Sunday, February 9, 2014

Molecular Gastronomy at Home: Taking Culinary Physics Out of the Lab and Into Your Kitchen- Best Cookbook Review

 

About the Book

Molecular Gastronomy, Culinary Physics, Microgastronomy, Bistronomy, Avant Garde Cuisine, Multi-Sensory Dining all mean the same thing -- using food science to bring flavor, texture, taste and aromas to recipes in new ways.

This book teaches the experienced home cook how to practice dozens of the most common methods used in molecular gastronomy. Clear and easy-to-follow step-by-step photographs demonstrate each technique so cooks can practice the unique skills and presentation concepts. Techniques that require special equipment are shown with their closest domestic equivalents.

In addition to a brief history of molecular gastronomy, how it works, ingredients used and important safety rules, the book includes techniques and recipes as follow:

Sous-Vide -- "Under vacuum" cooking, e.g., Confit salmon with pomme puree and squid ink

Transglutaminase or meat glue--  e.g., Salmon and lemon sole terrine

Dehydration -- e.g., Beet powder and black olive "soil"

Centrifugal Cooking -- e.g., Clarified watermelon cocktail

Evaporation -- How to make mouth-watering syrups and beverages without artificial flavorings

Rapid Infusion -- How to infuse flavors into liquids, e.g., Celery ice cream

Adding Smoke -- e.g., Smoked chocolate mousse

Spherification -- e.g., Sweet chili bubbles with roast duck

Carbonation -- How to intensify the flavors and aromas of foods

Foams and Airs -- e.g., Shellfish bisque with a lemongrass foam

Hydrocolloids (gels, gums) -- Cured salmon with cucumber jelly

Liquid Nitrogen -- For super-smooth sweet and savory ice creams

Food Pairing -- An essential skill in molecular gastronomy

Avant-Garde Presentation -- Inspiration and tips

Multi-sensory Taste Perception - The five senses in molecular gastronomy.

Molecular Gastronomy at Home shows how with clear technical guidance, delicious and easy-to-follow recipes plus a generous dose of patience, home cooks can take culinary physics out of the lab and into their home kitchen.


About the Author

Jozef Youssef is a highly acclaimed restaurant and private dining chef. He started his career working for Michelin-starred chef Hélène Darroze at the Connaught Hotel in London. He has since worked with several other renowned chefs and trained in molecular gastronomy with Heston Blumenthal. Jozef now works as a private chef in London, Dubai and Tokyo. He develops his menu concepts in his experimental kitchen called Odyssey and manages www.kitchen-theory.com.


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Table of Contents

Foreword by Charles Spence
Introduction
Equipment and Materials
Technique 1: Spherification
Technique 2: Culinary Smoking
Technique 3: Airs, Foams and Espumas
Technique 4: Sous-Vide Cooking
Technique 5: Transglutaminase
Technique 6: Cold Gels and Fluids Gels
Technique 7: Heat-Tolerant Gels
Technique 8: Dehydration
Technique 9: Rapid Infusion
Technique 10: Liquid Nitrogen
Technique 11: The Anti-Griddle
Technique 12: Centrifuge
Technique 13: Rotary Evaporator
Technique 14: Ultra-Sonic Homogenizer
Technique 15: Fermentation
Hydrocolloids
Umami
Multi-Sensory Fluid Perception
Flavor Tripping
Food Pairing
Food Presentation
Glossary
Index
Acknowledgements

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Editorial Book Review

Avant-garde? Admittedly. Shocking? Often. Head-scratchingly scientific? Sometimes. A whole new way of looking at food, cooking and gastronomic pleasure? Absolutely!

Youssef elevates all things culinary to what can only be dubbed a stunningly precise discipline. By marrying the test tube with the spatula, this book embodies the ultimate crash course for the amateur chef and home cook in preparing food using modern scientific principles.

Fifteen techniques of molecular gastronomy are precisely explained, often with an illustrative recipe to accompany them. From smoking, to gelling, to dehydrating, to fermenting, Youssef describes them all, aiming to teach a genuine understanding of food preparation. He explains how to pair food, as well as plate it, for maximum sensory impact. The book itself is a sensory delight with crisp, elegant photos and an easy to navigate layout. While anyone certainly could master the techniques with a little practice, this book is not a casual read. Some of the equipment is highly specialized and/or costly, such as the smoking gun, rotary evaporator and anti-griddle. Certain ingredients like sodium alginate, gum arabic and transglutiminase are obscure, at least to the home cook.

For a reader seeking new and broader culinary horizons just come armed with a dash of patience and a pinch of scientific interest—the results ought to be astounding.




Users Book Review

O'Reilly and Associates came out with their first cookbook a couple years ago in the form of Cooking for Geeks, and while it's quite an awesome book, it's a bit of a fire hose. Hervé This' Molecular Gastronomy named the subject, but it's mostly theory and descriptions. And of course Modernist Cuisine is thunderously huge and beyond the means of all but the most dedicated of thrifty kitchen nerds (thrifty nerds? do they even exist?).

