Archive for the ‘science’ Category

New journal to launch soon: Flavour

Thursday, April 7th, 2011

While we’re still waiting for the first edition of International Journal of Gastronomy and Food Science to appear: I learnt in the Copenhagen MG seminar that yet another journal is to launch soon – the Flavour journal published on BioMed Central. It’s open source (= free) which is good news for chefs and other enthusiasts without an academic afficiliation that gives access to journals. The chief editors are Per Møller and Peter Barham (co-authors of the highly recommended molecular gastronomy review). – I am passionate about good food and cooking, so I hope that the articles in Flavour will not only further our understanding of all the processes that go to developing and appreciating the flavour of the food we eat, but will also provide me, and many others with new ideas to try out in our own kitchens so we can prepare ever better dishes, says Peter Barham.
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TFP 2011: Sous vide master class (part 2)

Friday, April 1st, 2011


Sous vide fish should be cooked at several temperatures followed by stepwise cooling for the best texture

Bruno Goussault started the sous vide master class at The Flemish Primitives 2011 by arguing that precise temperature or right temperature cooking is a better term than low temperature cooking. It’s really about knowing at which temperature the desired change takes place (or even better: knowing which time-temperature combinations will yield the desired results – this is a topic I will come back to soon).

Recounting the early days of sous vide, Bruno Goussault explained how he was once asked about how to produce prepare tender meat from a though cut. He was aware of a science paper on a slow cooking technique from USA (anyone know which paper this was?). It utilized a water bath, but the water washed away the juices. To avoid this Bruno wrapped the meat in cling film. A roast beef cooked at 58 °C turned out tender with a nice pink color. Then a friend working with plastics suggested that he should look into polyethylene (PE) bags in combination with a sous vide machine (boil-in-bag had already been around for some time apparently). Interestingly Bruno mentioned that during a recent Bocuse d’Or competition in USA where Bruno trained the American team, they replaced the plastic with a “skin” made from shrimps. Maybe we will see more “edible” skins used in sous vide in the future?

VACUUMING
Bruno then went on to talk about the vacuuming process and how time/pressure profiles should be adjusted (more…)

Open position in science and cooking at Harvard

Monday, March 21st, 2011

I recently blogged about the public science and cooking lectures at Harvard to let you know that videos from the lectures are available for download. The public lectures accompany the course SPU-27: Science and Cooking (non-official pdf with syllabus of the course). I just got an email that they have an open position for a preceptor (a kind of lecturer). Responsibilities include:

  • Work with (and report to) the faculty members who are the principal course instructors, to prepare lecture materials, lab experiments, homework assignments, and examination questions.
  • Assist with lecturing as necessary.
  • Manage the kitchen lab space, including maintaining the inventory of equipment and food supplies, as well as ensuring food-safety status.
  • Coordinate with visiting guest chefs and lecturers, including managing their itineraries during campus visits.

Interestingly they are looking for someone with an advanced degree in physics, chemistry or a related field, preferably with a PhD. But they do not ask for knowledge about or interest in food which is kind of surprising… But they hope to get someone who speaks Spanish or Catalan – take that as a pointer to all the great work done by Ferran Adria, Jose Andres and Joan Roca, as well as the Alicia Foundation. The application deadline is April 4th. More information can be found on their homepage

Copenhagen MG seminar: Complexity (part 4)

Sunday, March 13th, 2011

Michael Bom Frøst addressed complexity in meals based on experiments done at noma

What’s in a meal? – The title of associate professor Michael Bom Frøst‘s presentation at the recent seminar on molecular gastronomy in Copenhagen may seem surprisingly simple, but it turned out that a main topic of his presentation was in fact complexity and how it influences the meal experience. Together with PhD student Line Holler Mielby he conducted experiments in a real restaurant setting and given that the experiment took place in noma‘s chambre séparée and that some of noma’s chefs helped out in the kitchen you can imagine how easy it was to find volunteers. Previous studies have suggested a correlation between complexity and liking following an inverted U-shaped curve, suggesting that there is an optimum amount of complexity for maximum pleasure as shown in the figure below [1]. The main purpose of the experiment was to test this hypothesis. The theory also suggests that due to the exposure effect, diners who often eat “complex” food at high end restaurants would prefer more complexity compared to people who eat high end food less often. To address this question it was made sure that the test group included people with and without experience of high end restaurant food. (more…)

Copenhagen MG seminar: Meat stock (part 3)

Thursday, March 10th, 2011

Pia Snitkjí¦r’s thesis on Investigations of meat stock from a molecular gastronomy perspective can be downloaded free of charge. Part I includes an excellent introduction to molecular gastronomy, part II covers meat stocks with and without red wine.

