Authors: Jason Logsdon
Tags: #Cooking, #Methods, #Gourmet
This is one of my favorite toys to use. Its primary use is to create foams but it can also be used to carbonate liquids, fruits, and spheres.
A whipping siphon is basically a reusable whip cream container. You can pour some cream in it, add some powdered sugar, charge it with NO
and it will instantly dispense whipped cream.
It can be used in a similar manner with many fluid gels to create foams of different thicknesses. The heat resistant ones can also be used for hot foams and sauces.
If you are interested in making foams on a regular basis I highly recommend getting one.
I love my immersion blender and use it with most preparations but sometimes I need the added power of a standing blender. It is much better at breaking down vegetables for purees and for crushing ice.
Sous Vide Machine
You can experiment with sous vide on the stove or in a beer cooler but if you are serious about using it on a regular basis it is worth getting some form of sous vide temperature controller. If you already have a crock pot or rice cooker you can get a controller that works with them and is around $200. Low end sous vide machines are a little more expensive and the high end runs around $800.
Fruit and vegetable juices can be used with many modernist techniques to create gels, foams, and sauces. You can make juices with blenders and food processors but a juicer is more efficient and often easier to use.
Dehydrators can be used for many things in modernist cooking such as setting foams and dehydrating gels. They also make great fruit or vegetable leathers and jerkies from any kind of meat.
For some foam preparations, such as marshmallows and meringues, a standing mixer with a whisk attachment is a necessity. It also has many uses in a traditional kitchen.
We are constantly adding recipes to our website as we continue to experiment with modernist cooking.
Maybe something there will inspire you.
You can find them at:
Many of the recipes held up by the media as ideals of modernist cooking or molecular gastronomy are small, composed dishes with multiple components. This has given molecular gastronomy a reputation as being an elitist or “foodie only” way of cooking.
This section of the book is dedicated to showing you why this isn’t true.
These dishes are things you can make on an everyday basis. In most cases they actually simplify the cooking process and often times speed it up as well.
Don’t have time to reduce a sauce on the stove? No problem, add some xanthan gum.
Tired of burning a cream sauce when trying to thicken it? Try a little iota carrageenan.
In this section we try to focus on a few factors: convenience, flavor, and time saving. We also try to add a little bit of “wow” factor where we can.
Of all of the techniques used in modernist cooking, perhaps the most common one in everyday traditional cooking is thickening. All cooks have experience in thickening or thinning liquids. From turning chicken drippings into gravy, thickening a spaghetti sauce with tomato paste, reducing a sauce, or even adding more or less water to a pancake mix, thickening liquids is an integral part of cooking.
Because of how common thickening is, and how comfortable most cooks are with it, it is one of the easiest techniques to grasp for someone beginning with modernist cooking.
As with any cooking technique, modernist techniques aren’t always better and can’t replace old techniques. For instance, reducing a stock or a sauce has a concentration of flavors that is impossible to emulate with other thickening methods. However, knowing as many thickening techniques as possible allows you to select the best option in any cooking situation.
There are several advantages to using modernist ingredients.
Purity of Flavor
Using traditional thickening methods you are always modifying the flavor of the liquid. Whether reducing it through the addition of heat or thickening it by the addition of an ingredient such as flour or cream, the end result has a different flavor than the beginning liquid. In many cases this is preferred, but sometimes you want to taste the unadulterated flavors of the original liquid.
Using many of the ingredients outlined in this book allow you to thicken liquids with minimal modification to the flavor of the liquid.
Using Less Thickener
One of the ways this happens is due to the fact that you use so little of the thickener.
For example, most gravy recipes say to add 3% to 8% of flour to thicken it. Using xanthan gum you will add about 0.2% to 0.4%, or about 15 times less thickener.
This allows the flavor of the liquid to stand out much more.
One way to thicken almost any liquid is to reduce it by heating it for an extended time. However, sometimes you might not want to cook the food you are thickening, such as in a fruit puree. Using an ingredient that hydrates in low temperatures allows you to thicken these liquids without ever heating them.
