Posts Tagged ‘garlic’

Ten tips for practical molecular gastronomy, part 8

Sunday, February 3rd, 2008

Read about the physics behind the balancing fork trick.

8. Experiment!

Dare to experiment and try new ingredients and procedures. Do control experiments so you can compare results. When evaluating the outcome, be aware that your own opinions will be biased. Have a friend help you perform a blind comparison, or even better a triangle test to evaluate the outcome of your experiments.

In a scientific context, an experiment is a set of actions and observations performed in the context of solving a particular problem, in order to support or falsify a research hypothesis. In a kitchen context, the problem to solve would typically be related to taste, aroma, texture or color. And the required actions and observations would be cooking and eating.

An essential part of the scientific method is that new knowledge is gained when, based previous knowledge, an assumption is made and tested. In the kitchen, this is exactly what you do when you taste your concoctions repeatedly as you cook. And it is also what makes you an experienced cook, because you remember and learn from your previous successes and mistakes. It might sound very complicated, but here’s how it goes:

1) Observation: soup lacks flavor
2) Hypothesis: adding something with flavor might help
3) Experiment: add more spices
4) New observation: soup tastes more (or less)
5) Hypothesis is either supported (or rejected)

Of these steps, I think observation is the easiest. Coming up with a hypothesis however can sometimes be difficult. If you have lumps in your custard or a sauce that’s separating, it isn’t always easy to think of what to do. This is where books on popular food science and molecular gastronomy might help you.


Think outside the cook book! I mentioned in previous post that you should always question authorities and cook books. And even when you have a recipe that works, remember that it’s nothing more than a suggestion. For instance, it can be useful to know when to be sloppy and when to be accurate with measurements. The smaller amount you measure, the greater the precision should be. Let’s consider a hypothetical recipe that calls for 1000 g flour and 1 g of saffron. Whether you use 999 or 1001 g of flour makes no difference, but using 1 or 2 g of saffron will be quite noticable. A good rule of thumb is that you should measure to within +/- 10% of the given amount. But again, don’t follow this blindly. Experience will show when you can be even more sloppy.

Thinking of good experiments to do requires both creativity and experience, and there are many sources of inspiration. The molecular gastronomy movement has come up with a number of books and blogs which point towards new ingredients and procedures. There are several approaches to flavor pairing (i.e. a general one based on experience and a chemical one based on impact odorants). Further more there’s a lot of inspiration to get from regional cooking – also for molecular gastronomists! Lastly, I think considering not only the food but the whole atmosphere and the setting of the meal is important, because our senses are connected!


The best way to judge the outcome of a new procedure or ingredient is to compare it with the original. I’ve previously termed this “parallel cooking”. In scientific contexts it’s very common to do control experiments and I can’t see why this shouldn’t be done in the kitchen routinely. Im convinced that this could have saved us from many kitchen myths!

Once you’ve done your parallel cooking, you have to taste it. If you did the cooking, you’ll probably have an opnion or expectation that the new dish is better or worse than the original. The big problem here is that due to confirmation bias, if you know what you are eating, this will influence your perception of it. Therefore it’s crucial to do a blind tasting (or a double-blind tasting). Have friend help you label each dish with random three digit numbers (to avoid thinking about ranking) and give them to you. If the dishes can easily be recognized due to color, it’s important that the lights are turned down or that you are blindfolded. State which dish you prefer and have your friend reveal the identity of the dishes tasted.

A slightly more sophisticated test is the triangle test which is commonly used in the food industry. The tester is presented with three samples of which two are identical and the task is to pick the odd one out. Using statistics, it’s possible to evaluate the outcome of repeated tests. The number of correct assignments in a number of triangle tests required for you to be 95% sure there is a difference are given in the table below. Read more about simple difference tests here.

Number of tests performed Number of correct assignments required
3 3
4 4
5 4
6 5
7 5
8 6
9 6
10 7

Bionomial distribution for a triangle test (p=1/3) at 0.05 probability level. A more extensive table can be found here.

