Posts Tagged ‘book’

New book from McGee: Keys to Good Cooking

Thursday, July 29th, 2010

Harold McGee, author of the seminal On food and cooking: The science and lore of the kitchen (which is one of my favorite non-recipe books for the kitchen) has done it again! The book Keys to Good Cooking: A Guide to Making the Best of Foods and Recipes is to appear in October, but is already available for pre-order as I write. The book is one step closer to the kitchen and the actual cooking than On food and cooking. In a mini Q&A with NY Times in 2008 Harold McGee said the following:

“I’ve heard from many cooks that while they value the scope and depth of “On Food & Cooking,” when they need practical help with a specific technique or ingredient it’s often hard for them to locate the information. So my next book will be nothing but practical information and directions, concise and brief.”

I think it’s fair to say that Harold McGee, more than any other person I know of, has been very successful at distilling scientific work into a very readable and accessible form. He did this back in 1984 with the first edition of On food and cooking, and then again in 2004 with a more or less rewritten edition in 2004. A complete book with practical information rooted in science can easily become the single most useful book in your kitchen!

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.

Nathan Myhrvold in NYT – news on upcoming book

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009

Nathan Myhrvold giving a TED talk about some of his many interest (click image to see video). Photo by Neil Hunt from (CC BY-NC 2.0).

Nathan Myhrvold giving a TED talk about some of his many interest (click image to see video). Photo by Neil Hunt from (CC BY-NC 2.0).

I usually don’t post about newspaper articles, but Jack Lang sent out an email on the molegular gastronomy maillinglist today about an article in New York Times: “After Microsoft, Bringing a High-Tech Eye to Professional Kitchens” featuring Nathan Myhrvold. I thought this might be of interest to my readers as well.

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!

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.

Hydrocolloid recipe collection v.2.2

Friday, December 19th, 2008

An updated version of “Texture – A hydrocolloid recipe collection” is now available for download (version 2.2). There are two file sizes available: screen resolution (~1 MB) and high resolution for printing (~5 MB). Some recipes have been added bringing the total number up to about 270 recipes. Apart from this the version includes corrections of typos and updates of indexes and the supplier list. There is a new index for alcoholic preparations plus a small glossary. Again 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.

Hydrocolloid recipe collection v.2.1

Wednesday, June 25th, 2008

An updated version of “Texture – A hydrocolloid recipe collection” is now available for download (version 2.1). The version includes corrections of typos, minor additions to the property tables plus an important update in the gelatin section and a recipe for agar filtration. Read on for details!

I’m grateful for feedback from several readers pointing out that the size of gelatin sheets is made to compensate for different bloom strengths. In other words, one gelatin sheet will gel a given amount of water, regardless of the size of the gelatin sheet. To the best of my knowledge, this convention seems to have been adopted by most gelatin producers.

All gelatin based recipes have been updated to reflect this and most of them now give the amount of gelatin both in grams (for a platinum type, 240 bloom gelatin) and in number of sheets. I’ve also included a formula for conversion between different bloom strengths. This formula differs from what has been published earlier (no square root), but by testing the formula for given gelatin sheet bloom strengths and weights I got better results by simply multiplying the mass by the ratio of the bloom strengths. If you know more about these formulas, please leave a comment or email me.

Checking the gelatin recipes I discovered that the recipe “Strawberry spheres” originally called for “Sosa vegetable gelatin” which is not gelatin but a mixture of carrageenan and locust bean gum which are dispersed with maltodextrin. Since the exact amount of carrageenan and locust bean gum are not known I’ve deleted the recipe (but I’m sure you could achieve the same coating effect with plain gelatin, perhaps a 3-4% solution to render it viscous so it will cling the the spheres).

Thanks to feedback from a reader there is also recipe now for agar filtration (based on a Spanish forum post). This works just like gelatin filtration, but is much faster. Apparently you get more or less the same results with regard to clarity, flavor and color.

If printing the collection, make sure the hydrocolloid properties table is rotated so it prints correctly. This table is presented in landscape format. The right most column of the first page is gelatin – if you don’t see it, try printing these pages again. The pages are optimized for printing on A4. If printing on Letter sized paper, make sure you check the “resize” or “fit to paper” option in your pdf reader.

Thank you for comments, corrections, recipes and other feedback! As always, I can be reached at webmaster a t khymos d o t org.

