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Kevin Liu

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Posts posted by Kevin Liu

  1. Alright folks, I could use some help on this project. I've perused through the existing Food Dehydrators topic and found some useful nuggets, but nothing approaching the scope of what I'm interested in.

    I would like to build a simple dehydrator that is able to control both temperature and end humidity (the two most important variables in dehydrating) precisely.

    For temperature control, I would like to use a hairdryer or similar heating element hooked up to a PID controller, with an appropriate thermocouple to measure temperature.

    For humidity control, I doubt it would be feasible to set up some sort of steaming element, so I'm thinking something along the lines of "given an end temp of 60C, add 50 mL of water to a dish and once it's down to 40 mL, you should be at a relative humidity of 80%..."

    Ideally, I'd like a cheap, simple system that could make strawberry fruit leather one day and powdered strawberries the next. Does that make sense?

    Some specific questions:

    - What thermocouple would be best for this situation?

    - Would it be useful to somehow measure both the wet bulb and dry bulb temperatures?

    - Will a hair dryer work or would a different heat source be better?

    Thanks very much in advance!

  2. I've tested a lot of the cocktails mentioned in this thread, but most of them are still pretty high proof for my friends who are afraid to taste too much alcohol in their drinks.

    Here's a recipe I found that a bunch of beginners loved, and which I think was made with enough care to classify it as "craft".

    Sofia's Swizzle

    1 3/4 oz. Reposado Tequila

    1 1/4 oz. Apple Juice

    1/4 oz. Lime Juice

    1/4 oz. Velvet Falernum

    2 dashes Angostura Bitters

    2 oz Ginger Beer

    Shake the first five ingredients with ice, then strain over fresh ice. Top with ginger beer.

    Every component in this cocktail played nicely, with the restrained use of ginger beer really making the drink. The ultimate flavor depends heavily on what brand of ginger beer you use.

    Original Recipe

    Does anyone else like drinks like this? Want to share some recipes?

  3. I think the salt thing has to do with water activity. I dug up a paper today titled "Use of humectants for the stabilization of pesto sauce." by Severini et al that seems to indicate the availability of water in pesto has a direct relationship with preserving green color. This is also probably why you're supposed to squeeze all the water out of blanched pesto.

    and by the way the article mentions that commercial food processors will pack pesto in artificial atmospheres that are low in oxygen to further prevent oxidation.

  4. Here's the answer from the Reynolds Website:

    Why does aluminum foil sometimes melt and leave black specks on the food?

    Occasionally when aluminum foil comes in contact with a different metal or a food that is highly salted or acidic, small pinholes are formed in the foil. This is a harmless reaction that does not affect the safety of the food. It is difficult to predict, but may occur under the following conditions:

    1. When aluminum and a dissimilar metal are in contact in the presence of moisture, an electrolytic reaction may occur causing a breakdown of the aluminum. To avoid this use aluminum, glass, ceramic, plastic or paper containers. Do not cover sterling silver, silverplate, stainless steel or iron utensils with aluminum foil.

    2. A similar reaction may occur when salt, vinegar, highly acidic foods or highly spiced foods come in contact with aluminum foil. The result of these reactions is a harmless aluminum salt. Some aluminum salts are used in medicines to treat stomach disorders. The food can be safely eaten; however, the aluminum salt particles can be removed from the food to improve the appearance of the food.

    On the same page, they write:

    ...when using Reynolds Wrap® Release® Non-Stick Aluminum Foil. The non-stick coating is applied during manufacturing to the dull side of the foil. Always place the non-stick (dull) side toward the food.

    I would say if you do have Non-Stick aluminum foil, use the dull side in contact with the food to reduce reaction as much as possible. Or wrap first in something nonreactive, before finishing with foil.

  5. By quickly blanching the basil, you deactivate chlorophyllase, the enzyme responsible for the breakdown of chlorophyll, so that definitely contributes to preserving color.

    Unfortunately, I don't think acid should help preserve the green color. Rather, high acidity replaces the Magnesium in chlorophyll with H+ ions, resulting in the production of olive-drab and yellowish pheophytin compounds.

