Molecular Gastronomy: Exploring the Science of Flavor3.86 · Rating details · 799 Ratings · 61 Reviews
Herv' This (pronounced "Teess") is an internationally renowned chemist, a popular French television personality, a bestselling cookbook author, a longtime collaborator with the famed French chef Pierre Gagnaire, and the only person to hold a doctorate in molecular gastronomy, a cutting-edge field he pioneered. Bringing the instruments and experimental techniques of the labHerv' This (pronounced "Teess") is an internationally renowned chemist, a popular French television personality, a bestselling cookbook author, a longtime collaborator with the famed French chef Pierre Gagnaire, and the only person to hold a doctorate in molecular gastronomy, a cutting-edge field he pioneered. Bringing the instruments and experimental techniques of the laboratory into the kitchen, This uses recent research in the chemistry, physics, and biology of food to challenge traditional ideas about cooking and eating. What he discovers will entertain, instruct, and intrigue cooks, gourmets, and scientists alike.
Molecular Gastronomy, This's first work to appear in English, is filled with practical tips, provocative suggestions, and penetrating insights. This begins by reexamining and debunking a variety of time-honored rules and dictums about cooking and presents new and improved ways of preparing a variety of dishes from quiches and quenelles to steak and hard-boiled eggs. He goes on to discuss the physiology of flavor and explores how the brain perceives tastes, how chewing affects food, and how the tongue reacts to various stimuli. Examining the molecular properties of bread, ham, foie gras, and champagne, the book analyzes what happens as they are baked, cured, cooked, and chilled.
Looking to the future, Herv' This imagines new cooking methods and proposes novel dishes. A chocolate mousse without eggs? A flourless chocolate cake baked in the microwave? Molecular Gastronomy explains how to make them. This also shows us how to cook perfect French fries, why a souffl' rises and falls, how long to cool champagne, when to season a steak, the right way to cook pasta, how the shape of a wine glass affects the taste of wine, why chocolate turns white, and how salt modifies tastes....more
Hardcover, 377 pages
Published January 4th 2006 by Columbia University Press (first published 2003)
The feasibility of note by note cuisine no longer needs to be demonstrated because meals have already been produced using this techniques, but we still have to discuss the nature of the compounds used. The culinary world already uses very pure compounds, such as water, sodium chloride, sucrose and gelatine. The lay person often ignores the fact that these compounds were prepared by industry through various extraction processes, purifications and technological modifications (for example, the anti-aggregation compounds added to sucrose) .
Many other compounds could be prepared in the same way, such as saccharides, amino acids and glycerides, and indeed the food industry already uses some of them. The food additives industry produces pigments, vitamins, preservatives, gelling or thickening agents and so on. Additives are not currently regulated like food ingredients, but could they not be in the future? Or should the regulation of additives be suppressed, and another very different regulation be introduced?
It is difficult to make dishes from pure compounds, and so, to go back to our music analogy, another way is to make dishes in the same way electronic music is composed [37, 38]. That is, to enlarge the list of usable compounds by adding simple mixtures such as those that the industry already makes by fractionation of milk or grain. Gelatine, for example, is not pure, in the sense that it is not made of molecules of only one kind: the extraction method used to make gelatine results in large variation in the molecular weight of the polypeptidic chains . Also starch is not pure, as it is made of two main compounds, amyloses and amylopectins. In passing, let us not forget that, because starch is a simple fraction of grain, most traditional pastry techniques can be kept for making note by note cuisine.
Let us come back to the question of ‘breaking down’ plant or animal tissues to prepare fractions. The industry already extracts polysaccharides, proteins, amino acids, surfactants and other compounds from grain . From milk, the industry recovers amino acids, peptides, proteins and glycerides. Could we not do the same from plant (carrots, apples, turnips…) or animal tissues? Could we not, using the same kind of processes (such as direct or reverse osmosis, cryoconcentration or vacuum distillation), prepare fractions that can be used later for note by note cuisine?
Many technology groups study these questions, and technologists at the Montpellier Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique Centre, for example, have devised techniques based on membrane filtration to recover the total phenolics fraction from grape juice . This fraction is very different depending on the raw material, for example whether the juice is from the Syrah variety, or from Grenache, or Pinot: the diversity of the initial products is not erased by the fractionation process, so that cooks can still play with the ‘ terroir'.
Now we have discussed the issue of ingredients, we have to consider assembling them into dishes. We should not forget that today's food items are material systems of a colloidal nature [41, 42, 43], often with a large proportion of water in them. Many organic compounds are poorly soluble in water, and emulsification is obviously a very important process in note by note cuisine. However it is not the only process; all dispersion techniques will be useful.
During the assembly, the various biological properties of food have to be considered. Of course, the nutritional content is important  but it would be a mistake to forget that food has to stimulate the various sensory receptors involved in vision, odor, taste, trigeminal system and temperature , for instance: this creates many questions. For example, even if the individual absorption spectrum of some pigments are known, the ‘color’ of a mixture of such pigments is difficult to predict theoretically . Also, when one mixes odorant compounds in proportions near the detection threshold, unpredictable odors are obtained. Worst still, we do not know what will happen when you mix only two odorant compounds: do they make a ‘chord’ or a fusion ?
For taste, the question is even more difficult to answer, because taste receptors and their substrates are not known ; it was discovered only recently (less than ten years ago) that the tongue has receptors for fatty acids with long unsaturated chains . This means that other important discoveries could still be made! In the meantime, one can use citric, malic, tartaric, acetic, ascorbic or lactic acids, or saccharides such as glucose, fructose or lactose, as well as the traditional sucrose but experimental tests will be needed to appreciate the result.
For trigeminal effects, some fresh or pungent compounds are known, such as eugenol (from cloves), menthol (one of its enantiomers only), capsaicin (from chilli), piperin (from pepper), ethanol, sodium bicarbonate and many others . But again the knowledge of receptors could lead to new products.
From the texture point of view, technological work can be done, because more studies are needed on the manufacture of colloidal materials. Making simple emulsions is sometimes considered difficult, but more generally one should not assume that the texturization of formulated products is fully solved, even if we now have surimi and analogous systems. Who will succeed in making the consistency of a green apple? Or a pear? Or a strawberry? Not only is there still the question of laboratory prototypes but also of mass production.
As a whole, much remains to be done and many aspects of note by note cuisine remain to be studied by science and by technology. Let us finish this paragraph with an important observation: it would be uninteresting to reproduce already existing food ingredients. As synthesizers can reproduce the sounds of a piano or a violin, note by note cuisine could reproduce wines, carrots or meats … but why? Except for astronauts who have to travel for long periods, there is probably no value in making what already exists, and it is much more exciting to investigate flavors and dishes that were never envisioned using traditional food ingredients .
A simple calculation shows the immensity of what could be discovered. If we assume that the number of traditional food ingredients is about 1,000 and if we assume that a traditional recipe uses 10 ingredients, the number of possibilities is 1,000 to the power of 10 (or 1030). However, if we assume that the number of compounds present in the ingredients is about 1,000, and that the number of compounds that will be used in note by note cuisine is of the order of 100, then the number of possibilities is about 10 3000. And, in this calculation we have not considered that the concentration of each compound can be adapted, which means that a whole new continent of flavor can be discovered.