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Everything posted by nathanm

  1. I would not worry about the exact date Amazon promises you. That is some estimate, and frankly I am not sure what it is based on. I don't think they have enough data to get an accurate date. The first Amazon customers ought to be getting their books delivered in the coming week. I don't know how many or who. I would expect that everybody who has ordered as of now will have their books in March. But please don't take that as a guarantee because this is out of my control. A lot depends on how quickly the boat gets unloaded, how long it takes the trucks to go from Seattle to the Amazon serivce center, and how long UPS or other shippers take to go from Amazon to the customer.
  2. This pizza discussion is quite silly. Scott123 clearly hasn't even seen the actual pages in the book that are relevant, and is going off on a tangent criticizing things that are not in the book. Note that the instructions in the book does NOT say that the plate is at 550F. It says to put the oven at it "hottest setting", which for most ovens is 550F, for "at least" 1/2 hour. Then put the broiler on and get the plate even hotter. Then cook the pizza. The actual tempertaure of the plate could potentially be much hotter than 550F, because the broiler is typically not regulated by air tempreature. The broiler element is typically at least 1000F. The plate does NOT come into equilibrium with it, but it can get hotter than 550F. Nowhere do we say that this is 100% the same as a genuine "Neapolitan pizza". We do say that a Neapolitan pizza typically cooks in 2 minutes or under, and this technique can approximate that cooking time. But the "char" that Scott123 finds so precious may, or may not occur. Indeed, we don't mention char at all. Just in case this is not clear, the whole point of this technique is to improvise a way to turn a home electric oven into something that can cook a better pizza crust. We can hardly gurantee that every random home oven will beat out a professional pizza oven. There is way too much variation in ovens to make that feasible. Some ovens will not reach the right temperature. We find that this approach CAN improve pizza. We like the results better than a pizza stone. That's all. The experiment that Scott123 discuses is irrelevant. I don't understand how it is relevant. He seems to be testing the wattage of his oven element - i.e. how much heat can it transfer through the plate. This is not related to the techinque, but perhaps I don't understand his experiment. As many posts above say, the essence of this techinque is to preheat the plate as hot as you can get it with the lower oven element, we say 1/2 hour, but in some ovens you may want to go longer - it is oven dependent. Then turn on the upper broiler element and let it get the plate even hotter. Then, with the plate as hot as your oven can possibly get it, and the broiler element on full blast, put in the pizza. It will be heated from below by the hot metal plate, and from above by the broiler. Your mileage may vary! I do NOT guarantee that you'll get a perfect char, but depending on your oven and your plate you might get a good approximation. The thicker the plate, the more likely you'll get a good result. There is no guarantee that a 1/4" plate will work perfectly but it will be a lot better than a cookie sheet, and in our tests, better than a pizza stone. A 1/2" to 3/4" thick steel plate, or a 3/4" or thicker aluminum sheet will, all things being equal, be better than a thinner plate, but if your oven is weak no amount of metal plate thickness will save you. As several people noted (and is noted in the book), this technique was developed by Chris Young for Heston Blumenthal and the BBC perfection series. As such it has been around for a while. Kenji Alt-Lopez has a somewhat similar approach. He uses a broiler to cook the top of the pizza, and puts it in a steel skillet to cook the bottom of the crust. In that case he is substituting the oven burner and skillet to heat the bottom with the pizza stone. This approach will also work, but you need to have a BIG burner with a lot of BTUs and a big skillet. I hope this clears the issue up.
  3. Heat transfer fins help if you have a powerful enough oven, for example in a Combi-oven, or a professional convection oven. In a home oven you are limited by the heating capacity (wattage) of the oven. Most ovens just don't have enough wattage for this to work. So what you do in effect is take a long time to build up heat in the metal plate, then release it during a short cooking time.
  4. The reflectivity (and thermal emissivity) is also discussed the book, although not in the pizza section. Basically, the story is this: 1. Because the aluminum is shiny, it will take longer to heat up than it would if it was black. This is particularly true for heat from the broiler element which will mostly be infrared radiation. 2. But, once it is hot, it will not lose heat by thermal radiation. This is why many griddles and planchas are shiny chrome - they do not lose heat to thermal radiation. So while it will take longer to heat up a shiny plate than a black plate, it will also lose heat less. 3. Once the pizza is in contact with the metal plate, heat will be primarily by conduction, not radiation, so the heat transfer to the pizza will be pretty much the same regardless of whether the aluminum is shiny or not. 4. One could make the aluminum black through a process called anodizing. This is similar to the dark finish on Calphalon pans. This would be faster to heat up than a shiny plate. 5. A mild steel plate is pretty dark, and if you season it with oil as you would a wok it will be quite dark. This will absorb heat from the broiler element much faster than the aluminum will, but the conductivity is much lower, so the trade off will depend on thickness.
