Posts Tagged ‘Ferran Adria’

Ten tips for practical molecular gastronomy, part 7

Monday, August 27th, 2007

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7. Question authorities and learn from the experts

A thick, nicely bound cook book with marvelous pictures and a professional layout signals quality and authority. But unfortunately the nice wrapping is no guarantee that the contents is scientifically sound. I would guess that the searing/sealing myth and adding salt to water used to boil vegetables are among the most ubiquitious of the myths. The challenge for everyone is to question the procedures and explanations given in cook books and those that are inherited from your parents and grand parents. Most of them are fine, but some are not. In fact Hervé This has collected more than 20.000 so called “precisions” from French culinary books that he wants to test.

My seventh tip for pursuing molecular gastronomy in your very own kitchen is to question the cook book authorities, but also to learn from the experts in the field. The site Khymos originally started out as a listing of books and web pages that could be useful for anyone interested in molecular gastronomy and popular food science. When giving presentations it was more convenient for me to refer to a webpage than to have people taking notes of all the references. My own collection of books is constantly growing as you can see from the picture (I justed crossed the 100 cm mark), and I am more than happy to share with you my favorite books. Most of what I know about food chemistry and molecular gastronomy is from these books.

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Molecular gastronomy should of course never become a theoretical practice only, so remember that “the proof is in the pudding”, as Nicholas Kurti, one of the pioneers of molecular gastronomy often said. Let taste guide your cooking and learn how to conduct simple blind tastings (more on that in part 8). If possible, do an experiment: if there are two or more procedures, follow them and compare the end result.

Despite the many books and articles that have appeared on food chemistry and molecular gastronomy there are still many questions that remain unanswered. Scientifically, molecular gastronomy is tremendously complex. The science of deliciousness lies in the cross section of analytical, biological, inorganic, organic, physical, polymer and surface chemistry. But even though describing and understanding what happes is difficult, everyone is able to judge the end result! This is quite intriguing and because of this it is possible to become an excellent cook – even if you don’t understand the chemistry behind in every detail. This makes me confident that there will always be an “art” and a “love” component in cooking, as Hervé This puts it in his definition of molecular gastronomy.

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Check out my previous blogpost for an overview of the 10 tips for practical molecular gastronomy series. The collection of books (favorite, molecular gastronomy, aroma/taste, reference/technique, food chemistry, presentation/photography) and links (webresources, people/chefs/blogs, institutions, articles, audio/video) at khymos.org might also be of interest.

TGRWT #5: Grilled pork tenderloin with chocholate beef stock cream

Sunday, August 26th, 2007

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This month’s TGRWT is hosted by Le Petite Boulanger, and the foods to pair are chocolate and meat. The recipe for the chocolate beef stock cream is inspired by the Iberian Ham Cream by Ferran Adrià/El Bulli (the recipe can be found on p. 21 in the hydrocolloid recipe collection). I used anis because it brings out the meatiness very well. After mixing in the olive oil I saw that the droplets were not properly dispersed. Addition of some lecithin which solved this problem.

Chocolate beef stock cream
100 g water
2 g beef stock powder
10 g chocolate (70%)
1/4 t anis, powdered
0.5 g xanthan
0.2 g lecithin
20 g olive oil
honey and chili oil to taste

Heat water to dilute beef stock and melt chocolate. Cool. Add xanthan and lecithin. Mix with immersion blender. Add olive oil. Mix until smooth texture. Sprinkle with chives.

Grilled pork tenderloin
pork tenderloin, cut in 3 cm thick pieces
oil
powdered anis
crushed garlic

Marinate meat with oil, garlic and anis mixture. Grill. Serve together with the chocolate meat broth cream.

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Verdict: The chocolate beef stock cream has very meaty and almost nutty flavour. Honey is important to round of the otherwise slightly bitter taste of the chocolate. Chili oil gives it a bite, but can be omitted.

