September 23, 2009
Of the books I'd like to finish reading are Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions by Edwin A. Abbott [Cover Thrift Editions], The Science and Lore of the Kitchen by Harold McGee [Scribners], Molecular Gastronomy by Herve This [Columbia University Press], and A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole [Louisiana University Press].
One of them is about the exploration of spatial dimensions - including a very sexist and facist portrayal of the two dimensional world of 'flatland'. Another is an encyclopedia of food science-including photos of gluten and fat molecules under an electron microscope. Another is a discussion on how food science of today leads to innovation tomorrow. The first three books highlight my affinity for the applied sciences while the last is a hilarious book about a slovenly slug, who slings a 400 page indictment against our times.
I will focus on the second and third books - those concerning food science. These books are not everybody's bedside table books. They are not coffee table books either. They may, perhaps, act as large blocks under which you weigh down a simmering pot of dolmas. But I dare say that they are for me.
Let's narrow in on the matter of emulsions, which is mentioned in both books: the unlikely marriage of fat and water. This phenomenon occurs when water and oil get together under the generosity of the globular proteins.
As a review, water and oil regard each other with equal contempt. Think of them as republicans and democrats - shit-slingers. Now think of proteins as these large globular masses that appeal to each side - money, power, and the senate. Begrudgingly, they must unite under the bi-partisanship of the legislative senate to make progressive changes like healthcare reform -- errr -- all the while able to sleep with their lady lovers on the side. **Caution: disturb the balance, by throwing in too many republicans or democrats and the house falls down.
That, my friends is an emulsion. A protein structure that attracts both fat and water in its mass. What are examples of emulsions? Caesar salad dressing for one-the proteins in the egg yolk join oil and vinegar in a happy love tub. Milk as another - the milk fats and waters doing the hippie dance with proteins. Mousses, pates, ice creams!!!!
Tartar me crazy, even mayonnaise is an emulsion! The most perfect example of an emulsion! The large proteins in the eggs are whipped so that they form a jungle gym structure on which the fats (added oil) and and waters (from the egg) can play. In the end, there is that perfect gelled structure - even in color, consistency, and taste - no trappings of internal feuds of oil and water. And to think - all you need is protein fat and water...
Herve This, author of Molecular Gastronomy, proposes that the oil in mayonnaise can be substitute out for some other type of fat -- cocoa fat! Chocolate!
So here I whipped one egg white on high and slowly drizzled in 2 oz of melted chocolate thinned with a bit of water for 5-10 minutes on high. Eventually the chocolate transformed from a dark satin to a light and voluminous cream. The texture is so smooth, you would imagine some kind of cream inside.
This is the application of food tradition set forth to drive evolution of food in the future and thought to be a manifestation of molecular gastronomy. Stay tuned for when I put this delectable substance int he microwave. A flourless chocolate cake in of just two ingredients within 60 seconds!!!! Yeee-haw!