Sunday, May 25, 2003

"What Einstein Told His Cook: Kitchen Science Explained," by Robert L. Wolke

I'd heard about "What Einstein Told His Cook" some time ago, and thought it might be an interesting read, but I already had stacks of "research" for stories to do, and never quite got to it. Well, finally, I did. As with "Anatomy of a Dish," I still have the idea in mind that I might need to develop some science lessons for the school my son will be attending next year (it's an alternative school that relies heavily on parent participation, and science seems to be an area where they could use some particular help). I like the idea of using cooking chemistry and biology to get across broader lessons in the context of making something yummy.

So in that context, this book wasn't quite what I was hoping for (it's heavier on the "gee whiz" type of information than on real science), but it was a fun read and gave me a few ideas. I'll also be copying down the reference pages, and checking out some of this author's primary sources. Chapters cover: sugar, salt, fats, "chemicals" (i.e. baking powder, vinegar, lye), meat and fish, heat and cold, coffee and wine, microwave cooking, and tools and technology.

One potential experiment might come from dissolving sugar in water--with heating, more than two pounds of sugar (five cups) can be coaxed to dissolve in only one cup of water. Also, caramelization, which (strictly speaking) means "the heat-induced browning of a food that contains sugars, but no proteins. Um, caramel; um, peanut brittle. What I didn't know, is that caramelization is different from the Maillard reactions (high-temperature browning reactions that take place when sugars and starches are heated in the presence of proteins or amino acids).


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