Hydrocolloid recipe collection v.2

Wednesday, May 21st, 2008

Texture – A hydrocolloid recipe collection
It’s a pleasure for me to announce that an updated version of the hydrocolloid recipe collection is available for free download as a pdf file (73 pages, 1.8 Mb).

What’s new?
Several new recipes have been added (now counting more than 220 in total), including recipes with cornstarch, guar gum, gum arabic, konjac and locust bean gum. All in all 14 different hydrocolloids are included (plus lecithin which technically isn’t a hydrocolloid). In each section recipes are now sorted according to the amount of hydrocolloid used. The appendix has been updated with tables for comparison of hydrocolloid properties, hydrocolloid densities and synergies. The perhaps biggest change is that all recipes have been indexed according both to the texture/appearance of the resulting dish and according to the hydrocolloid used. Let’s say you want to make spheres, this index will show you which hydrocolloids can be used (that’s right – there are other possiblities than sodium alginate) and list the example recipes.

A hydrocolloid can simply be defined as a substance that forms a gel in contact with water. Such substances include both polysaccharides and proteins which are capable of one or more of the following: thickening and gelling aqueous solutions, stabilizing foams, emulsions and dispersions and preventing crystallization of saturated water or sugar solutions.

In the recent years there has been a tremendous interest in molecular gastronomy. Part of this interest has been directed towards the “new” hydrocolloids. The term “new” includes hydrocolloids such as gellan and xanthan which are a result of relatively recent research, but also hydrocolloids such as agar which has been unknown in western cooking, but used in Asia for decades. One fortunate consequence of the increased interest in molecular gastronomy and hydrocolloids is that hydrocolloids that were previously only available to the food industry have become available in small quantities at a reasonable price. A less fortunate consequence however is that many have come to regard molecular gastronomy as synonymous with the use of hydrocolloids to prepare foams and spheres. I should therefore emphasize that molecular gastronomy is not limited to the use of hydrocolloids and that it is not the intention of this collection of recipes to define molecular gastronomy.

Along with the increased interest in hydrocolloids for texture modification there is a growing scepticism to using “chemicals” in the kitchen. Many have come to view hydrocolloids as unnatural and even unhealthy ingredients. It should therefore be stressed that the hydrocolloids described in this collection are all of biological origin. All have been purified, some have been processed, but nevertheless the raw material used is of either marine, plant, animal or microbial origin. Furthermore hydrocolloids can contribute significantly to the public health as they allow the reduction of fat and/or sugar content without loosing the desired mouth feel. The hydrocolloids themselves have a low calorific value and are generally used at very low concentrations.

One major challenge (at least for an amateur cook) is to find recipes and directions to utilize the “new” hydrocolloids. When purchasing hydrocolloids, typically only a few recipes are included. Personally I like to browse several recipes to get an idea of the different possibilities when cooking. Therefore I have collected a number of recipes which utilize hydrocolloids ranging from agar to xanthan. In addition to these some recipes with lecithin (not technically a hydrocolloid) have been included. Recipes for foams that do not call for addition of hydrocolloids have also been included for completeness. Some cornstarch recipes have been included to illustrate it’s properties at different consentrations. Recipes where flour is the only hydrocolloid do not fall within the scope of this collection as these are sufficiently covered by other cook books.

All recipes have been changed to SI units which are the ones preferred by the scientific community (and hopefully soon by the cooks as well). In doing so there is always uncertainty related to the conversion of volume to weight, especially powders. As far as possible, brand names have been replaced by generic names. Almost all recipes have been edited and some have been shortened significantly. To allow easy comparison of recipes the amount of hydrocolloid used is also shown as mass percentages and the recipes are ranked in an ascending order. In some recipes, obvious mistakes have been corrected. But unfortunately, the recipes have not been tested, so there is no guarantee that they actually work as intended and that the directions are complete, accurate and correct. It appears as if some of the recipes are not optimized with regard to proper dispersion and hydration of the hydrocolloids which again will influence the amount of hydrocolloid used. It is therefore advisable to always consult other similar recipes or the table with the hydrocolloid properties. The recipes have been collected from various printed and electronic sources and every attempt has been made to give the source of the recipes.

Since recipes can neither be patented nor copyrighted, every reader should feel free to download, print, use, modify, and further develop the recipes contained in this compilation. The latest version will be available for download from the static Khymos site and will also be announced here. I would like to thank readers for giving me feedback and suggestions on how to improve the collection. Feedback, comments, corrections and new recipes are always welcome at webmaster (a t) khymos ( dot ) org.