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Molecular Gastronomy for beginners


Doodad
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Has anything come out at all? I have a starter kit on the way and would like to see some recipes and or ideas so I can assemble more equipment. I have a stick blender, scale and the kit. I have ideas, but need ratios to work it out.

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I'm not sure I understand what you're asking for. "Molecular gastronomy," a problematic term at the best of times, isn't just one thing. Can you be more specific? What exactly is in this "kit" you've ordered?

If you're just looking for information on using hydrocolloids, you could do a lot worse than Martin's recipe collection found at his blog Khymos.org.

Matthew Kayahara

Kayahara.ca

@mtkayahara

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Yeah I know it is a loose term at best. I almost called the thread something else.

I would like to see specific ratios of the chemicals to do spherification, reverse spheres, foams and such.

The kit I got is from think geek and has the tools to do those.

Thanks for that link.

Edited by Doodad (log)
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Have you downloaded this amazing (and amazingly free) resource?

"Playing with Texture" (Hydrocolloids)

"If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch ... you must first invent the universe." - Carl Sagan

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The problem is that there's not always a specific ratio so making a rulebook would be difficult if not impossible. There are ballpark ratios (almost always available from the manufacturer and/or vendor) that will get you close most of the time and spot on some of the time and the recipes given in a book will usually work ("usually" because some ingredients have variables that can change the result) but that's because you're working with what they worked with when creating the recipe. You can't always say "ok, they used .021% by weight of ingredient X to get ingredient Y to do this so I can use that ratio with ingredient Z instead and get the same result". It might work, it might not. It's a good place to start from but I wouldn't want to count on it without a test run. Unless you want to stick with tried and true recipes, experimenting will require... experimenting.

Your best bet, since Nathan's book isn't out yet, is probably to grab Martin's pdf collections and some books like Alinea, The Fat Duck, Dessert FourPlay and the soon-to-be available Ideas in Food book and get a feel for what others that work with industrial ingredients are doing/have done. Blogs like Ideas in Food, Playing with Fire and Water, Cooking Issues, Khymos and Chadzilla have a lot of information if you dig through the archives. I don't think there's a need to invent the lightbulb at this point. The basics have been worked out, get comfy with them through the discoveries of others then jump in with both feet and see what you can create. I've put a lot of experiments in the trash or down the drain in the late hours of the night when nobody was around to see the failure but me. :biggrin:

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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Have you downloaded this amazing (and amazingly free) resource?

"Playing with Texture" (Hydrocolloids)

Yes been looking at that a bit this morning. I really would like to see the role of pH in these processes as well. I know it must play a large factor and if you knew the pH of the starting material (and I have tools to measure) there should be some realiable way to control the outcome.

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Wow, that looks very interesting. Price is out of my reach though.

I have it. It is interesting but not particularly useful in the kitchen unless you're prepared to do a lot of digging and experimenting. It's completely aimed at the industrial end of things but there is useful information for the cook if you dig deep enough. I would not recommend it to most as a kitchen reference at the price. You'd be much better served to apply that amount towards saving for Nathan's book or buying some of the other books I mentioned as stepping stones. Once you start working with the ingredients frequently and become confident through successes with proven recipes you'll discover that they really are just ingredients and will be comfy experimenting. Yes, some are expensive but the usual quantities used are so small that failed experiments really are no big deal.

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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Ok, I have the kit and ready for the weekend to play. I have some ideas, but could use some more input as the kit is very deficient as far as "recipes." The company that produces the kit has a book, but it is not in English yet. :sad:

I have to say the kit is a pretty good value for the materials provided.

So, my questions:

Can the carageenan thickened solutions be made into a sheet instead of a noodle? Would I pour it on a frozen sheet pan to cool?

How do I make a large reverse sphere? In a spoon with calcium soln in it then quick dunk in the calcium bath? How long can they be held?

Edited by Doodad (log)
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Can the carageenan thickened solutions be made into a sheet instead of a noodle? Would I pour it on a frozen sheet pan to cool?

I've never actually used carageenan, but from what I've read about it and from watching other cooks work with it, the answer is almost certainly yes.

How do I make a large reverse sphere? In a spoon with calcium soln in it then quick dunk in the calcium bath?

Not sure if there's a typo here, but reverse spherification involves adding calcium (preferably in the form of calcium lactate or calcium gluconate) to the base you want to spherify, then dunking it in a bath of sodium alginate. You can find a wealth of information on alginate spherification in this thread.

Matthew Kayahara

Kayahara.ca

@mtkayahara

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Thanks for the info. More homework needed. Do all spherification methods result in a liquid center?

Properly done, all sodium alginate spherification methods result in a liquid centre. If you do "normal" spherification (with the alginate in the base and the calcium in the bath), the alginate will continue to gel after you take it out of the bath, and eventually you will end up with a solid gel. That's why some consider reverse spherification to be superior: it can be held for a time. (Just don't hold it in the alginate bath!)

