Posts Tagged ‘chocolate’

TGIF: Molecular chocolate

Thursday, March 1st, 2007


When eating this chocolate, you eat a molecular model of what you are eating (well, at least one of it’s components) – theobromine!

It’s the brainchild of two Belgians, chocolatier Pierre Marcolini and furniture designer Dirk Meylaerts. More info on the Belgian and US website.

The taste scheme used for the different elements does not seem to be quite consistent (i.e. each element represented by a unique color):

  • Carbon: matte brown (crunchy shell)
  • Nitrogen: golden (mixture of caramel, roasted pineapple and praline) + bronze (bitter ganache with gingerbread notes)
  • Hydrogen: white (milk chocolate ganache flavoured with raz-el-hanout, sheathed in white chocolate) + bronze (bitter ganache with gingerbread notes)
  • Oxygen: shiny dark brown (blend of chocolate and caramel ganache with a touch of tonka bean)
  • chocolate-theobromine-assigned.jpg

    [Via Inkling Magazine]

    Scientific chocolate tasting kits

    Monday, February 19th, 2007

    Dominique & Cindy Duby, chocolatiers based in Canada, have put together two “scientific chocolate tasting kits” (one, two). Some of the science behind is explained in their “tasting notes” (copy the text into a wordprocessor to read it). For a review of the first kit, check out Rob and Rachel’s blogpost over at Hungry in Hogtown.

    The kits illustrate the use of various hydrocolloids to produce foams, gels, dispersions, emulsions and pearls. The principle of flavor pairing is illustrated and binary taste interactions are explored. They also include experiments to explore crunchy vs. soft textures. Each kit comes with four different experiments and enough ingredients to make 8 servings. Furthermore they let you serve every experiment at two different tempereatures. This is neat because is allows you to explore the great influence temperature has on texture and aroma. Each kit sells for $125 – expensive yes, but from the presentation it seems like a good bundle.

    Science tasting kit no. 1

    The following is illustrated in kit no. 1:

      Experiment 1: foaming of pectin and gelatin gels, spherification of a fruit juice/chocolate emulsion (there’s no info on this, but I guess the spherification is alginate based)
      Experiment 2: explore how temperature influences sweet and bitter tastes, make a chocolate emulsion (with cream, strawberry juice, wine, cocoa butter and oil) and serve it at two different temperatures
      Experiment 3: explore the fact that “taste” is 80% smell, illustrate how salt can suppress bitterness, use a special powder made from an aromatic liquid and maltodextrin which is then dried under vacuum with microwaves (sort of like freeze drying, only this uses microwaves in stead)
      Experiment 4: Hervé This’ double dispersion chocolate “cake” made with chocolate and egg white foam which is set in a microwave oven (described in his Angewante Chemie article on molecular gastronomy), short lived crunchy texture, flavor pairing is illustrated by combining cumin and coffe with chocolate

    Science tasting kit no. 2

    Kit no. 2 starts of by exploring culinary “equations” which are remarkably similar to (yet somewhat less comprehensive than) the CDS formalism described by Hervé This elsewhere. The following is illustrated in the second kit:

      Experiment no. 1: a “whisky” is constructed from ethanol lignin, aromatic aldehydes, sugars, acetic acid, oak flavor, vanilin, malt etc.
      Experiment no. 2: ice cream is made without churning using foamed egg whites to incorporate air (is this what Italians refer to as a frozen parfait?)
      Experiment no. 4: meringues floating on a pool of custard sauce drizzled with caramel

    If you’d rather reverse engineer the dishes, my list of hydrocolloid suppliers might come handy. The “tasting notes” also gives you some hints if you want to have a go on your own.

    Chocolate with pepper, rosemary, juniper and cured meat

    Thursday, January 25th, 2007

    As a followup to the previous posts on chocolate pairings (chocolate sauerkraut cake and chocolate + caraway and other pairings), here’s a picture of an exotic chocolate I got for Christmas. It’s from Schloss Bí¼ckeburg in Germany, but a label on the back says it’s made in Austria (possibly by Johannes Bachhalm, one of Austria’s most famous chocolatiers).


