Chemistry is unlocking exciting ways for you to make great food
If you've watched any hint of celebrity chef cooking on television by now, you've seen chefs transform mango into egg yolk, lobster into foam and fruit juice into caviar all in the name of a new style of cooking most call "molecular gastronomy." The good news, though, is that molecular gastronomy doesn't have to remain on the TV. Get out your lab coats and wooden spoons because you're about to start your very first experiment in your own home.
What is molecular gastronomy?
Before we can begin experimenting with molecular gastronomy, it's important to know exactly what we're getting ourselves into. As of yet, there is no governing body to say what is and is not molecular gastronomy, so a number of cooking styles get mislabeled as molecular gastronomy. For the purposes of the following experiments, we'll be concentrating on strictly foods that can be produced by adding food-grade additives (gases, gums, pastes, thickeners, etc.) to food.
Why would we do this? Because with molecular gastronomy, we can remake food. We can take mango and coconut puddings and have them look like eggs, turn foams into cakes, create edible salad dressing pearls and a million other things in between.
Of course, this definition is slightly different from the one proposed by the man who coined the term "molecular gastronomy," scientist Herve This. This was more scientist than mad scientist, but laid the groundwork for modern molecular gastronomy because of his scientific approach to cooking. Sadly, the definition leaves out a lot of cool techniques that you should also try (like turning food into steam, which is pretty amazing, and using immersion circulators to sous vide food, etc.), but it gives us a good starting place. Plus, it's really cool!
How to get started
As you get started, you'll need a guide. Fortunately, we have just the thing for the beginning molecular gastronomer. In it, you'll find a complete set of books on the subject, where to get starter kits and a list of the tools you'll need. Free feel to refer to this guide as you start your explorations.
Once you know what you want to do, then you just need to find the right equipment to get yourself going. Again, our guide already has a good list of tools and additives you'll need to really get your gastronomic experiments going. However, if you're not sure what you want to do, here are several recipes to get you started.
Experiment with these gastronomic recipes:
Berry balsamic vinaigrette pearls
Yields 1 cup of pearls
Yields 1/2 liter of foam
30 second sponge cake
This recipe requires a food whipper, which you might have seen used at bars and ice cream parlors to make whipped cream. Liquid is placed in a holding tank and pressurized gas cartridges are inserted into the whipper itself. When the lever is pressed on the whipper, it aerates the mixture with the gas and, for lack of a better term, "sprays" the liquid which has now become a foamy cream. They're great for whipped cream, sauces and, in this case, cake batter.
Yields 1-2 cakes
More experiments, more tools