higher alcohols, aldehydes, esters and free amino acids. But I was quite surprised that they don’t say anthing about astringency and polyphenols (tannins). I’d expect some changes there as well, but alas it’s so much more difficult to measure the polyphenols than the low molecular compounds. A sensory panel identified both positive and negative effects of the electric treatment which helped identify an optimum treatment. Apparently several Chinese wine manufacturers are testing the technology on a pilot scale now. Many people have a romantic impression of how wine is made, but the extensive catalogues of “corrective chemicals” available to the modern wine maker should perhaps make you reconsider the romatic idea of wine making. Even professor Hervé Alexandre at the University of Burgundy has given the technology a thumbs up: “Using an electric field to accelerate ageing is a feasible way to shorten maturation times and improve the quality of young wine”. Who knows – maybe you’ll soon be drinking a wine that has been zapped?

A mathematician cooks sous vide

Sunday, January 18th, 2009

Douglas Baldwin with two immersion circulators and a vacuum chamber sealer.

Since I got my immersion circulator in December I’ve discovered that there are two critical questions that always come up as I hold a piece of meat in my hands, ready to cook it sous vide: At what temperature should I cook this? And for how long? Despite the fact that two books were published on sous vide last fall it is the short yet comprehensive guide “A Practical Guide to Sous Vide Cooking” by Douglas Baldwin that I’ve found most useful to answer these questions. Those who have followed the eGullet thread on sous vide cooking will probably recognize Douglas Baldwin as one of the major contributors alongside Nathan Myhrvold. Out of curiosity and eager to learn more I therefore emailed Douglas and asked if he would be interested in doing an email interview.

ML: From your homepage I see that you are a PhD student in applied mathematics, how did you become interested in sous vide?

DB: I have always loved to cook. Before last January, though, I mainly cooked slow food. That is when I saw sous vide mentioned in one of Harold McGee’s NY Times articles. Wow. Cooking meat at its desired final core temperature is so obvious! As a mathematician, I kicked myself for never asking “if overcooked meat is bad, what temperature should the meat be cooked at?” A question which many mathematician would instantly answer, “just above the temperature you want it to end up at.”