Tools & Gadgets
By Greg Gonzales
When I taught kids in an after-school program, one student asked me how Nickelodeon makes slime. She wanted to pour some on her brother’s face as a revenge wake-up prank. Kids are fun that way.
Luckily, teaching them about how different ingredients become green and slimy, or not, doesn’t mean making a huge mess of inedible goo. Instead, it could mean making clear pea ravioli, edible lipstick, smoky ice cream or chocolate caviar — new food concepts that come from molecular gastronomy, a practice that puts a microscope over the cooking process. For chefs, this scientific approach to food means complete control over any recipe and consistent results with a creative component. For kids, molecular cooking is a chance to discover creative cooking early in life, to explore new foods and complement lessons from the classroom.
By basic definition, molecular gastronomy is the subdiscipline of food science that looks at chemical and physical changes of individual ingredients and blends of ingredients that happen when we cook. For modernist chefs and anyone learning at home, it’s about deconstructing food to its most basic elements to restructure them into something less familiar. Take, for example, recipes by Molecule-R, a brand that makes molecular gastronomy kits and provides some quirky ingredients. It offers instructions on its website for deconstructed cocoa, which involves creating caviar-like spheres of chocolate. The instructions might be a little alien for most people: “In a rectangular, flat-bottomed bowl and using a hand blender, dissolve 1 sachet of SODIUM ALGINATE in the cocoa preparation. Let sit for 10 minutes.” Then it calls for a sachet of calcium lactate and holding a pipette at a 90 degree angle to function like a dropper, which gives shape to the caviar. A little chemistry know-how is required to understand how to whip up a saffron crème anglaise with coffee air or cook up foie hazelnuts. Still, kids can learn it alongside their teachers and parents.
Chef Jozef Youssef, Founder of Kitchen Theory and Associate Editor at The International Journal of Gastronomy and Food Science, said he uses Molecule-R kits by MMTUM in his research with kids in his work with Oxford University’s Crossmodal Research Laboratory. “These days, there are loads of molecular kits you can buy out there meant for home users that will give you all the hydrocolloids, the gelling agents you need,” he said. “They’ll give you a little syringe and pipes and stuff like that.” For other options, Modernist Pantry offers slightly different kits from Molecule-R. Most molecular gastronomy kits cost less than $50, so it’s not a pricey endeavor. Youssef also recommended that anyone who wants to try molecular cooking pick up a small, inexpensive gold scale, for precise measurements.
Youssef said his current research looks at how teaching kids about food, letting them handle different fruits and vegetables, and then giving them hands-on culinary play gives them access to more knowledge, enables them to make healthier choices and reduces the neophobia that can make it hard for kids to try new foods. “I think any form of playing with kids with food, whether it’s baking cookies or these molecular spheres or airs or foams, any interest shown by kids in the cooking process is really important,” Youssef said. “To some degree, we’ve implemented this into the culinary play we’re doing with the kids. We’ve got them doing some fun bits that are related to molecular cooking because they’ll find it fun and enjoyable.”
Educators have also taken note, and provided free lesson plans for teachers to use in the classroom. The European journal, Science in School, offers instructions on its website on how to form alginate bubbles and luminescent bubbles, designed by researchers from the University of Bremen’s chemistry education research group. The picture instructions look more like an experiment than a cooking class — though plenty of cooking classes are available through Kitchen Theory and Sur La Table, though ChefSteps and other web resources offer online classes and guides.
Molecular gastronomy gave rise to several techniques used in modern and everyday culinary applications, though it’s not always recognized as such. “Boiling an egg is molecular gastronomy if you want to look at it that way,” said Youssef. “It’s molecular gastronomy once you start taking note of the temperature and time, start focusing in on those details. You take a bit more of a studied or scientific approach toward your cooking.” Powdered food, for instance, is something that chefs can pair with olive oil and invent entirely new baking powders. Maltodextrin can turn high-fat liquids into powders, too. Sous vide, a method of cooking that involves vacuum-sealing food and submersing it in water at an exact temperature, is a molecular gastronomy technique Youssef uses to cook duck to exact specifications. “Yes, you could roast a duck in a pan and then shove it in the oven for a while, but you’ll get an inconsistent result,” he said. “When I cook my duck at 57 degrees [Celsius] for an hour and 20 minutes, I get exactly the same result each and every time. Is that crazy science? No, it’s basic science, but it’s guaranteeing me a consistent result in quality and flavor and taste I’m looking for.”
Though recipes involving timing and temperature have been around for longer than Marie-Antoine Carême’s instructions for broth, molecular gastronomy didn’t get its name until 1992, in a cooking workshop series called Science and Gastronomy. Hungarian Physicist Nicholas Kurti and French Physical Chemist Hervé This, who taught such workshops, are known for popularizing the concept, beginning in 1969, out of concern that humanity had more knowledge about space than it did about its own food. Kurti said, “I think it is a sad reflection on our civilization that while we can and do measure the temperature in the atmosphere of Venus, we do not know what goes on inside our soufflés.”