    This is my best guess at what is happening: basil's color is preserved by a quick blanch. The resulting chlorophyll then leaches into the olive oil (chlorophyll is oil soluble), giving the oil itself a bright green color that cannot be affected by acidity. the rest of pesto will slowly turn brown in an acidic environment, but it won't be as easy to see because the oil is so brightly colored.

    It'd be really interesting if you could measure the pH of the pesto to see if it's acidic or basic; maybe I'm totally off. I'd be interested to see what you get, I just put up a post on keeping stuff green on my blog and I feel like there must be a better way than simply adding pinch of baking soda to cooking water.

  6. 1.5 oz Plymouth Gin

    .5 oz Elderflower Liquer,

    .5 oz Lemon Juice

    3-4 Celery Leaves (slap it, don't muddle it).

    Top with soda.

    Delicious cocktail, one of the few I've tried that works with both plymouth and Hendrick's. Not sure if this sucker is named already. If it isn't, I'm open to suggestions :-)

  7. I'm a regular follower of Dave Arnold's on the cooking issues radio show. He delves into a lot of topics on the show that he doesn't cover in the blog. You can search the archives of the show at Heritage Radio Network. They tag all the episodes with keywords.

    All the previous posters' suggestions are spot on, but I'd like to add my own neat trick:

    I follow a ton of blogs and sites that do a little molecular gastronomy/modernist cuisine here and there. I save them all to my google reader as rss feeds. I then go into google reader and use the search function to search every post each of those blogs has ever published. That's how you get stuff like Ideas in Food's cauliflower custard when you search "sodium hexametaphosphate", and not a bunch of technical mumbo jumbo from google.

    It's really useful, and it's how I've been putting together this list of molecular gastronomy ingredients and uses - mostly because I felt the same way bigchef felt.

  8. Not sure if anyone is still interested in a list of molecular gastronomy ingredients, but I've been working on one for a few weeks and it's now up on my blog here.

    Would greatly appreciate any input from the crowd. Tell me I'm an idiot, I'm a glutton for punishment!

    (and just kind of a glutton overall, actually...)

  9. Take a look at some of the things I posted here. The basic gist is that alcohol in high concentrations can cause a burning sensation in the mouth that is similar to the burning caused by menthol or capsaicin. However, if you dilute the alcohol, you get less burning and so are more able to experience subtle flavors. If you dilute alcohol a lot (to something like the levels found in wine), the flavor starts tasting sweet rather than "burn".

    I think Dave Arnold also has tried rotovapping whisky (separating the alcohol from the water content) and tasting only the remaining booze-less result. He said you get some amazing flavors when they're not masked by alcohol burn. I think he mentioned this on episode 50 of the cooking issues radio show.

  10. Try a Santo Libre - a spin on the Cuba Libre that substitutes Sprite for Coke

    2 oz Dominican Rum (Brugal Anejo/Extra Viejo or Ron Barcelo Imperial)

    2 lime quarters, muddled

    add rocks, top with Sprite

    I prefer a rum with good age for this drink. Personally, I prefer Ron Barcelo for its sweet, caramel character, but Ron Brugal Extra Viejo makes the drink complex and special.

  11. I visited B&O Brasserie this past week and tried out the "el Oso" by Brendan Dorr. It was absolutely fantastic. He served it neat, not with an ice cube as called for in the book. At first, I was thrown off because it was sweeter than I'm used to, but the flavors play really well together. Don't be thrown off by the sweetness - I'm usually a fan of strong, spicy cocktails, and I loved this one. Will be picking up a bottle of barenjager soon to make these at home for sure!

    1.75 oz

    Partida añejo tequila

    .75 oz Barenjager honey liqueur

    .5 oz Luxardo maraschino liqueur

    2 dashes The Bitter Truth Jerry Thomas’ Own Decanter bitters

    1 dried orange wheel, as garnish

    1 Kold-Draft ice cube, as garnish

    Originally by Brendan Dorr, B&O Brasserie

    Regan, Gary (2011-06-08). gaz regan's ANNUAL MANUAL for BARTENDERS, 2011 Mixellany Limited.

