Archive for the ‘experiments’ Category

Gelling ketchup with horseradish

Friday, December 17th, 2010

Mixing tomato ketchup with horseradish causes it to gel over night

A while ago a reader sent me a very interesting question regarding a gelled seafood sauce. It is made by mixing tomato ketchup with horseradish and his question was very simple: Why and how does this sauce gel? He speculated about pectin (which is present in tomatoes), but wondered why ketchup then doesn’t gel on it’s own? And he also noted that horseradish ground with water does not have any gel like properties. So how come they can form a gel when mixed together?

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.

TGIF: Food related “Periodic videos”

Friday, August 20th, 2010

I believe most chemists are familiar with the “periodic videos” from the University of Nottingham, covering all the known chemical elements. The series features professor Martyn Poliakoff who’s grey hair is really worthy of a professor! They have now covered the complete periodic table of elements, and have even started to update some of their previously posted videos. There are also thematic videos as well as videos covering specific molecules appearing now. As a chemist I think the videos are great fun to watch since they show a number of exotic experiments I’ve never seen before combined with plenty of nice-to-know facts. I certainly recommend all these videos (for an overview, check out their website), but the reason I chose to blog about this is that I was delighted to find a number of more or less food related videos! These are definitely not going to make you a better cook. But some of them are quite amusing to watch, and you may even learn some chemistry as you go. But most of the food related videos are really just for fun 🙂

Cheeseburger in hydrochloric acid


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.

Eating fruit with salt

Sunday, July 18th, 2010

Salt helps to bring out the flavor of watermelon

In Asia it is not uncommon to eat fruit with salt or even soy sauce. From my own experience, and via friends, I known that fruits such as mango, guava, honey dew melon, watermelon, nashi pears and papaya are eaten with salt. Interestingly salt is used both for ripe and unripe fruit – the latter is especially the case for mango and guava. With unripe fruit I can imagine that the primary motivation is reduction of bitterness. I’ve previously blogged about salt and coffee and how salt in tonic water reduces bitterness – the mechanisms are the same. In addition to the bitterness suppression low concentrations of salt will enhance sweet taste. [1] This would certainly be an advantage in unripe fruit. In ripe fruit there is hardly any bitterness left (or at least I presume that is the case), so here the salt may serve a different funtion. Could it be to balance the sweet taste and give a more savory and complex flavor? Perhaps it could also be explained as increased sensing by contrast amplification?

Testing salt in coffee with Tim Wendelboe

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

One of the good things about living in Oslo are the coffee bars. Norwegians drink a lot of coffe (a healthy dose of 9.9 kg anually per capita, only second to the Finnish) and perhaps that is one reason why there are so many coffee bars around. One of the best (if not the best) is Tim Wendelboe at Grí¼nerløkka. Tim Wendelboe is a previous WBC champion (2004) who now owns a coffee bar and a micro roastery bearing his name. If you visit Oslo and the Grí¼nerløkka area you should definitely walk the additional 200 m from the crowded “Kaffebrenneriet” at Olaf Ryes plass to his shop. And if you live outside Oslo you can buy freshly roasted coffee directly from his website and read more about his coffee adventures in his blog. If you read Norwegian you might also be interested in his recent book “Kaffe”. I’ve enjoyed a lot of coffee from Tim Wendelboe, both in his shop and as beans at home on my Rancilio, and having finished my post “A pinch of salt for your coffee, sir?” I decided to send Tim an email and ask him about his experiences with salt and coffee. I got a very kind reply were he invited me to come and do some tests in his shop. Now that’s an offer I couldn’t refuse!

The Flemish Primitives 2010 (part 1)

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

Again I was lucky that all the practical details worked out so I could attend this year’s Flemish Primitives in Brugge. For some one who’s not attended, it’s not so easy to grasp the concept and ideas behind The Flemish Primitives (TFP). And I admit, even though I’ve been there twice it’s not so easy to convey it in a short way. First of all the name is rather cryptic (unless you’re into art) as it refers to early Netherlandish painting. The link to food is described as follows by the organizers of the event (my highlights):

In the 15th and 16th century, ‘The Flemish Primitives’ were masters in combining their talent with new techniques. Techniques they developed by interacting with other disciplines like manuscripting, sculpting, etc. This way of working changed the painting techniques in all of Western Europe forever. The event “˜The Flemish Primitives’ wants to continue in the same spirit. Respect for food products and beverages, the knowledge of the classic cooking techniques combined with a stimulation of new techniques and creativity. By promoting interaction between scientists, the world’s most famous chefs and artists, the event wants to deliver a creative boost for the food industry and gastronomy in Belgium and the world.

Considering last year’s sucess it was no big surprise that this year’s event was sold out (and the foyer of the Concertgebouw was equally full in the coffee breaks). And with the memories from last year I arrived in Brugge with great expectations. One main difference from previous years was that the scientific parts were much better integrated throughout the day. Scientists were on stage alongside the chefs, explaining their work. Also, contrary to last year’s back stage kitchen, they had now moved the kitchen onto the stage, flanked by a bar, some sofas and laboratory mezzanine. A good decision!

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…)

Sourdough work in progress (part II)

Sunday, October 18th, 2009

A sourd dough bread made from a spontaneous starter

After 7 days of feeding my sour dough starter “took off” and was ready for baking. Even with a water bath set to 28 °C it took longer than expected. yeast_kinetics I started off with 100% hydration as this is convenient when you have to feed your starter frequently. Using only whole grain rye flour and water, I fed my starter every 12 hours (I’ve included details of the “feeding schedule” at the end of this post). This time interval is based on the growth cycle of yeast, where the yeast after an exponential growth phase reaches a plateau after 8-12 hours. This is the best time for feeding the starter.

There seems to be a consensus that a wet starter (more…)