You can get an impression of the texture from this video:

Coffee cream foam

Tuesday, April 10th, 2007

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Based on some googling of espuma and foam recipes (including Ferran Adria’s coffee espuma), I figured that the following should work:

2 dL coffee
2 sheets of gelatine
3 dL heavy cream
sugar/vanilla sugar

Soak gelatine in cold water. Strain. Dissolve gelatin sheets in the hot coffee and stir in sugar while heating. Cool. Add heavy cream. Filter through a fine meshed sift (just in case there should be any undissolved sugar, gelatin or particles) into a 0.5 L iSi gourmet whipper. Screw on top and charge with a cream charger. Shake 2-3 times and leave in fridge for a couple of hours. Hold whipper upside down, shake once to displace mixture towards the nozzle in case it is stuck and dispense. Texture is soft and silky. Tastes delicious!

Some more chemistry: The cream chargers contain dinitrogen oxide (N2O) which is less polar than carbon dioxide (CO2), and hence more soluble in fat (such as heavy cream for instance). Another reason why carbon dioxide is not used in this recipe is probably that when it dissolves, some carbonic acid is formed which could curdle milk based products if pH drops to much and also influence taste (but carbonated milk has actually been marketed!). The idea of using dinitrogen oxide for soda/beer has also been explored.

Adria, Blumenthal, Keller and McGee with statement on “new cooking”

Wednesday, December 13th, 2006

On Sunday, November 10 2006, in The Guardian, Ferran Adria, Heston Blumenthal, Thomas Keller and Harold McGee shared a statment on the “new cooking” with the readers. They feel “widely misunderstood” and argue that molecular gastronomy is “overemphasized and sensationalized”. Quite a surprising statement from people who have benefited greatly from the increased attention that molecular gastronomy has received lately. On the other hand – many journalists still tend to be stuck up with Heston Blumenthals snail porridge and egg & bacon ice cream, so I can agree that molecular gastronomy is not always properly understood. The four main points in their statement (with my comments) are:

  • Three basic principles guide our cooking: excellence, openness, and integrity.
  • Our cooking values tradition, builds on it, and along with tradition is part of the ongoing evolution of our craft.
  • Well certainly no one can disagree with the first statement… As for tradition – of course cooking has evolved a lot over the last couple thousand years – so again I would say that this is quite obvious. What molecular gastronomy (in my opinion) is about is, from a scientific viewpoint, to increase the understanding of what is going on. Tradition tells us nothing about this whereas science has told us a lot!

  • We embrace innovation – new ingredients, techniques, appliances, information, and ideas – whenever it can make a real contribution to our cooking.
  • I guess this is where molecular gastronomy (or the-science-previously-known-as-molecular-gastronomy as ABK&M might call it) comes in. I note that they only embrace it though if it “can make a real contribution” to their cooking. In other words, they embrace they technological aspects of molecular gastronomy which according to Hervé This’ latest definition isn’t really a part of molecular gastronomy.

  • We believe that cooking can affect people in profound ways, and that a spirit of collaboration and sharing is essential to true progress in developing this potential.
  • Again – nothing really new here… except that one could always wish for even more sharing and openness regarding techniques and ingredients. But all in all ABK&M have been good at publishing their recipes and findings (as should be evident from the books listed at khymos.org). Of course this also alludes to the intellectual property debate which was started of by this article.

    So what do we make of this? First thing is that none of them are scientists (save McGee who holds a BSc in physics and who BTW has defined molecular gastronomy as “the scientific study of deliciousness”). In a way it’s understandable that they don’t want to be viewed upon as scientists but rather artists. But it is a little strange though, because the article does have a negative stance on molecular gastronomy. This is surprising from a group of people who have both benefited from and contributed to molecular gastronomy by adding an artistic component to the underlying science. Secondly I wonder if it’s about fashion as well. Perhaps the air is going out of the balloon now? If molecular gastronomy is not übercool anymore, it’s time to move on with something new to attract guests. But is it really time to “reject the cult of molecular gastronomy” (Vanessa Thorpe of The Guardian, in the article “Mad scientist? No, I’m just seroious about food”)? If you ask me, my answer is “No”!

    Molecular gastronomy misunderstood?