  12. Thanks for the thoughtful responses. I think both chemesthesis and thermoception are really important. I especially like the example of the low-alcohol fruit tasting strong.

    I did a little more research into vanilloid receptors and found some interesting reading:


    However, for many years it has been known that ethanol produces taste responses that include a burning sensation (Hellekant, 1965; Danilova and Hellekant, 2002; Sako and Yamamoto, 1999). The presence of the TRPV1 channel in taste receptor cells (Lyall et al., 2005a-c) provides a possible mechanism for the burning effect of ethanol. Indeed, previous studies in nociceptive neurons that innervate the face and mouth, as well as TRPV1-expressing HEK293 cells, showed that TRPV1 channels responded to ethanol at concentrations of 0.3-3% (about 65-650 mM) (Trevisani et al., 2002). Specifically, ethanol potentiated the response of TRPV1 to selective TRPV1 agonist - capsaicin and protons (acidic solution of pH 6) and lowered the threshold for heat activation of TRPV1 from 42 °C to 34 °C, which is near the temperature of the tongue. This provides a likely mechanistic explanation for the ethanol-induced sensory responses of inflamed tissues (Hirota et al., 2003)

    So it looks like the jury may still be out on specifically how the burn we associate with alcohol actually works, but I'd be willing to bet its some combination of all these factors.

  13. I did a few hours of testing this morning (hooray for off days!) and found that it doesn't take much CaOH to make a saturated solution. I added about a 2 tbsp to maybe a pint of water, and there was plenty of sediment at the bottom, even after vigorous shaking. While the CaOH had a noticeable effect on blanched green peppers, I wouldn't call the result... "desirable". I'll be trying more experiments over the weekend.

    @dcarch: I have been toying with the idea of simply adding green food coloring to blanching water. I know most food-enthusiasts would probably be against food coloring due to its artificial nature, but if we're going to be adding things like Calcium Hydroxide and Sodium Bicarbonate to our blanching water to preserve color, is food coloring that far of a stretch? Thoughts?


  14. When people describe a liquor as "harsh" or "smooth", they are typically referring to the presence of that characteristic "burning" taste of ethanol. What is the physiological or chemical explanation for this sensation? It should be clear that the taste isn't strictly bound to alcohol content, since many higher-proof spirits are consistently known to be smoother than lower-proof varieties.

    I'd like to better understand the mechanism in order to better control the taste of cocktails, infusions, etc.

    Here are some theories I've come across, any elaboration would be really helpful:

    - ion channels in taste receptors are temperature dependent, so lower temperature = less burning

    - alcohol is evaporating off the tongue

    - the overstimulation of vanilloid receptors (VR1) in the mouth

    - presence of impurities/bitter agents

    And here are some ideas I'm playing with for mitigation of burn

    - presence of dissolved sugar increases space between ethanol molecules, reducing perceived alcohol burn

    - neural adaptation leads to less burning sensation over time

    - salt or acid seem to neutralize the sensation (tequila shots?), is this a chemical reaction or a neural adaptation thing?

    Thanks in advance!

  15. I think dave didn't post more specific instructions because he hasn't done controlled testing. I posted on the site with a related question and here's what he said:

    "Howdy Kevin,

    I never measured the concentration, but it is small. CaOH is only weakly soluble in water. The easiest way to get a constant dosage would be to make lime water (by saturating CaOH in water and letting the residue settle). Lime water is stable and easy to store, then you can add that to cooking water. Much easier is to add CaOH straigt to the pot. Start with a couple of grams per liter and see how it goes.

    With number 2, I think you’d have to soak or pre-water blanch before the oil to get the CaOH to the veggies. Please try it and let me know what happens."

    I'm going to give this a shot and will report back.

  16. Todd - I actually wok-deep-fried a 1.5-lb catfish July 3rd as a test run and did a chile-based sweet and sour sauce. It was much better than the grilled version texturally, but I still didn't feel like it the flavors really got into the fish. I'll definitely post a recipe if I do manage to triangulate on something worth sharing.

    HungryC - good points. Maybe next time if I have such a big fish I'll ask for it be cut into steaks and grill them that way...

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