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The Molecular Gastronomy Party has started!


mojoman
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I have taken the plunge into molecular gastronomy!

I ordered my chemicals today. I had eaten at Minibar last fall but I saw Bittmans Best Restaurants in the World on El Bulli this weekend and got inspired to learn.

This hobby gets expensive*...I estimate I've spent at least 2 grand on equipment alone over the past 9 months or so. I've been interested in food and cooking since I was maybe 9 (I'm 41 now) but the interest has been rapidly accelerating. eGullet is an awesome place to get the enthusiasm going.

I'm a competent conventional cook. I'm not a great baker but otherwise, I can work around a kitchen.

I bought a sensitive (100 mg accuracy) digital scale, sodium alginate, sodium citrate, calcium chloride, lechithin, and xanthum gum. As a physician, I have ready access to syringes for making caviar. I also have quite a bit of experience in labs so I know a little about chemistry and know how to measure stuff.

Can any of y'all provide some simple recipes for a first-time MG?

ETA: I reviewed the entire sodium alginate thread from last year. I know that I should start with simple things like tea ravoli and caviar but was looking for more exact recipes.

Thanks in advance!

*ETA I re-read this and I wrote one part badly. I haven't dropped big money on MG equipment...it's mainly conventional cooking equipment. I see where some of the responses are coming from. My bad. :unsure:

Edited by mojoman (log)
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Other than a scale, what actual equipment do you have?  Immersion circulator?  Vaccum sealer?  Anti-griddle? :)

Sorry. I'm not interested in sous vide. I'm interested in the caviar/ravioli aspects of MG. The relatively simple...liquid + chemical stuff. I did buy a Thermapen today though!

Edited by mojoman (log)
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I would suggest buying the El Bulli 2003-2004 book. That should help immensely. The 2005 book should be good as well.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Dude, I just winged it. Play a little. Check willpowder's site for the recipe's there.

www.willpowder.net. I spent fifty bucks but I had my stuff overnighted. Walgreen's gave me syringes. There's a ph balance to preserve. Make your product flavor intensive. It seems to need a flavor boost.

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I can't claim to be a "mg type" but I did go through a flurry of experimenting with some of that stuff a while back and some of it's pretty cool. Some of it is more interesting as an idea (How the heck did they think of that one?) than as an actual culinary experience but even those can open your mind to other possibilities. For example, I remember not being too thrilled with the methocel "hot ice cream" thing. The thought process of someone coming up with it is awesome but eating it didn't remind me of ice cream in any way. But by doing it, I learned the process and tried my own experiments with it. Many went in the trash but a few I was actually happy with. One that went over well with friends was when I took a batch of Moto's donut soup recipe, flavored part of it with cinnamon, swirled that into the base soup and used the "hot ice cream" technique to poach a cream cheese icing disc that I floated on the soup. Cinnamon Bun Soup. Not my creation, just a variation on what others had already done, and no real point to it (there are tons of easier ways to add the cream cheese element that would have been just as good or better) but it was still fun. I think that's the key, just have fun. If you have an idea, try it. If it sucks... laugh, toss it in the bin and figure out what went wrong.

It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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I can't claim to be a "mg type" but I did go through a flurry of experimenting with some of that stuff a while back and some of it's pretty cool. Some of it is more interesting as an idea (How the heck did they think of that one?) than as an actual culinary experience but even those can open your mind to other possibilities. For example, I remember not being too thrilled with the methocel "hot ice cream" thing. The thought process of someone coming up with it is awesome but eating it didn't remind me of ice cream in any way. But by doing it, I learned the process and tried my own experiments with it. Many went in the trash but a few I was actually happy with. One that went over well with friends was when I took a batch of Moto's donut soup recipe, flavored part of it with cinnamon, swirled that into the base soup and used the "hot ice cream" technique to poach a cream cheese icing disc that I floated on the soup. Cinnamon Bun Soup. Not my creation, just a variation on what others had already done, and no real point to it (there are tons of easier ways to add the cream cheese element that would have been just as good or better) but it was still fun. I think that's the key, just have fun. If you have an idea, try it. If it sucks... laugh, toss it in the bin and figure out what went wrong.