Matthew Kayahara

Kayahara.ca

@mtkayahara

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  • 1 year later...

Honestly, all the kits that I've played with have been overpriced and lacking. Mostly they consist of measuring spoons (which I assume you have), a couple of syringes, droppers, and sieves / strainers / slotted spoons. All of these are obviously useful, but paying for a "Molecular Gastronomy Kit" jacks the price up about 4x for a lot of things you can get at a local hobby shop or hardware store.

That said, and assuming you have basic kitchen equipment, I'd suggest the following:

Most importantly, a kitchen scale. A good one. I think it's likely the single most recommended piece of equipment on these forums, and for good reason. Mine has a permanent place on my counter, and is used in 80% of what I cook. No exaggeration. I even have one in my knife kit.

A jewelers scale, accurate to 0.01g. I've got this one that I bought on Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/American-Weigh-Scale-Bt2-201-Digital/dp/B001TZ92TK/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1331417485&sr=8-5

Not the best scale, but at under $20, I can't really complain.

An immersion blender. Very handy bit of kit. I've got two, one cheapo where I drilled holes in the blades to increase frothing. The assistance there may just be psychosomatic, but it's the one I go to for that specific task.

An ISI cream canister. Like it much better than the seltzer one because it has a very wide mouth. Awesome for carbonating berries and fruits, cavitation infusions with largish things like leaves, whole spices, etc, and easier to clean. Bought both seltzer and creamer, gave my brother the seltzer after 3 months. (Oh, and you can use both CO2 and N2O cartridges with either).

A skimmer that I picked up from some place like Sur la Table, or WS (forget where - immaterial). It's worthless as a skimmer, but it's a very fine mesh sieve that works very well for things like noodles, caviars, etc that are very fragile. (I'm typically just cooking for a couple of people at a time, so the small scale stuff is what works best for me. Scale up as necessary.)

A graduated glass pipette that I picked up at a hobby shop in their science section. Ignoring my college chemistry professors relentless admonitions, yes, I pipette by mouth, and grin like an idiot at "breaking the rules" every time.

A fistfull of eye droppers, plastic droppers of different sizes, syringes (with the straight tips, not the "bayonet" style, though I don't know it would make any difference), etc. I rigged a kitchen magnet with a loop tied with a slip-noose that I can attach to my hood over the stovetop where I can slide in one of these syringes without its plunger, and have it churn out caviar without me paying attention. It swings a bit, but hasn't been problematic for me yet.

Acetate sheets. This was a little pricey, but has made life a lot easier with a bunch of things. I went ahead and bought a roll of it for about $50, and have gone through less than 10% of it in the last 3 years. Partly because I can reuse most of the bits that I've cut off of it.

Aside from those few things, most of what I've been playing with has been fairly task specific. Most of the rest of this stuff is just ingredient differences, or temperature games. I don't have the cash to go in for things like an antigriddle or volcano vaporizer or pacojet or anything, but it hasn't slowed me down in the slightest.

Hope that's at least a little helpful.

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Definately add a calibrated thermomiter to the list, not that expensive but essential to ensuring things reach a min or don't excede a max temp and so on. Important for safety, ensuring a particular reacton does or doesn't take place.

Also some ph papers can be very usefull and inexpensive.

The various gells and powders are great to have but you can buy bit by bit, best value if you can get split with others, as some of the kits out there have ideal sised quantities but it works out very expensive. Also ask around, samples can sometime be obtained which can reduce costs as well (I got a box of 10 gums, alginates etc at a food supliers promotion I went with as a guest) asked, forgot about it and 2 months later a box of fun turned up.

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

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hey GlorifiedRice - sorry, I guess I misread your original question. I haven't found any chemical kits that have "everything," but there are two offered by Modernist Pantry that are fairly decent for starters, and they also sell 50g portions of pretty much everything else for between 6-15 bucks. If you are just getting into this stuff, I'd recommend a downloadable book called "Texture - A Hydrocolloid Recipe Collection." I've had a copy for several years now, and honestly don't remember where I originally found it, but it's essentially a primer on 15-20 of the most common and easiest to find components (agar, carrageenan, gelatine, lecithin, xanthan, etc). There's a good discussion on textures and what agents you'd want to use, some decent discussion of interactions between elements, etc. Just checking, my version is from June of 08, so there may well be newer versions out there. I'm suggesting this book mostly because it's how I got into building up my "modernist pantry." I read through, and figured out what sounded good, and what I'd be comfortable trying, then picked up what I needed for that.

This, for example, has a lot in it, and is easily supplemented with anything else you might want to add:

http://www.modernistpantry.com/premium-experimentation-kit.html

Hope that helps!

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