    Wednesday, November 8th, 2006

    Approximately a month ago Harold McGee suggested that the term “molecular gastronomy” should be ditched. Now Ferran Adrià who has been visiting San Francisco claims that his cooking is often incorrectly labeled molecular gastronomy. More on this from SFGate.com:

    Adrià says what’s come out of his experimentation has often been misunderstood and incorrectly labeled molecular gastronomy or molecular cooking.
    “Come on,” he said, throwing his hands into the air. “It doesn’t mean anything. People think Ferran Adrià and they think chemist. ”

    Harold McGee fills in:

    “What he’s doing doesn’t start or end with science,” McGee said in an interview. “It’s just one of the many tools he uses.” He takes natural ingredients and transforms them into something interesting.

    I guess Ferran Adrià wants his cooking to be not only molecular gastronomy (or science if you like), but a lot more than that, namely art. Perhaps this can be traced back to an artificial boundry between the “hard” and “soft” sciences? At this point I think it’s important to take a look at some definitions of molecular gastronomy. Thorvald Pedersen has definied it in a way that overcomes this boundry. According to him, molecular gastronomy is “The art and science of choosing, preparing and eating good food”. This definition captures the important point that there is an interplay between art and science.

    Since Ferran Adrià goes on using many techniques which are familiar for chemists and other scientists, but still quite unusual in the everyday kitchen, I see no reason not to label his cooking molecular gastronomy. One could say that when molecular gastronomy misses the artistic dimension, it is perhaps more of academic interest. (But those who are comfortable with science know that it has a beauty of it’s own!)

    Spain’s top chefs display tools and techniques in NY

    Friday, October 20th, 2006

    Spain’s top 10 chefs, including Ferran Adria of El Bulli, were featured at the “Spain’s 10 – Cocina de Vanguardia” in New York. Off the broiler and foodite have nice reports. I particularly fancy their pictures, depicting how laboratory equipment, liquid nitrogen and dry ice is used more and more in restaurant kitchens. I have described a number of tools in this static page. Here’s a couple of pictures from Off the broiler (with my comments added):

    Rotavap
    Joan Roca uses a Rotavap (rotary evaporator) to capture the volatiles from a mixture of mud and water. The volatiles where then foamed and served with an oyster dish. The nice thing with a rotavap is that by reducing the pressure, you can perform distillations at room temperature.

    methylcellulose for thickening
    Methyl cellulose is a versatile thickening agent, although it’s not commonly available for home cooking.

    coconut shells
    Coconut milk was frozen by first dipping a large spoon into liquid nitrogen, then dipping it into the coconut milk. The shell was then freeze dried. Seems to give a nice texture!

    dry ice
    Grilled pineapple with a strawberry sauce that is carbonated using dry ice. This gives the sauce a nice sparkling sensation on the tounge.

    Espesso – a thick, lucious espresso foam

    Sunday, October 8th, 2006

    Ferran Adria’s espresso foam, named “Espesso”, is indeed a fascinating concoction, created in cooperation with coffee producer Lavazza. The word espesso is a combination of espresso and the Italian word spesso, meaning thick. Just luck at the thick lucious foam.

    closeup picture of cup with espesso

    The invention has been commented on thoroughly in the blogosphere. See for instance Skillet Doux and Movable Feast – both feature some nice close-up pictures of espesso (including the one above).

    Espesso has been available in Europe since 2002 (anyone know where?), but was just recently introduced in the US. Appearantly, the foam is served warm in Europe, but has been served cold in Chicago, at Lavazza’s three locations there.

    According to the reports, espesso is made from espresso and a “secret” ingredient. The ingredients are mixed and left to settle for 12 hours under pressure. The product is then dispensed from the iSi Gourmet Whip (more info here, the propellant gas is nitrous oxide, N2O). As a chemist I certainly wonder what the “secret” ingredient is? If it is true that espesso has been served both warm and cold, they would need to use a thickening agent which is not very sensitive to temperature. Also, it appears that the foam once served is not stable for more than a couple of minutes.

    My best guess would be xanthan and guar gum, or possibly a combination of the two. These hydrocolloids show thixotropic properties – when subjected to pressure/agitaion they soften, but then they jellify again afterwards. In other words – they could be easily dispensed through a siphon and would then solidify in the cup. Also, xanthan and guar gum are relatively temperature independent with regard to their thickening properties. Check out the INICON manuals on texture for great (and FREE!) information on these and several other hydrocolloids.

    Update: The Lavazza homepage now features a video and a tool to find your nearest Espesso!