Molecular Gastronomy for Beginners

This week I delved into the foray of molecular gastronomy. Several months ago I purchased a Cuisine R-Evolution MoleculeR Gastronomy kit but I haven't had the time to devote to this new art that is taking the foodie world by storm. If you've ever been to, or even heard of, Alinea or el Bulli you've certainly heard of molecular gastronomy. Molecular gastronomy is a scientific discipline that studies the physical and chemical processes that occur while cooking; it's a branch of food science. The term "molecular gastronomy" was coined in 1992 by Nicholas Kurti, an Oxford physicist. The phrase started becoming mainstream during the mid-1990s when chef Ferran Adria of el Bulli in Spain started introducing foams, apple caviars, and hot jellied strips of "pasta" made from agar agar.

Some common ingredients chefs often use while dabbling in molecular gastronomy are listed below. They may sound scary, but most are actually different kinds of gelatins that cause chemical reactions when they come in contact with different ingredients, pretty cool!

Agar Agar- A vegetarian gelatin substitute and used most often in molecular gastronomy for gelification and making different kinds of "caviar"
Xanthan Gum- It's a type of polysaccharide, a kind of carbohydrate molecule, and often used as thickening agent in molecular gastronomy
Sodium Alginate- Type of brown algae and often used it recipes for spherication
Soy Lecithin-  It's a byproduct of soybean oil production, and often used in emulsions to create foams
Calcium Carbonate- Simply put, it's chalk and used for spherication recipes

I used agar agar to create a balsamic vinegar "caviar," or small gelitanized balls that look like small fish eggs or "caviar" in my pizza recipe below.

Pear and Brie Pizza

Ingredients:

  • 1 package of Trader Joe's wheat pizza crust
  • 1 pear
  • 1/4 lb brie cheese
  • 1 sweet onion
  • 1.5 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1/4 cup walnuts
  • drizzle of honey

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees
  2. Thinly slice the pear and brie into small rounds
  3. Peel and slice the onion into thin strips and heat in a skillet with the olive oil on low for about a half hour or until caramelized and golden brown
  4. Roll out the pizza dough as thin as you'd like
  5. Cook the raw dough on a floured pizza pan for about 5 minutes until semi-firm
  6. Spread the caramelized onions on the dough as a "sauce"
  7. Top the pizza with thinly sliced pears, brie cheese, and walnuts
  8. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes or until crust is crispy
  9. Drizzle warm pizza with honey and top with balsamic caviar

 

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