What is molecular gastronomy and how does it work? Molecular gastronomy refers to culinary techniques and cooking principles used to create an edible product by chemical reaction. While Celebrity chefs like El Bulli's Ferran Adria are credited with bringing molecular gastronomy to the mainstream, its origins can be traced back to physicists Nicholas Kurti and Herve This in 1988 when the two coined the term. What started in a lab moved on to professional chefs' kitchens, and has now found popularity among home cooks.
Want to create modernist cuisine of your own? These are the need to know basics:
Spherification - This technique is used to turn a liquid into a semi-solid sphere, by chemical reaction. The resulting sphere is essentially a thin membrane encasing the original liquid (similar to an egg yolk).
By adding sodium alginate to a liquid ingredient, then submerging the liquid into a water bath with calcium chloride, you can achieve spherification. Watch this step by step video on how to spherify, then try these recipes:
Milk Tea Sphere (from Eat a Duck I Must)
Saffron Apricot Sphere over Strawberry Mousse (from The Island of Dr Gâteau)
Agar Agar - Extracted from algae, this substance has properties similar to gelatin. This is an ingredient used for jellification of a liquid, turning any liquid ingredient into a variety of solid state shapes. For example, this video shows how agar agar can be used to turn a puree of arugula into a spaghetti-like structure.
Layered Fruit Agar Agar (from Green Cilantro)
Agar Agar Coffee Chocolates (from Juls' Kitchen)
Flash Freezing - Another trick of turning a liquid to a solid state, this technique brings to mind Dippin' Dots flash frozen ice cream. The most often used method of flash freezing is the application of liquid nitrogen. At a temperature of -321 degrees, liquid nitrogen will freeze any food. Naturally, this technique has been used again and again to create unique ice cream flavors (This site, Cooking with Chemistry, claims to be "the First Liquid Nitrogen Ice Cream page on the internet").
This Nitro Ice Cream food science video from Scoopalicious is not only geeky, but pretty how-to helpful.
Hot Ice Cream (from Salty Seattle)
Foams -Another technique is creating an edible foam from a liquid ingredient. As in this video that whips up a foam with beet juice by using an immersion blender. Commonly, Soy Lecithin is used to amplify the foaming reaction of the liquid like this recipe demonstrates:
Pink Lemonade Foam (from Mira Uncut)
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