It seems that this would be the ultimate way to determine whether or not there is a difference between pepsi and coke. It’s more than 50 years since the first experiments were conducted. The theory is simple, but in the real world things aren’t always that simple. Read the entertaining story about Fizzy logic.


There are several examples of experimental cooking out on the net, and I thought I’d share some of them with you as this might illustrate my ideas on the subject.

Many cooks have strong opinions about how garlic should be treated. Should it be minced, crushed or microplaned? And does this really influence the taste and aroma? Or does it only affect the degree of extraction and hence the intensity of the flavor? Dominic of Skillet Doux had a excellent post on this subject in 2006, Deconstructing garlic. The task was formulated as follows:

The subject of this experiment is the effect that various methods of breaking down garlic have on its flavor when used to prepare a dish. The hypothesis is that not only does mincing garlic create a different flavor than crushing it, but also that mincing is the preferred method for pasta sauces. Furthermore, the experiment is intended to determine if microplaning garlic achieves a character different from mincing or crushing.

In his conclusion, Dominic writes ” I was surprised to discover that the difference between the minced and crushed garlic sauces was even more significant than I had previously thought”. Check out his post to find out which kind of garlic treatment he prefers for his pasta sauces. As a side comment it can be mentioned that a group of researchers in 2007 studied the effect of cooking on garlics ability to inhibit aggregation of blood platelets. They found that crushing could reduce the loss of activity upon heating. But unfortunately they didn’t report anything about the flavor.

Other food bloggers have also adopted experimental cooking with emphasis on systematic and thorough testing. Examples include Chad’s experiments with gellan, konjac and iota/kappa carrageenans, Michael Chu’s parallell cooking of bacon and his eggplant test and Papin’s comparison of orange juices – to mention but a few! And I shouldn’t forget Dylan Stiles either whom I mentioned in part 5 of this series:

A challenge with aroma molecules is that they should remain intact during storage and not be released until cooking (or even better, until consumption). A example would be to install a Liebieg condenser over your pot. Dylan Stiles has explored this in his column Bench Monkey by placing a bag of ice on top of the lid. He claims that his roommates preferred the curry which has been cooked under “reflux conditions”. The study was performed in a double blind manner (which I will come back to in part 8 of this series).

An extreme example of the application of the scientific method to cooking appeared in the news last spring when the recipe for the ultimate bacon buttie was revealed by scientists from Leeds University. Commissioned by Danish Bacon, the study evaluated more than 700 variations of a bacon buttie. They even came up with a “formula” for the perfect bacon buttie and quantified the required crispiness and crunchiness. The news story was picked up by many news agencies, so although it wasn’t necessarily ground breaking science, at least it was clever marketing.


Check out my previous blogpost for an overview of the 10 tips for practical molecular gastronomy series. The collection of books (favorite, molecular gastronomy, aroma/taste, reference/technique, food chemistry, presentation/photography) and links (webresources, people/chefs/blogs, institutions, articles, audio/video) at might also be of interest.

TGRWT #1 roundup – coffee, chocolate, garlic

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2007

It’s time to sum up the contributions to the food blogging event They go really well together (TGRWT). There were five seven contributions plus a number of suggestions in the comments to the announcement post and I would like to thank you all very much indeed for taking time to experiment in your kitchens! Here are the results (in no particular order):

tgrwt-1-roundup-lamiacucina.jpg Lamiacucina: Candied, chocolate coated Garlic. Garlic cloves were heated in a strong sugar-coffee solution. Cloves were then dried and coated with chocolate. Succession of taste and aroma: strong, unpleasant character of garlic. Bloggers verdict: disappointing!

tgrwt-1-roundup-matthieu.jpg Blog & White: Chocolate-Coffee Mayonnaise with Garlic. Adapted from Hervé This’ chocolate mayonnaise with added coffee and garlic. Succession of taste and aroma: chocolate aroma is followed by taste of garlic and sweetness of chocolate, coffee aftertaste. Bloggers verdict: Interesting (but wife hates it!).

