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Molecular gastronomy is the scientific study of food preparation. This is a real topic; you can get a PhD in it. And it's not about creating ersatz foodstuffs like Twinkees(tm); it's the science of basting, and souffles. Practitioners want to answer the question of how to make great food, using science. The term was coined by Hervé This and Oxford physicist Nicholas Kurti.

In a standard example of the science, examine the tradition of cooking green vegetables in boiling salted water. Supposedly, this helps them keep their color, speeds up cooking, and prevents their becoming soggy. Science says the opposite: adding salt has no effect on the color of the vegetables as color is determined by the pH of the water, and it doesn't increase the boiling point significantly or prevent sogginess - unless the salt concentration is unappetisingly high. Ergo, cook vegetables without salt.

This published a 2002 paper in Angewandte Chemie (vol 41, p 83) in which he introduced a number of new recipes. As an example, consider the following "chocolate dispersion" dessert.

  1. Heat 20cl of water (flavoured with few drops of cassis, orange juice, mint or coffee). Stir in 1 packet of gelatine until dissolved. Then add 250 grams of melted chocolate. Stir.
  2. When all the ingredients are thoroughly mixed, take the dish off the heat and cool it by placing it in a larger dish filled with ice. At the same time, whisk the contents of the smaller dish well because you need to get air into the mixture.
  3. As you begin to whisk, several large air bubbles will appear on the surface, but they soon disappear. As the mixture cools and you continue to whisk, you'll see it thicken and get lighter in colour. As this happens, speed up your whisking for a few seconds.
  4. Take the dish off the ice and serve quickly.

If the mixture is too liquid and it won't turn into a mousse-like texture as you're whisking, melt in some more chocolate and repeat steps 2 and 3. If the mixture is too thick, add more liquid.

If you make this recipe, you have chemically formed a chocolate emulsion, similar in concept to the emulsion in mayonnaise. And, I suppose, tastier.

New Scientist vol 176 issue 2370 - 23 November 2002, page 49

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