Wednesday, June 02, 2004

The Thermochemical Joy of Cooking

About a 15 years ago, maybe more, Extension 720 with Milt Rosenberg had a show with a number of Chicago chefs. What I remember was how the group of them, there must of been three or four, all stated that not one of them baked. They did not bake bread or rolls, they did not bake desserts, they just did not bake. I want to say they thought it was too hard, but I really shouldn't commit their thoughts on an old memory. Rather, let's say the consensus of this group of chefs was baking is a sequence of exact measurements and precise steps, or chemistry, and is not the same thing as cooking.

This article in Wired talks about a TV show I have never seen, Good Eats. It sounds like a wonderfully wacky cooking show that includes a little bit of chemistry, biology, and physics, in every viewing. The chef on the show, Alton Brown, is called a culinary hacker who claims, "Everything in food is science. The only subjective part is when you eat it."

Brown has used a Venetian blind to explain how heat interacts with proteins and the microscopic cross-structure of a pie crust. Here, read for yourself:
"Let's just say for a moment that this is a microscopic cross-section of our pie crust in the oven," says Brown, reaching around to run his hand along the closed slats. "By the time the layers of fat start to melt, the protein structure formed by the flour and water needs to be set. That way, when the fat melts, it'll look like this," he says, twisting the rod to open the blind. Brown grabs hold of two slats in the middle and wiggles them up and down. "These are the nice flakes in our flaky crust. If the fats melt before the protein sets, we'll have a real mess on our hands. Ten minutes in the refrigerator will keep that from happening."

This sounds like my kind of show!

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