tgrwt-1-roundup-tara.jpgShould you eat that: Mocha Tofu Mousse with Garlic. Roasted garlic cloves were added to an adapted version of Scharfenberger’s mocha tofu mousse. Succession of taste and aroma: coffee followed by chocolate, then a subtle, sweet, roasted garlic aftertaste. Bloggers verdict: I would definately make it again!

tgrwt-1-roundup-msblog.jpg M’s blog: Mocca garlic creme brulee. As the name suggests a creme brulee with espresso, chocolate and a garlic clove. Bloggers verdict: Tasted like mocca creme brulee.

tgrwt-1-roundup-khymos.jpg Khymos: Coffee espuma with garlic and chocolate. Coffee and cream espuma with added chocolate and roasted garlic. Succession of taste and aroma: coffee with sweet taste, then a faint chocolate aroma followed by a garlicky aftertaste. My verdict: Aromas blend well together. Would use less garlic for dessert version.

Entries added after first posting:

tgrwt-1-roundup-grape.jpgGrapeThinking: Roasted garlic dipped in melted chocolate with coffee beans. Succession of taste and aroma: Roast garlic doesn’t have much of a smell. Chocolate and coffee always smell good. Bloggers verdict: Good aroma. Taste was good in the beginning; slightly funky aftertaste. Texture of garlic was good.

tgrwt-1-roundup-kompottsurfer.jpg Kompottsurfer: Espresso-risotto with bitter chocolate, tomatoe and mozzarella (posting in German). Bloggers verdict: Color was a disaster, and difficult to get relative proportions right. But aroma worked out prette nice.

From the different comments it seems that garlic is a difficult beast to tame, especially when used raw. A major challenge is finding the right balance between the aromas. Garlic was either too strong or almost absent. Chocolate and coffee however seem to go very well together (and my preliminary search for odor activity values confirm this – more on this soon!).

I also find it interesting that ratios of chocolate, coffee and garlic used influence the succession of aroma and taste (“>” meaning “followed by”):

  • coffee > chocolate > garlic (mousse and espuma)
  • chocolate > garlic > coffee (mayonnaise)
  • garlic > chocolate, coffee (chocolate coated garlic)
  • Is it a coincidence that coffee is the first aroma noticed in the two “foamy” preparations or is this simply a result of the different ratios used?

    I should mention that I also tried to make a chicken mole using the three ingredients. Based on a couple of recipes from the net and some tinkering I ended up with a chicken mole that had a little too much chocolate… It tasted … eh … strange, so I decided to add balsamic vinegar which helped a lot! The coffee blended in very well however, so this is how I would make it the next time using less chocolate:

    Chocolate coffee chicken mole
    800 g canned, crushed tomatoes
    750 g chicken breast,
    1 red chili, chopped
    2 t chili paste
    2 onions, chopped
    6 cloves of garlic, chopped
    3 dL coffee
    150 g pistacchio nuts, chopped
    1 t ground cumin
    30-50 g dark chocolate
    2 T sugar
    1-2 T balsamico vinegar

    Brown onions. Add the rest and simmer. Season to taste with chocolate, balsamico vinegar and sugar. Serve with rice. Sprinkle with coriander/cilantro or ruccola/rocket salad.

    There were also a number of recipe suggestions in the comments to the three posts on the coffee/chocolate/garlic theme.

    Coffee espuma with garlic and chocolate (TGRWT #1)

    Sunday, April 22nd, 2007


    For the food blogging event They Go Really Well Together (TGRWT #1) I decided to used baked garlic. Baking gives garlic a slightly sweet, mellow taste and I figured this might work well with the soft texture of an espuma. Just make sure you get fresh garlic without green sprouts – they will give a bitter taste.