  5. The ultrasonic cleaner we use is similar to the one for your wife's jewelry, only bigger. They come in various sizes. You could test the recipe out with a 1-liter ultrasonic bath, but you won't be able to make large quantities that way.
  6. Neapolitan pizza has two defining properties. Oven spring and char. Without char, it's NY style pizza, not Neapolitan. Here is a photo of the kind of char I'm referring to The high heat that produces char also generates oven spring- you can't have one without the other. I've tested this extensively and 1/4" steel plate at temperatures of 550 and below will not produce anything close to this amount of undercrust char/oven spring in 2 minutes. 1/2" won't either. 3/4" should, but that's only for homeowners with ovens that actually go to 550. You'd be amazed by the number of ovens that can't go too far above 500. 3/4" steel plate, cut to the 'size of the oven shelf' will weigh upwards of 90 pounds. Cut to a comfortable size for launching a traditional 14" pizza onto (16"), it still clocks in at 50 lbs. Oven shelf integrity varies considerably from model to model. I've seen shelves that can handle considerable amounts of weight and I've seen others that started bowing at well below 50 lbs. 3/4" steel plate is going to break a few oven shelves. If you want to tell your readers that they can make NY style pizza at home with 1/2" steel plate, that would be accurate, as would telling them they can make Neapolitan, with the right oven, at the right temp, with 3/4" steel. But Neapolitan with 1/4" plate? Not in a million years. And aluminum, seriously? Come on, Nathan, you have to be aware of the aluminum's conductivity. You can pre-heat it for as long as you want and the moment you open the door, the temperature will plummet. Aluminum will not store heat- and for pizza, stored heat is critical. You clearly don't have the actual book recipe, so you are making some bad assumptions. We recommend having the oven at high AND having the top broiler element on. Most electric ovens have this feature. Some gas ovens do, but they don't all have it. With the broiler on in it will get very hot indeed. Without the broiler you would be right, but that isn't what the recipe actually calls for, so your comments are not revelant to the actual recipe. 1/4" steel plate heated this way will make a much better pizza crust than you could do with a normal pan. It will not be the same as you would get with a thicker plate, but for people who don't want to buy (or lift!) a thicker plate, it is definitely worth doing. Your comments on aluminum are completely off the mark. I am very aware of the thermal conductivity, indeed we count on it. As another post points out the low heat transfer coefficient of air means that the temperature of the plate will not plummet just because you open the oven door to put the pizza in. The high thermal conductivity is why the plate will put a lot of heat into the pizza quickly, which is the whole point. As to the issue of char on the bottom of the pizza, that is something that some people want, and some people don't. Your opinion about Naples vs New York style pizza is just that - your opinion. Not everybody wants or needs the bottom of the pizza charred. If you do want char, the only way to get it is to have high heat transfer to the bottom of the pan, which is what a metal plate helps you achieve. In the tests we did for the book we used several different home ovens, with a 3/4" aluminum plate. If you look at the picture that is exactly what it shows. It does work. Finally, I will point out that this is an improvised way to get high bottom heat. It really makes a difference. But the "right" way to do this is with professional baking oven with a heated ceramic floor. I know, because I have two of them at home. They are great but very expensive. The metal plate method is an inexpensive way to approximate that kind of oven. The metal plate isn't perfect, but it lets you achieve pretty good results.
  7. Who knew there was a war going on? And who declared Americans the victors? The books are full of recipes from pretty much anyone who's made a significant mark on moderninst cuisine, and if there's an Anglo bias, I certainly haven't noticed it. I should briefly explain. There is no war, but there is some controversy about a topic that to most people will be some very obscure points about history of the movement. Frankly, not that many people will care. The book covers the origin of what we call "modernist cuisine". Like the start of a great river, the origin isn't one single thing, it is a bunch of streams that come together. One stream of history is technological innovation in cooking (sous vide, other things from industrial cooking technology). Another stream is chefs like Ferran Adria, and Heston Blumenthal who started innovating in their restaurant cuisine. A third stream is the role of science is cooking. Science has been involved with food at least since Louis Pasteur in the 19th century, but the big move in terms of home and restaurant chefs started in 1984 with Harold McGee's book On Food and Cooking. Herve This, and Nickolas Kurti were another sub-stream of science in the kitchen. In 1992, This, Kurti, Elizabeth Thomas and Harold McGee organized a conference at Erice in Sicily. This conference was called "molecular gastronomy", and was the first use of that name. All together there were six conferences held at Erice between 1992 and 2004. There are a series of controversies about these topics: 1. Some people think that the 1992 conference is what started the whole movement. 2. Others don't, and think that this conference, while interesting for food science, was largely irrelevant to the development of actual cuisine. They point out that the key chefs in the movement didn't particpate. Ferran Adria started his cuisine innovations in 1983 long befor the conference. He never went to Erice conferences nor did any Spanish chef. Heston Blumenthal only went long after he developed his own cuisine. McGee published his book in 1984. 