Recreational kitchen mathematics: Cookie tessellations

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! Read the rest of this entry »

Mineral waters í  la carte

Cloning popular brands of mineral water is now simpler then ever before with the updated version of the mineral water calculator!

When I blogged about DIY mineral water last year it was mainly a theoretical exercise since I didn’t have the required salts at hand. My experience was limited to adding some baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) to water before carbonation. Luckily Paul Hinrichs tested the calculator! In the meantime I have purchased the required salts and with several kilograms in total I’m probably well stocked for the next decade! Based on the output from the calculator, I mixed the salts required to clone San Pellegrino, added water and carbonated the mixture. And the good news is that it works! The water tastes great and I’ve been enjoying cloned mineral waters every day now for the last couple of weeks.
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New project: Exploring culinary claims

My fellow bloggers Anu Hopia (Molekyyligastronomia) and Erik Fooladi (Fooducation) together with Jenni Vartiainen and Maija Aksela have embarked on a collaboration project to explore claims about food and cooking. If you are a researcher (from any field), teacher at any level, chef or simply a foodie who finds this interesting you can find info at the end of this email on how to contact them. I bring here their description of the project in extenso:
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Books for your Christmas wish list

A couple of books have caught my eye during the year and have naturally made their way into my Christmas wish list (and some I’ve already ordered myself). Please let me know if there are books you belive should be on this list that I have missed.
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A flavor pairing color analogy

Flavor pairing is a controversial* topic which I’ve blogged about many times in the past. In my last post I suggested that predicted aroma similarity may be a more precise term, and below is an attempt to illustrate predicted aroma similarity (of type 2d according to this classification) by using a color analogy. Let me explain a little first: The letters describe different foods and colors are used to illustrate the sum of the key odorants. The normal situation is that foods A and K (which are perceived as different because they are far apart in the alphabet) also have different colors meaning that they share few or no key odorants. A and B however are close in the alphabet and have similar colors, hence they share key odorants. In some cases foods that we think are very different (A and Z) may turn out to share several key odorants (i.e. have similar colors). The “flavor pairing hypothesis” is a way of finding the “Z” based on predict aroma similarity. I think one reason why we cannot always find the “Z” is that Read the rest of this entry »

Wonders of extraction: Brewing beer

Talking to a friend last year who is an avid home brewer made me realize how little I knew about beer and brewing. Inspired by what I learnt from the conversation I started reading Palmer’s How to brew which is essential for starters, but soon I also turned to Brigg’s Brewing – Science and practice and Priest’s Handbook of Brewing which are more rewarding if you’re a scientist. The first two steps in brewing beer – mashing and wort boiling – are really quite sophisticated extractions. And there is a lot of chemistry involved, so brewing beer seemed to me like an obvious extension of all my other interests. This is also the reason why I wanted to include a post about brewing in the Wonders of extraction series. The pictures for this blog post were taken as I brewed and bottled my latest batch, an American India Pale Ale.

Having read quite a lot about beer I soon found myself in the kitchen brewing my very first German wheat beer in August last year. I had decided that to familiarize myself with brewing Read the rest of this entry »

Khymos celebrating 5 years of blogging today

The very first blog post on Khymos appeared on August 27th, 2006. That’s 5 years ago today – and to celebrate this the following post will be about Khymos and blogging. It’s going to be quite introvert, but hopefully you’ll appreciate the look behind the scenes! I 2006 had no clue that I would still be going on for so long. Five words that sum up the 5 years of blogging are: fun, readers, research, experiments and photography. Let me explain: Read the rest of this entry »

Available for pre-order: The Kitchen as Laboratory

A book I’ve been looking forward to for a long time is The Kitchen as Laboratory: Reflections on the Science of Food and Cooking. It is now available for pre-order with expected delivery on January 31st, 2012. Work on the book began back in 2008, and that year coincidentally marked the 20th anniversary of But the crackling is superb, a refreshing anthology on the science of cooking and eating edited by Nicholas and Giana Kurti. The editors of The Kitchen as Laboratory, Cesar Vega Morales, Job Ubbink and Erik van van der Linden, wanted to continue in the spirit of this book. Through 35 essays the invited chefs, scientists and cooks explore topics of their choice, often based on experiments in their own kitchen. This includes a contribution by me on the Maillard reaction and how we – often without thinking about it – increase it’s rate in different ways when cooking. As for the other contributions, based on the preliminary lists all I can say is that I look forward to read the book!

Cooking science – condensed matter

The book Cooking science – Condensed matter by Adria Vicenc came out last year, but only recently did it appear on my radar. This 75 page preview suggests that it is part coffee table book and part documentation of modern Catalan cuisine combined with short essays on various topics such as food preservation and synaesthetic cooking. Add to that a dash of technology and large photos and descriptions of a sous vide water bath, a rotary evaporator, a freeze drier etc. It’s kind of like a light version of Modernist Cuisine. In his introduction Ferran Adria states that: Read the rest of this entry »

Book review: Ideas in food – Great recipes and why they work

Readers well aquianted with the food blogosphere will likely be familiar with Aki Kamozawa and Alex Talbot’s blog Ideas in food. Since December 2004 they have generously shared pictures, ideas, insights and inspirations online. As chefs they have eagerly integrated modernist techniques and elements in their cooking, allowing technology to improve their cooking whenever possible. No wonder I’ve been a long time follower of their blog! And needless to say I was also exicted to receive a review copy of their recent book Ideas in food: Great recipes and why they work.

First and foremost the book is a great collection of ideas explored by the authors. The ideas are exemplified through recipes (about 100 in total) which showcase the creativity of the authors, from the simple Read the rest of this entry »