Science & Cooking: Physics Meets Food, from Homemade to Haute Cuisine

Michael Brenner, Pia Sörensen, and David Weitz. Norton, $35 (304p) ISBN 978-0-393-63492-1
Three Harvard University professors bring their popular class to print in this astute exploration of how and why food recipes do what they do. While the authors note this is “ultimately not a cookbook,” they nonetheless serve up a variety of tasty dishes to exemplify their teachings in the basic principles of physics, chemistry, and engineering. Chocolate chip cookies are deconstructed on a molecular level, the viscosity of cheese sauce is measured, the sticky polymer chains of hydrocolloids prove to be the key to Chinese soup dumplings, and heat plus pressure plus natural sugars add up to a caramelized carrot soup. Along the way are handy tips on how to use the melting point of sugar as a way to calibrate an oven’s heat setting and how to keep pesto from turning brown using heat or lemon juice. Not all the jargon is scientific: in an extended metaphor of why emulsions separate, oil and water are compared to fans of the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees, providing a clue to the nature of coalescence and the advantages of constructing proper barriers. This is a no-brainer for science geeks who love to cook, and for cooks eager to learn the science behind their meals. (Oct.)
Reviewed on : 04/30/2020
Release date: 10/20/2020
Genre: Lifestyle
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