I read quite a bit online, and eventually bought a collection of used lab and restaurant equipment so I could do my own experiments. And I bought a few of the reasonably-priced books as well. This book -- Molecular Gastronomy at Home by Jozef Youssef -- is the best of those by an extremely wide margin. This book seems to be the book for everyone else.

It is an introduction to the techniques of molecular gastronomy. It is more an instruction manual with some illustrative recipes. It has example recipes, but it is not a cookbook per se. It is closer to a college course on the intersection of physics and food: the subtitle of Youssef's book is "taking culinary physics out of the lab and into your kitchen."

The book is organized around techniques. Spherification, sous-vide, centrifuges, etc. Starting with the techniques most easily accessible to a home chef, it provides a basic background and one or two recipes showcasing the technique. About halfway through, the book gets into the realm of techniques that are only accessible to professional chefs such as reverse griddles. At this point it's just a showcase, there isn't any effort expended in importing any of these techniques into a home setting.

Jozef Youssef seeks to fill that gap with this book. Youssef gently introduces the home cook to the different equipment and techniques used in molecular gastronomy. Each recipe has icons for the equipment and tools needed, as well as both volume and more accurate weight measurements.

More Book Details

The first half of this book discusses techniques and includes recipes for dishes that do not require as much in the way of specialized equipment. The topics include spherification, smoking, foams, sous vide, transglutaminase or meat glue (an intimidating enzyme name for culinary glue), and gels.

The second half is devoted to more esoteric (and often more expensive) equipment, and as such is divided into short discussions on each topic with fewer recipes. The subjects covered include centrifuging, rotary evaporation, use of the anti-griddle as well as flavor pairing and presentations.

Some of them may be out of your range or scope - liquid nitrogen might be a chapter you read but don't attempt, for instance - but it's still good reading. Think of this text as a primer with just the level of illustration and technique that you might want so as not to be initially overwhelmed.

This is a great guidebook, for the home chef who wants to dip a finger into spherification, foams, sous vide cooking, and wants to experiment and find out what this new field of molecular gastronomy is all about. The recipes are usually simple and are meant to help you learn about the technique, which then allows you to develop your own recipes.

First of all, if you are interested in dipping you toe into molecular gastronomy, I would recommend you buy a kit. I have Molecule-R Cuisine R-Evolution Kit and their cocktail kit. That will give you many of the chemicals and equipment necessary and some of their recipes are similar. I wanted a little more of a challenge than those kits offered. If you have one of the kits, an isi whipped cream dispenser, a blender or food processor and immersion blender, thermometer, scale, and a seal-a meal, you have most of the equipment necessary for these recipes. Some call for a food dehydrator (I use a low oven) and a smoker gun, which I don't have. Other, more exotic, equipment (like ultra-sonic homogenizers) and techniques are discussed.

If you're planning on applying these techniques, here's a rough list of the less common ingredients and tools you'll need.

Technique 1: Spherification:
Pipette or syringe
Slotted spherification spoon

Technique 2: Culinary Smoking:
Liquid smoke (Not the bottled stuff; the book instructs you to pass water through a chamber filled with smoke or to pass smoke through a tube into a condenser. That seems to be the function of the next item...)
For cocktail recipes you'll also need a cocktail shaker.

Technique 3: Airs, Foams & Espumas
Gelatin (plain)

Technique 4: Sous-vide Cooking (Just search all the items below on Amazon.com. All is available there and cheaper compared to other store I know.)

Vacuum-packing machine (An alternative to allow use of home vacuum sealers is offered!)
Water-bath

Technique 5: Transglutaminase
Transglutaminase (meat glue)

Technique 6: Cold Gels & Fluid Gels
Gelatin
Carrageenan
Xanthan gum

Technique 7: Heat-tolerant Gels
Agar agar
Methylcellulose
Gellan gum
Syringe and plastic tubes

Technique 8: Dehydration
Dehydrator (One recipe can be dried in the oven for 24 hours instead)
Teflon mat or parchment paper
Piping bag

Technique 9: Rapid Infusion
iSi Whipper
N2O and CO2 gas cartridges
Very fine sieve, iSi brand recommended

Technique 10-15: Liquid Nitrogen, The Anti-Griddle by PolyScience, Centrifuge, Rotary evaporator (rotovap), Ultra-sonic homogenizer, Fermentation
(No recipes included)

You should also have a food processor, blender, and immersion blender on hand, as well as a scale that can measure in 1 gram units, and another that can measure in 0.1 gram units.

Thirty-three pages at the end discuss flavors, food pairing, and food presentation.

If you'd like to know how the chef at that amazing restaurant did that wonderful thing with a foam or a gel or spherification, this book is a great place to look. But I look for two things in molecular gastronomy books--techniques and recipes that make me want to be in my kitchen, and a solid understanding of the science behind the cool effect.

Incidentals I have learned so far:
- Reverse spherification is more versatile than spherification.
- You can bag liquids in a FoodSaver plastic bag if you first freeze the liquid.
- Hannibal probably used "the smoking gun" for one of his dishes.


Watch Video: Molecular Gastronomy Recipe Clementine Sorbet, Pumpkin Seed Oil, Basil

Best Cookbook Review- On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore Of The Kitchen

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