Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Peanut Butter.....Powder

As some of you may be aware there are some some chef's out there that are using chemicals to make what they are calling molecular gastronomy. 5 yrs ago there were a few fantastic chefs that were doing all of the R and D involved, now there are more, some of which are still fantastic, others are not. i know that this sort of cooking (if you can call it that) is pretty far from what i consider to be my food. i also get really frustrated when i see people using these products that cant cook in the first place. last year in our high school tutoring program we actually lost to two teams that were making faux ravioli using a blend of two different chemicals to set purees and juices into a skinless ball that burst when you bite it. i take issue that someone allowed these kids to do this, instead of learning to use a knife, or making polenta, or correctly making mashed potatoes. sure its cool, but teaching more basic skills would have a greater impact on their cooking careers and lives.

on the flip side of all of that, these things are rapidly becoming more popular with chefs all over the country, some who's names you would recognize. also i really like to approach food with an open mind. in a relentless quest to gain knowledge, i dont think i can discount types of cuisine, or different styles. if i did i would be a weaker cook for it. also it is not odd that cooks and chefs get tired of the food we put out on a daily basis. i have found a few things to keep me entertained (like this blog) but walking into the same situation, looking at the same prep lists, with the same people day after day gets tough. i dont worry about this to much but i have a few really good young cooks that i worry about losing to different experiences. if i can teach them something they are far more prone to hanging out. i need to make these guys happy cause eventually they will be my sous chefs (thats why often chefs and sous chefs come in a packaged deal together- years of working together, teaching and learning together makes a strong bond) bottom line if i dont entertain these guys, and i dont push myself to know the basics of molecular gastronomy, what excuses do i have. at some point i will need to know the basics of these things, just like i need to know that basics of pastry and baking kitchen tasks. so via work i was able to procure some stuff. with an agreement to not use any of it for production in the kitchen at work i will mostly do some experimenting with it at the house. i started very simple, we will see how it goes.

Tapioca Maltodextrin- this is what i used to make the peanut butter powder. when mixed in equal portions with a liquid or solid it takes on a very grainy texture, which is then passed through a very fine strainer called a "tamis". what forms is amazing. a powder that is more fine than light snowfall, and virtually weightless that rehydrates with the saliva from your mouth. it tastes like whatever you mix with it, but in a hard to describe sort of way it becomes more aromatic, tasting almost more like peanut butter than peanut butter does.

Heavy Cream Powder- like milk powder just a dehydrated product. nothing crazy about it but the fact that it is 78% milkfat. cream usually has 32% and heavy cream can have any where from 38-40% milkfat. not sure what i will do with this but fear not it will be very delicious. sidebar- i saw on the discovery channel once that some seal mothers produce milk for their pups that contains just shy of 80% milkfat which means you could shake it and it would be whipped. if anyone has a mother seal at home or access to some milk from one please let me know, i wont give this up till i can procure some.

Soy Lecithin- lecithin is found mostly in egg yolks and has amazing emulsion properties. its the reason that egg yolks are usually in Caesar salad dressings, and vinagrettes of all sorts, and the reason that hollandaise is possible. it helps to bond two ingredients that dont normally want to combine into one. the hope is to figure out how to use it to help in dressings, or to be able to make a caesar salad dressing with out the addition of egg yolks.

Ultratex 3- this is another tapioca derived compound that will thicken at room temperature. the starch from the tapioca will actually swell without heat. pudding could be made without cornstarch or heat, and cold soups and sauces could be thickened while preserving delicate flavors (think watermelon).

i will experiment with these myself in the coming days, and most likely with some other chefs and cooks in the coming weeks. i will definitely keep you guys posted in my progress. again this by no means implies that this is my new culinary style, just that i am not naive enough to ignore its importance.

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