    Sprinkled on top the chocolate you see green and pink peppercorns! Furthermore it’s flavoured with vanilla, rosemary, juniper and cured red deer meat. What it tastes like? The pepper certainly goes well with the chocolate. Rosemary and juniper add some freshness. The taste of cured meat was more difficult to identify, but I guess it did add som saltiness. All in all very tasty!

    Chocolate + caraway and other pairings

    Thursday, January 18th, 2007

    I have been pondering on the chocolate sauerkraut cake I wrote about, and considering the fact that caraway is a spice used in sauerkraut I did some googling… And voilá – I found a page on different chocolate and cognac pairings! In October 2006 a tasting sessions was held for sommeliers – it was hosted by John Campbell (author of “Formulas for flavour”) and sponsored by Hennesy. Here are the chocolate and cognac pairings that were offered:

  • Sage & Carraway Chocolate with Hennessy XO. (Ingredients used: Double cream, Sage, Dark chocolate, Milk chocolate, Isomalt sugar, Glucose syrup, Fondant sugar, Carraway seeds)
  • Peanut & Merlot Vinegar Chocolate with Hennessy Paradis Extra (Ingredients used: Raspberry vinegar, Merlot vinegar, Double cream, Dark chocolate, Milk chocolate, Peanuts, Salt, Cocoa powder)
  • “Another interesting flavour to arise was the peanut and Merlot vinegar chocolates. Whilst trialing the combination of a merlot vinegar flavoured chocolate and the Hennessy Paradis Extra Cognac we noticed an unexpected third flavour element, present only when the two were combined: peanut. We underscored this unusual taste discovery by adding salted and roasted peanuts. The result is amazing”

  • Tobacco Infused Chocolate Ganache with Richard Hennessy (Ingredients used: Whipping cream, Dark chocolate, Milk chocolate, White chocolate, Butter, Tobacco, Cocoa powder)
  • “The long tradition of savouring cognac together with a suitably matched, high-quality cigar led us to the logical conclusion that both of these products must contain taste elements that matched or complemented each other. Once we blended various tobaccos and oak it resulted in a smooth underscore of the tobacco taste that is present when smoking a fine cigar. This coupled with Richard Hennessey makes the experience unique. On further experimentation the Ganache itself delivers the aromas slowly, you therefore savour the chocolate as you would a fine cigar.”

    Any cooks out there who can come up with recipe suggestions for the different chocolate dishes? I have added theses pairings to the list of other known pairings.

    caraway seeds
    Caraway seeds (photo by Joyous! at flickr)

    Chocolate sauerkraut cake

    Sunday, January 14th, 2007

    After giving a presentation about molecular gastronomy I was asked if I had ever heard about a chocolate cake baked with sauerkraut. I admitted that this was new for me, but that I would be very interested in the recipe. Could it be that this is a new flavor/flavour pairing? Remember, the hypothesis is: if the major volatile molecules of two foods are the same, they might taste (and smell) nice when eaten together. Perhaps there’s some one out there with access to a headspace gas chromatographer that could check this out? Or perhaps someone who has access to the Volatile Compounds in Foods database could do a quick search? If you’re unfamilier with such flavor pairings, another nice pairing with chocolate is the one with caramelized cauliflower and chocolate jelly.