You hit the nail on the head. The key ingredient for this style of cooking is fun. If it is not fun thee is little point to it. Aside from the fact that they do it so well, that is what makes elBulli so great - it is a load of fun.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Looking for step-by-step instructions for an experimental process that is supposed to be largely creative seems counterproductive to me--like asking "how do I paint the Mona Lisa?"

A. The Mona Lisa has already been painted and

B. If you have to ask how it was done, you're probably in no shape to bother with the attempt

Just as buying the same strings a famous guitar player endorses will not make you play the same way that they do, dropping thousands of dollars on equipment and supplies you don't know how to use is not going to make you Ferran Adria. I have no strong feelings for or against high-tech food prep in general, but the entire point of the discipline is to create new things and give people something they've never seen before. If you're not going to give it any more thought than you would the back of a Betty Crocker brownie mix box, why bother?

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The fact is that Adria's creativity is based on technique - generally technique that he devised. Not everyone has the time, money, inclination or creativity to be an Adria. In fact very few do. That does not mean that someone can't learn the techniques by repeating what has already been done. That is, in reality, the best way of learning. True creativity that is meaningful is based on knowledge of and ability with techniques already in use such as the ones being asked about here. Besides, creativity is not necessarily the point here. Making food that is fun and good to eat is.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Looking for step-by-step instructions for an experimental process that is supposed to be largely creative seems counterproductive to me--like asking "how do I paint the Mona Lisa?"

A. The Mona Lisa has already been painted and

B. If you have to ask how it was done, you're probably in no shape to bother with the attempt

Just as buying the same strings a famous guitar player endorses will not make you play the same way that they do, dropping thousands of dollars on equipment and supplies you don't know how to use is not going to make you Ferran Adria. I have no strong feelings for or against high-tech food prep in general, but the entire point of the discipline is to create new things and give people something they've never seen before. If you're not going to give it any more thought than you would the back of a Betty Crocker brownie mix box, why bother?

Leonardo could never have created the Mona Lisa without years of unremarkable painting at the Verrocchio studio.

Who knows what people are capable of?

Good on mojoman for wanting to know what some of the rules are before trying to break them!

Peter Gamble aka "Peter the eater"

I just made a cornish game hen with chestnut stuffing. . .

Would you believe a pigeon stuffed with spam? . . .

Would you believe a rat filled with cough drops?

Moe Sizlack

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Does anyone have any thoughts on other uses for Xanthan Gum besides oil-less dressings, and the requisite vegan and gluten free cooking? (I saw that "poi" on Top Chef, but I would think it would be a little slimy, as I learned with some of the sodium-alginate thickened sauces I've tried) I'm sure it would help the texture of some of my baked goods, but I'm trying to find other uses for it before justifying a big bag of it.

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Looking for step-by-step instructions for an experimental process that is supposed to be largely creative seems counterproductive to me--like asking "how do I paint the Mona Lisa?"

A. The Mona Lisa has already been painted and

B. If you have to ask how it was done, you're probably in no shape to bother with the attempt

Just as buying the same strings a famous guitar player endorses will not make you play the same way that they do, dropping thousands of dollars on equipment and supplies you don't know how to use is not going to make you Ferran Adria. I have no strong feelings for or against high-tech food prep in general, but the entire point of the discipline is to create new things and give people something they've never seen before. If you're not going to give it any more thought than you would the back of a Betty Crocker brownie mix box, why bother?

It's not at all like painting the Mona Lisa. :rolleyes::rolleyes::rolleyes:

It's very easy.

It's paint by number if you've ever done it.

It's a step one step two process just like anything else.

