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Practise the science of molecular cooking in your own kitchen

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Molecular gastronomy or molecular cuisine describes a style of cooking where chefs combine tools from the lab with food ingredients to create innovative new dishes. Hot gelatins, spherical ravioles and crab ice cream are just some of the creations inventive chefs have come up with using this unique cooking method.

Formally, molecular gastronomy refers to a scientific discipline that studies the physical and chemical processes of cooking, which helps to explain the transformation of ingredients into improbable forms.

Although molecular cuisine may appear synthesized and unnatural given the use of syringes, food chemicals like carrageenan and xanthan as well as flasks of liquid nitrogen, it is anything but. The “chemicals” used in molecular cooking are of biological origin, although some processing might have taken place.

The term may sound intimidating, but if the possibilities of molecular gastronomy are tickling your creative bone, you can practice it right at home these days. At-home molecular gastronomy kits containing the basic equipment you need are now sold for less than US$100, and basic substances like xanthan gum, commonly used to make spheres, airs and gels are becoming easier to find in the shops.

Agar-agar

Agar-agar can be used to create flavoured jellies like these mango spheres.
Photo Credit: ballparkjebusites

Best known in Asia for its use in making jellies, agar-agar is a seaweed-based vegetarian gelatin that is used in the jellification process in molecular cooking. It is used to create ingredients like arugula or parmesan spaghetti noodles, balsamic vinegar pearls and sheets of rum.  Mix agar-agar with a liquefied version of the desired ingredient in a pan, and bring to a boil. Use a powerful blender like the Electrolux Powermix Silent to liquefy ingredients quickly for use.

After letting it cool down, you’ll get a jelly-like substance containing the flavours of the ingredient.

 

Calcium lactate and sodium alginate

These two additives are used in the spherification process, which lets chefs create pearls of juice or other liquids. This creates a substance that will cause the pearls to burst in the mouth at the slightest pressure like caviar. With them you can create spherical tzatziki, custard ravioles and mint caviar.

 

Xanthan gum

Xanthan gum has been found to be much more useful than corn starch or flour in thickening ingredients. It can do so without altering the food’s flavour and colour. This lets you create restaurant-level low-fat milk shakes and smoothies with great texture. You can also use it to thicken salad dressings like balsamic vinegar for a better mouth feel. All you need is a blender like the Powermix Silent to thoroughly mix the Xanthan gum with the ingredients.

 

Soy lecithin

Flavoured foams can be created using soy lecithin and used to flavour a dish or served by itself.
Photo Credit: aSIMULAtor 

Soy lecithin can be used to make a flavoured airy foam out of almost any liquid. This can be used to create a light or fluffy frozen chocolate foam for dessert or a light soy sauce foam to top off or embellish food on a plate. You can use an electric mixer like the Electrolux EHM2000 to help you whip up the flavoured foam instead of trying to whisk it by hand.

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