Posts Tagged ‘baking’

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…)

No-knead bread

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010

Update: I’ve written up a short post about no-knead bread in Norwegian – Brød uten å kna – to accompany my appearance in the popular science program Schrödingers katt.

I know – since the NY Times article about Jim Lahey in 2006 the no-knead breads have been all over the internet, newspapers and now even appear in numerous books – this is really old news. But the no-knead breads are really tasty as well, so I hope you’ll forgive me! When I give popular science talks about chemistry in the kitchen the one thing I’m always asked about is the no-knead recipe I show, so I thought it was about time to publish a recipe. Surely, everyone can google it – but regrettably many (if not most?) recipes are given in non-metric, volume based units – even Jim Lahey’s original recipe. And for baking this is really a drawback because the density of flour depends so much on how tight you pack it. Oh yeah, and I will also try to explain why and how the no-knead bread works.

Baking with hefeweizen yeast

Monday, September 6th, 2010

Wheat beers such as hefeweizen, weissbier and wit are all light beers made from a mix of malted barley and wheat. In southern Germany the typical hefeweizen is fermented with a non-flocculating yeast, and it is not filtered before bottling. This gives the beer a yeasty, bread like flavor accompanied by aromas reminiscent of banan, cloves (we’ve encountered that combo before), coriander and citrus. I’ve just begun to read up on brewing and my first batch of a partial mash hefeweizen is bubling along. As I pitched the liquid hefeweizen yeast into the wort I decided to keep a tiny amount for baking. If hefeweizen beer is reminiscent of bread, why not use the yeast for making bread? In particular I was curious whether some of the aroma top notes characterizing hefeweizen beer would stand out in bread made using the same yeast.

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.

BakeWise is here

Wednesday, October 1st, 2008

Now this is yet another book I’m looking forward to this fall – I’ve got quite a list now!. Shirley O’Corriher, best known for her book CookWise (not to mention her video “Shirley O. Corriher’s Kitchen Secrets Revealed” and TV appearance in case you live in the US), has been working on this book for a while (NYT article from 2004, free registration requried). Finally it is due to appear in October! The title BakeWise suggests it has the same structure as CookWise. The good thing about CookWise is that the food science theory is applied directly to recipes. In addition it has nice tables on what-went-wrong and what-to-do-about-it. In fact it’s a problem solving manual for the kitchen.

According to the publisher BakeWise “reads like a mystery novel as we follow sleuth Shirley while she solves everything from why cakes and muffins can be dry to génoise deflation and why the cookie crumbles”. And they continue:

Restaurant chefs and culinary students know her from their grease-splattered copies of CookWise, an encyclopedic work that has saved them from many a cooking disaster. With numerous “At-a-Glance” charts, BakeWise gives busy people information for quick problem solving. BakeWise also includes Shirley’s “What This Recipe Shows” in every recipe. This section is science and culinary information that can apply to hundreds of recipes, not just the one in which it appears.