Like I said willpowder.net has some jumping off place type recipes.

Mind your ph balance. Watch your math too.

What you might want to think of is, what do you want to deconstruct.

What do you want to y'know like put in the Star Trek transporter and make it into something else? Sweet or savory? Sweet & sour chicken and do pineapple and pepper cavies ( cahvees = spheres) or something. Or do stuffed s&s peppers and put a piece of chicken on the plate then a sawed off green pepper with pineapple caviar in it. Or what would you like to create?

What about apple pie? Do apple and lemon cavies to eat with cinnamon pie crust cookie things.

You kinda pick a theme and run with it. What do you like?

Memphis is big on barbecue. An open faced pork sandwich on brioche with barbq sauce cavies and cole slaw dressing cavies on a bed of chiffonade cabbage. That sounds kinda cool. Baked bean raviolies. A bag of chips!

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Looking for step-by-step instructions for an experimental process that is supposed to be largely creative seems counterproductive to me--like asking "how do I paint the Mona Lisa?"

A. The Mona Lisa has already been painted and

B. If you have to ask how it was done, you're probably in no shape to bother with the attempt

Just as buying the same strings a famous guitar player endorses will not make you play the same way that they do, dropping thousands of dollars on equipment and supplies you don't know how to use is not going to make you Ferran Adria. I have no strong feelings for or against high-tech food prep in general, but the entire point of the discipline is to create new things and give people something they've never seen before. If you're not going to give it any more thought than you would the back of a Betty Crocker brownie mix box, why bother?

First off, >95% of my recent aquisitions are high quality conventional cooking equipment. I can produce good to excellent (by my own judging) food cooked conventionally (with occasional flops).

I spent about $75 on some chemicals because I'd like to eat some of the interesting and tasty dishes I've had at restaurants generally considered MG but I don't want to drop another $200/head at Minibar. I'm not looking to create new things, just to eat stuff I've had and, hopefully, introduce some of my less adventurous or less well-heeled friends to some of this great food.

That seems like an appropriate use of a recipe to me.

Edited by mojoman (log)
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What about apple pie? Do apple and lemon cavies to eat with cinnamon pie crust cookie things.

Y'know this could get some traction. Y'know the American type 'scone' pans that make triangular 'scones'. Take one of those and make little empty pie crusts. Smaller than that exact size though. But that are little containers, that have all three sides. Or use an aluminum foil mold or whatever to bake off little mini pie shaped containers. Get crazy with the fluting. Then serve it ON TOP of some ice cream! Oh I wanna be there! Filled with the apple & lemon spheres of course. I think I'd do some raisin rum ones too. And just a tid tad of a whipped cream poof on top but not so much you can't see the spheres. And you could kinda dangle a coupla white chocolate doo dads outa the whipped cream poof. Maybe put the whipped cream where the pie crust fluting would go then balance some white chocolate scolls there flowing over the 'pie'--way way friggin cool.

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Xanthan Gum - to ice creams to reduce crystal formation.

Useful when doing inverse spherication to gel your liquid together before it hits the alginate but with it's low shear factor it remains very liquid in the mouth.

Useful to keep two miscible liquids apart for hot/cold, this taste/that taste tricks.

Useful to hold other things in suspension (e.g spherical caviar in a xanthian thickened liquid)

Just some ideas play around with it, I don't think I've ever wrote recipes down just had a go, sometimes they work sometimes they don't.

Edited by ermintrude (log)

Time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like a banana.

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I have taken the plunge into molecular gastronomy!

Mojoman, please take and post photos of this most worthy journey.

Although I am not a "bald physician with a cellphone earring"? I am 41 with an undergrad in biochemistry and have spent a lot of time recently thinking about the MG. It is a totally compelling challenge to the way we perceive food and flavour, and I'm counting on you to provide some useful evidence that will enable me to get more kitchen equipment.