Pia Snitkjí¦r was the first student in the molecular gastronomy project at the University of Copenhagen to complete her studies. She defended her PhD thesis on Investigations of meat stock from a molecular gastronomy perspective in December last year, and this was also the topic of her presentation at the recent seminar on molecular gastronomy at the University of Copenhagen. Meat stock is typically prepared by boiling meat, bones, vegetables, spices and herbs, and after straining the remaining liquid it is reduced in volume by further boiling. The central question in the thesis was how the reduction affects the flavor and texture of the stock. Cookbooks only specify the concentration factor, but not the time needed to achieve this reduction.

If you’re only interested in the conclusion from a gastronomic perspective the take home message was (more…)

Copenhagen MG seminar: Flavor pairing (part 2)

Friday, March 4th, 2011


Wender Bredie presented results from experiments designed to test the flavor pairing hypothesis

A topic that I was particularily excited to hear about at the molecular gastronomy seminar in Copenhagen was flavor pairing. Since Heston Blumenthal presented his white chocolate and caviar combination based on amines in 2002 and Francois Benzi of Firmenich the pork liver-jasmine combination based on indole the idea has been further elaborated by Bernard Lahousse and Lieven De Couvreur who launched the foodpairing website and by me in the TGRWT food blogging event. Despite the interest and fascination it is fair to say the flavor pairing is still controversial – see for instance the discussion with in particular Jorge Ruiz. What is clearly lacking in the field is a more stringent scientific approach (as well as someone with time, interest, a sensory panel and the money to finance the activities…). It was therefore great to hear that sensory science professor Wender Bredie together with PhD student Ditte Hartvig actually set out to test the flavor pairing hypothesis formulated as: if major volatiles are shared between two foods it may very well be that they go well together. To achieve this they used a sensory panel to assess the odor of food pairs mixed and unmixed. Bredie proposed that a hyper addition of odor intensities would perhaps be the holy grail of flavor pairing – that is if the intensity of the mixed odors would be more than the sum of the unmixed intensities. Or even better: if there would be a hyper additive effect on pleasantness(more…)

Molecular gastronomy seminar at the University of Copenhagen (part 1)

Friday, March 4th, 2011


Homepage of the molecular gastronomy project at the University of Copenhagen (sorry – only in Danish as far as I know)

The research project Molecular gastronomy – the scientific study of deliciousness and its physical and chemical basis (Danish homepage) funded by The Danish Research Council was started in 2006. Led by prof. Leif Skibsted people from the Food Chemistry (Jens Risbo, Pia Snitkí¦r Nielsen, Louise Mørch Mortensen) as well as the Sensory Science group (Michael Bom Frøst, Wender Bredie, Per Møller, Line Holler Mielby, Ditte Hartvig) at the Department of Food Science at Copenhagen University have been involved. In addition gastronomic entrepeneur Claus Meyer (noma co-founder) and physics professor Peter Barham (Bristol University) have contributed, as well as the chefs Thorsten Vildgaard (noma/Nordic Food Lab) and Bo Frederiksen (Meyers Madhus). Any of the names sound familiar? They should if you’ve read the recent review published in Chemical Reviews: Molecular Gastronomy: A New Emerging Scientific Discipline where several of the people involved in the project contributed as authors. This landmark paper summarizes and lays out research opportunities in molecular gastronomy, the branch of food science that deals with The art and science of choosing, preparing and eating good food to quote Thorvald Pedersens definition – he is a professor emeritus in chemistry that played an important role helping to establish molecular gastronomy as a research field at the University of Copenhagen.

To mark the end of the project a seminar was organized on March 2nd 2011. The program included the following presentations:
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Interview with Chris Young

Thursday, February 24th, 2011

The authors of Modernist Cuisine: Maxime Bilet, Chris Young and Nathan Myhrvold

In 2003 Chris Young had an epiphany of a meal at The Fat Duck outside London, and by the end of the meal he knew he had to work with Heston Blumenthal. Things worked out well and after a stage he was hired to build and lead the experimental kitchen at The Fat Duck. In 2007 he returned to Seattle to work with Nathan Myhrvold who at that time was very active on the eGullet forum sharing his research on the sous vide cooking technique. The project that started off as a book on sous vide eventually grew into Modernist Cuisine with 6 volumes spanning more than 2400 pages. After many delays (one being due to Amazon’s drop test which showed that the casing wasn’t sturdy enough for the books totaling 20 kg) Modernist Cuisine is ready for release in March, and will be presented at The Flemish Primitives event in Oostende, Belgium on March 14. That’s one more reason to visit the event!

Martin Lersch: Congratulations with Modernist Cuisine – it is a truly amazing accomlishment! Will you be present in Oostende?
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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…)

No-knead bread

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010

Update: I’ve written up a short post about no-knead bread in Norwegian – Brød uten í¥ kna – to accompany my appearance in the popular science program Schrí¶dingers 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.
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