O happy day

Can you guess what’s inside?
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Harvard lecture series on science and cooking returns in September

The immensly popular Science & Cooking public lecture series offered by Harvard will return on September 6. Seating last year was on a first come, first serve basis, and apparently many talks were full hours before they started. So be warned if you plan to attend in person. Luckily the classes are filmed and are freely available via Youtube and iTunes. This year’s schedule has some topics/speakers from last year as well as a couple of new ones. Just like last year, the public lecture series is given alongside the course “Science and Cooking: From Haute Cuisine to the Science of Soft Matter” which is reserved for currently enrolled Harvard students. The course is a joint effort of The Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (“SEAS”) and the Alí­cia Foundation.

The lecture schedule for the 2011 fall semester is as follows (exact dates and locations here):
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Book review: Cooking for geeks

Jeff working on a recipe in his kitchen. (Photo by Shimon Rura. © 2009 Atof Inc.)

For a book about food this is a rather unusual book. The author states in the preface that the goal of the book is to “point out new ways of thinking about the tools” that are found in the kitchen. It’s not a book you’ll pick up for its recipes, even though the 100+ recipes included are fine. And it’s not a book you would pick up because of mouthwatering photographs of food. It is however a book that could trigger a lifelong interest in cooking among those who are scientifically minded. Where an experienced chef can read between the lines of a recipe, the rest of us can turn to books like Cooking for geeks to get hints on how to turn a recipe into a tasty dish.
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TFP2011: Flavor master class with Quico Sosa (part 4)

You can tell that the days were packed during my visits to Belgium (The Flemish Primitives) and Denmark (Molecular gastronomy seminar) in March by the fact that I still blog about it in June. After the sous vide masterclass I attended a master class on taste technologies hosted by Quico Sosa (the man behind the Sosa company) and chef Dave De Belder. Many may frown upon flavors and their use in high end gastronomy, but anyone who considers using flavors as a shortcut to better cooking should rethink this as both successes and disasters are amplified (interestingly, Bruno Goussault said exactly the same about sous vide in the preceeding masterclass).

In haute cuisine, technology must be at the service of flavour and not otherwise. We must escape from the myth that everything was better in the past and also, that everything new is better. (“The technology of flavours”, Sosa ingredients)

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Copenhagen MG seminar: MG meets the internet (part 8)

(you can click through the entire presentation at the end of this post)

I really enjoyed taking part in the recent MG seminar in Copenhagen, and the greatest surprise was when I received a kind email from Michael Bom Frøst last year where he invited me to give a presentation on how molecular gastronomy has been communicated during the last couple of years. As many of you know the blog and my popular science activities are only a hobby, so it was a great honour indeed to present side by side with all the other people who spend whole days working on the subject. I arrived at the title “Molecular gastronomy meets the internet – Can blogs benefit popular food science?”. I started by looking at how Gartner’s hype cycle fits with the phenomena molecular gastronomy (I’ve touched briefly upon this before). To me the publication of Modernist Cuisine and the announced launches of the Flavour journal and the International Journal of Gastronomy and Food Science suggest that we are approaching the plateau of productivity (but not quite there yet – we’re still waiting for the actual launch of these journals). Furthermore molecular gastronomy is still perceived as less scientific. Few publishing channels integrate the scientific and practical aspects of molecular gastronomy, and in my presentation I argued that self publishing plays an important role. I focused primarily on blogs, but it’s interesting to note (without any further comparison!) that even Nathan Myhrvold turned to self publishing with Modernist Cuisine. To conclude the presentation, I shared some of my experiences as a blogger and encouraged the chefs and scientists present to start their own blogs. You may click through the slides from my presentation below:
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TFP 2011: Interview with René Redzepi (part 3)

Rene Redzepi sees no contradiction between science and his style of cooking. He also promoted his book NOMA at the press conference at The Flemish Primitives 2011.

It came as no big surprise that NOMA defended its no. 1 position in April. A lot of the press coverage of NOMA and René Redzepi focuses on foraging (some even claim that we are in The Era of the ‘I Foraged With René Redzepi Piece’). It is all about nature and natural ingredients. Many would probably claim that NOMA is as far away from molecular gastronomy and science as you could possibly come. In March René Redzepi attended The Flemish Primitives in Oostende. I was there, and the one question I asked René at the press conference was this:

ML: The Flemish Primitives aims to bring together chefs, scientists and artists. There is also a co-operation between Noma and the University of Copenhagen. What have you learnt from from working with scientists?
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Flavour right around the corner

The launch of Flavour, the journal I mentioned recently, is right around the corner. To celebrate the launch they give away 10 copies of Peter Barham’s Science of Cooking to anyone who registers for their article alerts before 1st July. The nice thing for those of us who don’t have free access to scientific litterature through an university library is that it’s an open access journal. There’s some more info in this blog post or you can follow them on Twitter.

Copenhagen MG seminar: Ice cold world record attempt (part 7)

Peter Barham on his way to beat the current world record for the fastest ice cream

In case you didn’t know the current world record for the world’s fastest ice cream is 10.34 seconds! To obtain the record you have to make one liter of ice cream from milk, sugar and flavoring (no eggs). Liquid nitrogen is used to rapidly cool and freeze the ice cream mixture. The current record was achieved by Andrew Ross (UK) at Cliffe Cottage in Sheffield,”‹ South Yorkshire,”‹ UK, on 6 June 2010. Prior to that the world record belonged to Peter Barham who in 2005 shaved two seconds of his previous record, ending at 18.78 seconds. To conclude his presentation on how food can be used to make students interested in physics and chemistry Peter decided to beat the current world record. Here’s a video of how it went:
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Copenhagen MG seminar: Food and science fun (part 6)

How much does air weigh? With a balloon and a microwave oven you can easily find out says Peter Barham.

Peter Barham’s presentation at the MG seminar in Copenhagen focused on how food can be used to make students interested in physics and chemistry (not a bad thing, especially since 2011 is the International Year of Chemistry) -Most people think science is boring and difficult, he said. But demos can help bring science to life, and believe it or not – experiments are much better when they go wrong. Using balloons, champagne, potatoes and liquid nitrogen Peter Barham proved his point. Read the rest of this entry »

Perfect egg yolks (part 2)

Egg cooked for 40 min at 63.0 °C. The pictures were taken within 6 seconds and are shown in the order they were taken.

My immersion circulator is working again! And the first thing I decided to do was to cook eggs at 63.0 °C for 40, 60, 75, 110 and 155 min and show you the results. If you read my last blog post on Perfect egg yolks or have stumbled across the paper Culinary Biophysics: on the Nature of the 6X°C Egg you may recognize that these times correspond to egg yolks with textures similar to sweetened condensed milk, mayonnaise, honey, cookie icing and Marmite respectively. I used the iso-viscosity graph from the paper mentioned to determine the cooking times as shown below. Read the rest of this entry »