This handy tool from Fusionbrands peels and zests citrus, with two built-in zesters make multiple sizes of pith-free zest, perfect for putting the finishing touches on delectable sorbets, desserts, espressos and cool summer drinks.
It’s made of stainless steel and is offered with an orange or yellow silicone grip.
The Kuhn Rikon Corn Zipper and Corn Holders are fun kitchen tools that celebrate one of the favorite taste treats of summer, each with new CDUs designed to increase impulse sales.
The playful Corn Zipper unzips rows of kernels cleanly and safely off the cob. This handy tool is super sharp and easier than using a knife. The display holds 24 pieces, in a colorful, shallow countertop display unit. The Corn Zipper has a suggested retail price of $12 each.
Kuhn Rikon’s Corn Holder Display holds 12 sets in a shallow countertop display unit. These cheerful holders feature a soft, textured handle for a comfortable grip that keeps hands clean and cool. A corkscrew-style tip twists into the cob and remains firmly attached. The clever design allows the holders to stack together for convenient storage. The Corn Holder Set comes in a set of eight (four pairs), for suggested retail price of $12 each.
The new displays are available for immediate shipment.
Peugeot presents the Royan Mill, a beechwood mill with a delicate metallic tint that perfectly complements the natural veining of the wood. This paragon of beauty brings flavor to the table, with the iconic spice-specific Peugeot mechanism that is optimized for either sea salt or peppercorns.
The satin smooth finish is strikingly set off by a stainless-steel ring reminiscent of classic Peugeot design. The 5.5-inch mill is pillar shaped, with rounded edges and a gently curved indentation between the base and the head where the stainless-steel ring appears. The mill embodies an upscale elegance that speaks to a passion for fine craftsmanship and the gourmet experience.
“Peugeot has a long tradition of embracing the values of quality and authencity, and we are responding to consumer demand with Royan and other fine hardwood mills,” said Yvette Laugier, General Manager, PSP North America, LLC.
Made in France, the Royan Mill is made from local PEFC-certified beechwood. Peugeot’s exclusive mechanism is the strongest on the market, one of the many reasons that Peugeot has been the world leader in mills for over 200 years, The Royan Mill is fully adjustable from coarse to extra fine.
It is a Peugeot tradition to name its mills after culinary destinations from around the world. The Royan Mill was inspired by the charming seaside resort town of Royan, on the French Atlantic coast.
Peugeot Royan Salt and Pepper Mills come with a lifetime warranty on the mechanism, and a 5-year warranty on the body. Each mill has a suggested retail price of $45. They will be available for shipment June 2017.
Peugeot, the world leader in mills for over 200 years, offers more than 300 distinctive mill SKUs. For more information, visit www.peugeot-saveurs.com, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 877.777.5914.
When it comes to grating and zesting, not much has changed in decades, until now. Lifetime Brands Inc. and Williams Sonoma have partnered to introduce a new grater and zester blade technology called West Blade™. The patented technology features tineless blades that allow users to grate in both directions, which also makes it easier to move soft and hard foods over the surface with minimal effort, helping to reduce time spent on food preparation. West Blade is available exclusively at Williams Sonoma.
The West Blade Rotary Grater shreds soft foods like mozzerella cheese and hard-boiled eggs, in addition to to making quick work of hard cheeses and chocolate. It comes with two interchangeable grating barrels: a West Blade Coarse Shredder blade for soft cheese and a West Blade Medium Flake Blade for shaving hard cheese or making chocolate curls. The gearing system operates with a smooth, easy-turning motion for fast and easy grating with maximum output. It retails for $49.95.
The West Blade Zester helps to create fragrant, flavorful zest from the surface of the citrus peels, without the bitter pith. It also works for grating ginger, hard cheese and chocolate. The zester features ultra-sharp, stainless-steel etched blades, and a soft-touch, nonslip handle helps provide a comfortable grip. A protective cover also comes with the grater for safe storage. It retails for $19.95.
The West Blade Small Flake Hand Grater and Large Flake Hand Grater feature bi-direction grating surfaces and also features ultra-sharp, stainless-steel etched blades. Food practically glides over the blades, perfect for rapidly shaving hard cheese and creating delicate flakes of chocolate. Soft-touch, nonslip handles provide a comfy grip and each grater comes with a food pusher and hand guard piece for safety and a blade cover. Each retails for $19.95.
The West Blade Box Grater features four total grating surfaces: three with West Blade technology — the Small Flake, Large Flake and Coarse — and one traditional coarse grater blade. This multi-use tool offers ultra-sharp stainless-steel tetched blades and quickly shaves just about any hard cheeses or vegetables. Like the others, it features a soft-touch handle. It also comes with a nonslip base to keep the grater in place and prevent interrupted work. This model has a suggested retail price of $49.95.