3. The conference put the name out there, and as a result some people think the movement should be called "molecular gastronomy", but that is a very problematic name. Herve This argues very strongly that the name should NOT be used for cuisine and instead the name should be used only for science. Since Herve also is arguably the leader of the "MG is science" camp, that carries some weight. Chefs on the other hand, seem to universally hate the name "molecular gastronomy". So since both Herve This, and the chefs both hate applying the name to the cusine, I don't think it makes sense to call it that. But it is still controversal, and many people use it. 4. Quite separately, some food scientists argue that the Herve This view of "molecular gastronomy" as a new scientific discipline is a bit overblown, because it is at most a sub-branch of food science, which is a hundred year old scientific discpline. 5. Finally, at the micro level, there are multiple different stories told about who actually organized the conference. These accounts contradict each other on issues like who did what, and who deserves credit. Of course your position on who deserves credit depends in part on the other controversies. If you think the conferences were not important then credit is a bit moot. This set of controveries is what the reviewer was referring to. I suspect that hardly anybody will understand the reference, but I do because he and I discussed it quite a bit in a phone interview. I think he calls it "anglo american" because Herve This is French, while Blumenthal is British and McGee is American. He thinks that I side with the latter group, which I guess is his opinon. I try to explain all sides of these issues, and I certainly recognize that there are multiple points of view on this. Still, calling it "anglo american" it is a bit odd since the early development of the cuisine (as I explain it) owes a lot to Spaniards - especially Ferran Adria, but also Joan Roca, Juan Arzak and others. I hope that clears up the point in the review. If you like detailed food history, there is quite a bit of it in chapter 1. If not,then there aer ~2300 other pages of material!
  8. There has been a lot of press on the book recently, much of which discusses recipes or what the food tastes like. Wired Magazine has a big article. The Washington Post also has an article about the book, mentioned above. What the post above does not say is that the article includes a couple recipes, which may be of interest. They also have a Q & A section. There is also an article about one of the dinners we had for food writers and chefs. Newsweek also has an article. More articles, including more book reviews are expected in the next few weeks.
  9. By the way, there has been a lot of press on the book recently, much of which discusses recipes or what the food tastes like. Wired Magazine has a big article. The Washington Post also has an article about the book, which inculdes a couple recipes. They also have a Q & A section. There is also an article about one of the dinners we had for food writers and chefs. Newsweek also has an article.
  10. We have a very extensive section on cured meats, including a novel approach to curing we call "equilibrium curing". We make pastrami all the time, and our recipe is one of our favorites.
  11. OK, so here are some comments about the pizza plate. The key idea is to get a very hot surface to cook the pizza on, which has sufficient heat capacity. The thin metal used in pans does not have sufficient heat capacity for this purpose. A ceramic pizza stone will work, but it transfers heat more slowly. The great thing about a thick metal plate is that the thermal conductivity of metal is very fast, so when you put the pizza on the metal plate it transfers its heat to the pizza fairly quickly. The thicker the metal, the more heat capacity, but also the longer it will take for it to heat up. You can use anything from 1/4" thick up to 1" thick. Concievably you could even use something thicker. The page in MC says 3/4" but you could use something thinner. In fact, I might change the text to say that for the next edition. Stainless steel, aluminum and mild steel are widely used in cooking. Most cookware is either 304 or 316 stainless. This is expensive if you get a really thick piece, because it weighs a LOT as a post above points out. The only advantage of stainless is that it won't rust, but that is not that big an advantage frankly. Woks, and many saute pans are mild steel, and they are used in many restaurants. You will need to rub cooking oil on the pan after washing it to prevent rust - just as you would for a wok or cast iron pan. There is a section in MC showing how to do this for a wok - doing it for a steel plate is essentially the same. Mild steel is MUCH cheaper than stainless. A 1/2" thick plate ought to be easy to find and that should cost $30 to $50. You could go thicker if you want, but it gets very heavy so be sure you want to lug it around. Aluminum is the most convienent choice because it weighs less. In that case 3/4" plate should cost $60 to $70 depending on size. The actual alloy of aluminum does not matter much, but 6061 is a pretty standard aircraft aluminum. Scrap metal places may have stuff cheaper. There are places online that will cut metal to order and ship it you if there is nobody local, but usually there is a local supplier. By the way, we also recommend a 3/4" thick to 1" thick aluminum plate to go on top of a gas burner if you want very even heat. It is much cheaper than an All Clad or similar fancy pan, and does a MUCH better job of evening out the heat. Evenness is not needed as much as people think - there is a section on this in the book. Whoever cuts it for you should deburr the edges so you don't cut yourself. That just takes a few minutes with a file or grinder.
