The term ‘molecular gastronomy’ shot into recognition in the mid 1990’s and was, for a while, representative of a brave new culinary world that combined science with cooking in a greater way than it had before.
While the term, to many, is already passé, the research and experimentation continues and the influence of this innovative way of approaching food is being increasingly prevalently seen around the world.
As a result of the exciting innovations pioneered by internationally-renowned chefs such as Ferran Adrià, Heston Blumenthal, Dave Arnold and Adam Melonas (among many others), the ingredients, tools and techniques of molecular gastronomy are today far more commonplace, making their way even into some home kitchens.
But what are the principles of molecular gastronomy, and where in Australia do you find the specialised ingredients involved?
At the heart of molecular gastronomy are the following questions:
· How and why did particular taste and flavour senses and our general food likes and dislikes evolve
· How do production methods affect the eventual flavour and texture of food ingredients
· How are these ingredients changed by different cooking methods
· Can new cooking methods that produce unusual and improved results of texture and flavour be developed
· How do our brains actually interpret the signals from all our senses to tell us the ‘flavour’ of food
· How is our enjoyment of food affected by other influences – the environment in which we eat the food, our mood, etc.
To achieve these ‘unusual and improved results’, a number of key ingredients are becoming increasingly present in contemporary recipes.
Conduct your own scientific experiments and create mouthwateringly innovative dishes with The Essential Ingredient’s selection of molecular products.
Among the products stocked by The Essential Ingredient*:
Sodium alginate- completely flavourless, it can be added to liquids as a thickener and an emulsifier.
Calcium chloride- reacts instantly with sodium alginate to great a jelly ‘skin’ around liquid. Mix either sodium alginate or calcium chloride into a thickened liquid (such as a fruit puree), dissolve the other in water and drop ‘beads’ of the thickened liquid into it. Small balls (or strings, or other shapes) are created that hold their form when removed from the water.
Soy lecithin granules- added to liquid, these granules help create consistent and robust foams, a popular addition to modern cuisine.
Agar agar- a gelling agent which, unlike gelatin, does not require refrigeration to set. Very little is required for a firm, transparent result.
Methylcellulose powder- also a setting agent, methylcellulose powder is a common ingredient in molecular gastronomy sorbets. The powder ‘melts’ when frozen, giving the sorbet a unique smoothness.
Xanthan gum- added to liquids, xanthan gum thickens when left to stand and thins when agitated. Since it has no flavour, its properties can be utilised to achieve unique serving presentations.
Of course, each of these products has a multitude of uses and applications, and more are sure to be discovered as the world continues to embrace this new field of cooking.
Why not be a part of the movement yourself? Try some molecular gastronomy yourself by experimenting with one of these unique products.
Contact your nearest The Essential Ingredient store to find out more and to start your molecular journey.
*Store stocks may vary. Please contact store to confirm availability.