    I did get the recipe and it turned out that it was from a cookbook called “Food that really schmecks” by Edna Staebler. The book is a collection of recipes from the Mennonite community in Ontario. Many Mennonites came from Germany, hence the word “schmecks” in the title which is German (zu schmecken = to taste). According to the cookbook, leftover sauerkraut makes the cake moist and delicious – which I can certainly confirm! And the strange things is you can’t really taste the sauerkraut. Here is the recipe (the way I made it):

    Sauerkraut chocolate cake
    170 g butter (ca. 3/4 cup)
    300 g white sugar – less than the 1 1/2 cups in the original recipe
    3 large eggs
    1 teaspoon vanilla (either essence or vanilla flavored sugar)
    2.5 dL water (= 1 cup)
    6 dL flour (= 2 1/2 cup)
    1.3 dL unsweetened cocoa (= 1/2 cup)
    1 teaspoon baking powder
    1 teaspoon soda (sauerkraut is sour, therefore the recipe calls for soda!)
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    330 g drained  sauerkraut (1 1/2 cup) – more than in the original recipe

    Mix butter and sugar. Add eggs, water and dry ingredients. Stir in the sauerkraut and pour batter into greased pan. Bake at 350 F/180 C for 30-50 minutes.


    The cake was a little too moist in the center when I made it and could have needed a couple more minutes in the oven. Make sure you check if it’s all set by inserting a wooden match or a knitting pin in the center of the cake!

    Interestingly, the cookbook “Food that really schmecks” was recently presented in the blog Cream Puffs in Venice, with the following statement attached: “There is no haute cuisine or molecular gastronomy to be found here”. But chocolate and sauerkraut might turn out to be another flavor pairing based on sound chemical reasoning.

    Update: Read the followup on this post with more about chocolate and caraway (the main spice in sauerkraut)

    Gastro physics

    Monday, October 23rd, 2006

    There is certainly some overlap between molecular gastronomy, kitchen chemistry, gastro physics, culinary physics and everyday chemistry… That’s why I thought the January 2004 issue of Physics Education would be of interest. It features a section on food physics, covering topics such as melting of chocolate, popping of popcorn, photographing food with visible and infrared light etc. Most of the material is for subscribers only (your local university library probably has a subscription!), but the free material includes a nice article by Jon Ogborn (entitled “Soft matter: food for thought”) on foams, gels and emulsions. Did you for instance know that mayonnaise is thixotropic?

    This means that it only flows after a certain minimum stress has been applied (figure 6). This is unusual. Liquids usually flow even under the smallest stress.

    Non-drip paint is also thixotropic. It retains its shape, but becomes fluid when enough stress is applied, for example when a paint-roller moves through it. Once the stress is removed, the paint becomes stiff again, as it is then only affected by gravity, and does not flowdown the coated surface. It contains large molecules that form a gel, keeping the paint in place. The gel structure breaks down if enough stress is applied, only to re-form quickly once the stress has been removed. So, paint is liquid on the brush and solid on the wall. Try painting with mayonnaise!

    Thixotropic materials are also referred to as shear thinningpedia. However, according to this page, the terms thixotropic and shear thinning are easily confused, so here’s the IUPAC definitions:

    Shear thinning: If viscosity is a univalued function of the rate of shear, a decrease of the viscosity with increasing rate of shear is called shear thinning, and an increase of the viscosity shear thickening.

    The application of a finite shear to a system after a long rest may result in a decrease of the viscosity or the consistency. If the decrease persists when the shear is discontinued, this behaviour is called work softening (or shear breakdown), whereas if the original viscosity or consistency is recovered this behaviour is called thixotropy.

    Ketchup is shear thinning (or was it thixotropic?), and an amusing website has even been set up to investigate “The great Ketchup mystery”.


    Their conclusion so far is:

    … the next time you whack the bottom of a ketchup bottle [consider this:] Even supercomputers can’t predict the outcome.

    Flavor pairing – try this at home!

    Sunday, October 1st, 2006

    If two different foods share one or more volatile molecules, chances are they can taste pretty nice when eaten together. A further discussion of the science behind can be found here. I justed wanted to share a picture of the simplest possible way this can be done. White chocolate/black caviar (top left – this is one of Heston Blumenthals signature combinations!), strawberries and coriander leafs, pineapple and blue cheese, and banana and parsley. Definitely very strange, but when eaten together, the tastes more or less blend together. Convince yourself and try this at home!

    examples of flavor pairing

    Any readers with fantasy to create exciting dishes based on such flavor pairings? Suggestions and links are welcome!