  12. The WSJ article did not mention that we use the broiler element in addition to the main oven element.
  13. We had a dinner last night which included Thomas Keller, Corey Lee and other chefs. Tonight we have one with Harold McGee, Dave Arnold, Jose Andres, David Kinch and others. That is the last dinner we are having until some point in April. We have not picked dates yet, and I am not sure we will do more but if we do some other dinners we'll see whether we have space for some other guests.
  14. Yes, the size and surface/volume ratio is certainly revelant. Low temperatures and long time will definitely convert collagen, but it does not cause the shrinkage of collagen fibers that tends to cause juice to be actively expelled. As a result, I think that the gelatin remains in-place and does not go into solution.
  15. Steven makes the key point - when we do an e-version we want it to be really good, with good cross linking and interactive features. We'd also like to have some video content. This could be really cool, especially in a next-generation tablet or laptop. But, as he points out that is a lot of work, so we are putting it off for now. I want to see how people like the paper verison, and frankly we need to take a break. Not that we are getting a break mind you, we are working hard promoting the book. We have had a series of dinners for chefs and food writers. Tonight and tomorrow night we have these dinners, with some of the most famous chefs in the country attending. So that has the team plenty busy for now.
  16. The boat docked and has been unloaded. Books have already been sent to various distributors. I am told that some books may ship to customers very soon, as soon as today, although that depends on things well beyond my control. If that works out, then some lucky people will have books as early as a week from now.
  17. You raise a very interesting point, and I'm afraid that I don't have a complete answer. I think that the reason the juice does not gel is that relatively little juice comes out of the meat. The juice that does get generated does not contain much gelatin. The heat and time do convert the collagen into gelatin, but it is mostly not dissolving and leaching out of the meat. So yes, there is gelatin, but it pretty much stays in place. What this suggests is that it make take higher tempertaure to dissolve the gelatin and remove it from the collagen matrix than it does to convert the collagen in the first place.
  18. Here are some answers to questions posed above. Fondue is basically starch and alcohol/acid added to melted cheese to help stabilize the emulsion. You can use emulsifying salts (sodium citrate or a phosphate) to do the same thing with no starch, and the flavor is (in our opinion) much better. Starch can have poor flavor release properties. We do something similar for cheese sauce - we have a cheeze foam (homemade cheese whiz!) and of course the macaroni and cheese made this way. You can also use various thickeners and gels to help with this (as discussed above we use a bit of iota carrageenan in our mac and cheese) to help texture. Xanthan certainly works, but it is mostly about thickening and most uses of melted cheese the thickness is not the issue - it is already thick but the problem is the emulsion splitting so it gets greasy.
  19. The book is supposed to be Amazon.co.uk I will check as to why it is not. On Amazon.com in the US it has hit #218 on the sales list, which is amazing. We are working on ordering a second printing, and will print as many as we need after that.
  20. There are several new articles about the cookbook and the dinners we have been doing for chefs and others in the food business. Here are comments by Michael Laiskonis, Kenji Alt-Lopez, and two articles by Katy McLaughlin, one about the dinner, and one about the book. These articles have pictures of dishes from the book, but the other interesting thing is that they have comments on what people thought of how the dishes taste.
  21. There are several new articles about the cookbook and the dinners we have been doing for chefs and others in the food business. Here are comments by Michael Laiskonis, Kenji Alt-Lopez, and two articles by Katy McLaughlin, one about the dinner, and one about the book.
  22. As Douglas says, food isn't sterile. People get freaked out over sous vide, but of course everybody has been saving leftovers for years and the issues are basically the same. In general you want food to either be hot, or cold, and not in between. So ideally you would rapid chill anything before it goes into the refer. This also protects other food in the refer from heat you introduce. So it is always good practice. That said, this is not usually necessary.
  23. We love our centerfuge, but it is not really required for any recipe. You can use other methods to separate solids - the book has many alternatives that are much less expensive. The point of a centerfuge is to separate food by density - usually taking solid particles out of a liquid to clarify it. While this is a wonderful thing to do for presentation, it usually can be bypassed. One can also do without a colloid mill. It is perfect for grinding things into a super smooth paste - such as nut butters. As the post above says, very high quality commercial nut pastes will work as an alternative. The same thing is true for most of the cool equipment we use. Our rotor stator homogenizer is our second favorite tool after the centerfuge. They are expensive but I predict people will offer kitchen models in the future that are MUCH cheaper. It shouldn't cost any more than a good blender. A good commercial blender, like Vitamix or Blendtec, and/or for some recipes a hand blender like Baumix, will subsitute most of the time.
  24. Yes, the mosquitoes are for our work combatting malaria. We don't cook with them!
  25. I need to dig it up first - we made it 3 years ago. At the moment I am way too busy with other aspects of getting the book promotion done. There are a lot of excellent macaron recipes out there.
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