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Family Friendly

Winning molecular student at Harvard comes from Newton

Posted by Sheryl Julian December 13, 2010 05:33 PM

harvardscience.pngBoston Globe correspondent Ike DeLorenzo, who is writing about the much talked-about Harvard physics course, "Science and Cooking: Haute Cuisine to the Science of Soft Matter," attended the final "science fair" reception.

He sent in this report:

It was a high-tech bake-off of sorts, judged by New York's David Chang (Momofuku), Barcelona's Carles Tejedor, Cambridge's Gabe Bremer (Salts), and other local stars.

Harvard sophomore Bethania Bacigalupe, a Newton native, shared first prize for transforming chicken stock into a hot and very stable gel. (Read: She made hot Jell-O.) At a reception after the event, it was the most talked-about project. "The hot gel consomme, and her reasoning behind it, just amazed me," said Chang. He noted that a majority of the projects, including this one, used transglutaminase, sometimes known as "meat glue." Wylie Dufresne of New York's WD-50, a proponent of the ingredient, came earlier in the semester to teach about it.

Bacigalupe, who is back at Harvard after a two year absence due to a concussion, realized that the appeal of the her winning consomme-gel is in, as she put it, "not just the taste, but in the visceral reaction people have when they feel it. I made them hold it in their hands."

She created the the final version though a lot of experimentation, until it oscillated at an a frequency appealing to the touch (there's lots of scientific equipment around to measure this in the Harvard lab). "Vibrotactile differentiation. It sounds more complicated that it is. This is how a child can tell in a few seconds if Jell-O is done correctly." This kind of physics is a big part of what chefs mean when they talk about the "mouth feel" of a dish. And gels have a lot of physics going on.

A number of molecular chefs, Dufresne included, have tried and failed to make an appealing hot gel of soup stock using transglutaminase that will still melt in your mouth (who wants to chew soup?). Bacigalupe discovered that the secret is to use a blend of gelatin and transglutaminase, and to carefully regulate the cooking (reaction) temperature and the hydration of the transglutaminase. 

The actual amount of gelatin in the liquid turned out -- to the surprise of many -- not to matter much. Home chefs might be less surprised by this part. Jell-O is still pretty much the same consistency when you add a can of pineapple.

A three-person team made up of undergrads Katie Chang, Cody Evans, and Sophie Wharton,  created the co-winning dish, al-dente pasta made of entirely of Parmesean cheese (also bound with transglutaminase). They will join Bacigalupe on a trip to Ferran Adria's food lab in Barcelona, Spain.

Correction: Because of mistaken information given to Ike DeLorenzo, the three names of the co-winners are incorrect. Co-winners Erica Seidel, Michelle Burschtin, and Jennifer Kusma created gluten-free noodles. The trio will join Bacigalupe in Barcelona.

Free ice cream: Thurs. July 1

Posted by Sheryl Julian June 30, 2010 04:11 PM

 icecream3.jpgI knew that would get your attention!

The icy treats, from local vendors, are part of a cross-country marketing scheme by the new Cooking Channel.

An ice cream truck will be parked on City Hall Plaza as part of Boston Harborfest from 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., tomorrow.

What's your favorite flavor?

What the family kitchen is really like

Posted by Sheryl Julian February 26, 2010 06:04 PM

Dona Schwartz's new "In the Kitchen" book reveals every gritty part of the family kitchen: teens slouching in their chairs, a little girl playing grown-up with a big pot of chocolate, little ones reaching for the microwave buttons while adults stand around talking over wine, someone on a phone, two kids smushing ripe avocados into a bowl, tied-up garbage bags ready to go into the trash, a back pack flung against a cabinet, a girl feeding the dog some of her milk, dad preparing dinner, and the photo above -- of a blossoming baker a little bored with her mixing task.

Dona Schwartz was a divorced mother whose children were making her a birthday dinner, when she decided to photograph them in the process. And it became an ongoing family album: their life as seen through ordinary domestic activities and chores. The photos include Schwartz's new boyfriend and their blended family of six kids are all here. It's wonderful stuff and it will make anyone who has ever had a bunch of teens invade their kitchen smile.
About Dishing

What's cooking in the world of food.


Sheryl Julian, the Globe's Food Editor, writes regularly for the Food section.

Devra First is the Globe's food reporter and restaurant critic. Her reviews appear weekly in the Food section.

Ellen Bhang reviews Cheap Eats restaurants for the Globe and writes about wine.

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