    4 cloves of baked garlic (baked whole, 30 min @ 150 °C)
    3.5 dL strong coffee
    30 g sugar
    40 g chocolate (70% cocoa)
    ground cardamom
    3.4 g gelatin (= 2 sheets)
    1.5 dL heavy cream (38% fat)
    1 iSi cream charger

    Mix garlic cloves and coffee with blender or hand-held mixer. Add chocolate, a pinch of cardamom and heat while dissolving sugar. Stir in pre-soaked gelatin. Cool, add heavy cream, sift through fine mesh to remove remaining pieces of garlic and fill 0.5 L iSi gourmet whipper. Charge with 1 cream charger and leave in fridge over night. Serve with a drizzle of instant coffee.

    How it tastes? In the finished espuma served cold, the first aroma noticed is coffee accompanied by a sweet taste on the tongue. This is followed by a faint chocolate aroma which then gives way for an aftertaste dominated by garlic. It’s quite surprising and the aromas blend well together. I used 30 g of chocolate, but I’ve increased it to 40 g in the recipe since the cocolate aroma was a little weak. As for uses, I think it would go well with a steak for instance. If used as a dessert I would perhaps reduce the amount of garlic to 2 or 3 cloves so as not to overwhelm the guests (unless they frequent the restaurant Garlic & shots in Soho, London where even the beer is served with garlic!).


    TGRWT #1: Garlic, coffe and chocolate

    Tuesday, April 17th, 2007

    Reading the comments on how to prepare a dish using garlic, coffee and chocolate, I figured it could actually be a good idea to make this into a food blogging event. Inspired by Is My Blog Burning (IMBB), Sugar High Friday (SHF) and the like, I hereby launch a new food blogging event called They Go Really Well Together (TGRWT).

    The name refers to flavour pairing of ingredients based on their content of volatile aroma compounds. The idea behind flavour pairing is that if two (or more) foods have one or more volatile compounds in common, chances are good that they might taste well together. Click for a list of other flavour pairings and to read previous blog posts on the topic. The molecule shown in the logo is of 2-methylfuran-3-thiol, a very potent aroma chemical found in coffee, chicken, meat, fish and popcorn – to mention a few.


    Many flavour pairings seem strange at first, especially when the combination is not found in any recipes. To illustrate the flavour pairing one can always just eat the two ingredients together. But it would be so much nicer to actually make a proper dish out of it. Therefore I’m quite excited to see what the creative minds of all the food loving bloggers can come up with!

    This is how the first round of the blogging event works (hereafter referred to as TGRWT #1):

    1. Prepare a dish that combines garlic, coffee and chocolate. You can either use an existing recipe (if there is any) or come up with your own.
    2. Write a entry in your blog by May 1st with TGRWT #1 in the subject and make sure to include a link to the header of this post for trackback links. Readers will probably be particularily interested in how the flavour pairing worked out, so make an attempt at describing it.
    3. Deadline for submissions is May 1st. A round-up will be posted by me here some days later with pictures.
    4. Please send me an email at webmaster (at) khymos (dot) org with the following details: Your name, URL of blog and URL of the TGRWT #1 post and a picture for your entry in the round-up.
    5. If you don’t have a blog, email me your recipe, name and location and I’ll be glad to include it in the final round-up.
    6. In due time I will ask one of the participants to host the next round on their blog (and provide an updated logo).

    Triple flavour pairing: garlic, coffee and chocolate

    Monday, April 16th, 2007

    Preparing for a presentation on flavour pairing, Bernard Lahousse at Food for design visited Franí§ois Benzi at Firmenich, a large supplier of aroma chemicals and perfume ingredients. Bernard plans to launch a website dedicated to flavour pairing soon, and in the mean time he posts about it on his blog, including this interesting expansion of the flavour pairing concept:

    …you can also use foodpairing to pair food that doesn’t match. Like chocolate and garlic. The trick then is to search for a third food product that has something in common with chocolate and with garlic. An example is coffee. Coffee has flavour components in common with garlic: Dimethyl disulfide and with chocolate: Methyl pyrazine.


    My challenge to you all is to come up with recipes that include garlic, chocolate and coffee. Any suggestions?