Even if reducing a liquid would be the ideal way to thicken a sauce you are working on, occasionally you just don’t have the time or patience to wait the 15 to 30 minutes for it to reduce. I especially run into this problem on work nights when dinner is already being served late.
Many modernist ingredients work very quickly and can be used as a great way to speed up the preparation of a meal.
One of my favorite ways to use modernist cooking is creating appetizers, hors d’oeuvres, and amuse-bouches to use before parties or during larger dinners. I find it is a great way to showcase some interesting cooking without having to commit to cooking 12 different dishes.
For parties I’ll often make two or three plates of finger foods for people to snack on when they get there. I’ll try to focus on a few dishes that can be made almost entirely ahead of time, that way I can spread the work over a few days, something that isn’t always possible with more traditional appetizers.
Many of the typical modernist dishes are small plates that are part of a larger meal. One technique I like to use when I am having people over for dinner or a party is to use one or two of these dishes as hors d’oeuvres. The small size and fancy look is a great way to welcome guests and often times it gives them something to talk about.
“Wow” Dishes for Large Meals
For a larger dinner party I will try to plan one or two modernist dishes around a traditional dish that will be the center piece. For instance, I will plan on a traditional pot roast with mashed potatoes and vegetables but I’ll first serve a deconstructed Caesar salad, or other modernist appetizer.
I will also put together an amuse-bouche to serve before or after the main course. This is especially easy if you focus on something that can be done ahead of time and held until dinner such as a frozen or cold foam, an infused drink, or a liquid sphere.
I’ve found that using modernist cooking for appetizers and amuse-bouches allows me to have fun, challenge my guests, and invite conversation while still providing a solid “meat and potatoes” centerpiece that even the less adventurous eaters will enjoy.
Desserts are one more place I have fun experimenting with modernist techniques. It’s also one of the places that my guests are most receptive to foams, fluid gels, and spheres.
If you don’t bake, or just want to save time, you can even buy the main part of the dessert, like a cake or tarts. Then use a few modernist techniques to add garnishes like honey bubbles, a mango foam, or some hot chocolate spheres to really elevate the dish.
Drinks are another place that many guests enjoy trying different things. They are often easy to make as well. You can take almost any fruit juice foam and use it with club soda and vodka or gin (or champagne!) for an easy mixed cocktail.
Spheres can be made ahead of time and used as garnishes instead of the ubiquitous canned maraschino cherries. And you can also gel the drinks in a variety of ways for a fancy version of Jell-O shots.
There are several modernist ingredients that help make sauce making easier and more convenient, as well as allowing some unique control over the textures.
Common Sauce Ingredients
Xanthan gum is great at adding thickness and mouthfeel to thin sauces. Typically, to thicken a sauce you have to reduce it on the stove. With a little xanthan gum you can get a similar effect while saving yourself the 15 to 30 minutes. Xanthan gum is also excellent at holding sauces together and making them cling to food better.
Agar Fluid Gels
Making a fluid gel from agar has a few steps, but they are all easy and can be done by spending 10 minutes at a time over a few days. You can gel most liquids with agar and then puree it into a nice, thick sauce.
Lecithin is great for helping to stabilize vinaigrettes, especially when used in conjunction with xanthan gum.
Benefits to Modernist Sauces
Using modernist cooking techniques you can create emulsions and vinaigrettes ahead of time and they won’t separate. They also make creating emulsions much easier with any ingredients.
Another benefit of modernist vinaigrettes and emulsions is that you can tailor the amount of oil you use. By adding thickeners to the vinaigrette you can greatly reduce the amount of oil you use. This can be good both for low-fat diets but is also great if you like to use high quality oils since it allows you to use less while getting the same flavor and body.
Body and Texture
The body and texture of your emulsions can also be changed to accommodate what you like. Want a thicker vinaigrette to flavor a steak? Add some more thickener. Prefer a runnier sauce but still want it to hold together, use less thickener but more emulsifier.
Because the majority of the thickness is controlled by the thickeners used, you have better control over the flavors. You no longer have to add more oil to thicken it. Once the flavor you prefer has been obtained just add enough thickener to create the body you desire without altering the flavor.
Lecithin, xanthan gum, mono and diglycerides