Peter Gamble aka "Peter the eater"

I just made a cornish game hen with chestnut stuffing. . .

Would you believe a pigeon stuffed with spam? . . .

Would you believe a rat filled with cough drops?

Moe Sizlack

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From today's NYT

(Mr. Goldfarb) also has plans for a children’s cooking show (his daughter, Loulou, will turn 3 this fall) and plans to write a cookbook on how to use Willpowders — his line of basic chemical building blocks of modern cooking, like sodium alginate and calcium chloride — at home.
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I gather that it's easier to make caviar than ravioli sferications?

Caviar are a snap if your solutions are correct. And with the 96 dropper, you can have thousands of caviar in minutes. I did chocolate caviar a few months back on a tuile - yummy! The ravioli I haven't had as much luck with. That's definitely technique. You can get the Lochness monster pretty easily but you'll need to work on the ravioli.

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It seems to me that the easiest starting point for learning the ravioli technique is something I picked up from Jeff Sigler at Element, here in Atlanta. They make yogurt ravioli to go on lamb prosciutto (made by Society member jmolinari, but that's for another topic). What's nice about this is that with high-calcium raw ingredients, you can skip the calcium chloride step, thereby eliminating one possibility for failure.

Use a demitasse spoon to scoop out a bit of yogurt. Drop it into another demitasse, or even better, olive spoon submerged in the sodium alginate. Swirl gently to encourage coagulation (is that the right word?) and a roundish shape. Drain gently (this is why an olive spoon is helpful, since the excess just runs out the bottom): yogurt ravioli!

Dave Scantland
Executive director
dscantland@eGstaff.org
eG Ethics signatory

Eat more chicken skin.

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Caviar are a snap if your solutions are correct.  And with the 96 dropper, you can have thousands of caviar in minutes.  I did chocolate caviar a few months back on a tuile - yummy!  The ravioli I haven't had as much luck with.  That's definitely technique.  You can get the Lochness monster pretty easily but you'll need to work on the ravioli.

Yeah, I didn't run into any real trouble with the caviar either. My first ravioli was with peas because I didn't want to worry about PH adjustment and all that while learning the technique. I figured the less potential for trouble, the better in the beginning. I remember very clearly looking at the green tadpoles floating around in the rinse pan and thinking "not as easy as I assumed it would be". I was happy that it worked though. That pea formula is apparently pretty solid (so I'd recommend it as a great starting point) because I remember the very first try working perfectly, they just weren't pretty and round. So, just to make the best of the situation (always remember to laugh, it makes the experimenting and learning process much more fun), I put 'em in a bowl of consomme, floated a couple chive blossoms on top and told everybody it was Pond Water Soup.

It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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David Chang uses xanthum gum to thicken whipped silken tofu. I was making this recipe tonight (as the tofu was expiring) when I realized I did not have the xanthum gum. Oh well! Blew the texture but still got the taste to contrast with cherry tomatoes.

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David Chang uses xanthum gum to thicken whipped silken tofu. I was making this recipe tonight (as the tofu was expiring) when I realized I did not have the xanthum gum. Oh well! Blew the texture but still got the taste to contrast with cherry tomatoes.

Victornet, could you please provide some details on the recipe for thickened whipped silken tofu and its uses? I have a large jar of xanthum that I'm looking to use and tofu is a kitichen staple for me, so this sounds like a great combination. Thank you.

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Xanthan gum can be used with guar gum to form elastic textures with a number of ingredients, like chocolate ganache, for example. It can be added to vegetable or fruit juices to make sauces or purees. It is used as a stablizer for foams. There are thousands of possible applications. It is stable with high acidity and high salt levels. It is also cold soluble, meaning you won't loose the color or nutritional value of your product by cooking. Read labels of food items for your insperation. Most of the products used in "mg" are used in high volume food production. Often times that is why they were even created. Xanthan gum is used in toothpaste as both a thickener and emulsification stablizer.

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