The “Ultimate” Food Science.

You’d think that food science IS the only science in such a broad category, but I disagree of course. We breakdown the sciences into appropriate chapters, similar to Harold Magee’s teachings and tutorials in his book. Having read “On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen” about four times over during the last 5 years, I think I am finally doing some epic role play during practical execution. The ultimate “food science” has finally been manipulated by this consummate foodie scientist. When you get to the point where you understand how and why reactions take place, it’s amazing how everything just works. Harold Magee, knock on your pacemaker, I’m pretty sure you just became a best seller…. again. New generations and waves of food science lovers are high-fiving Harold (and themselves) once they “get” the concepts. Knowledge – it’s powerful stuff.

It seems that my bouts of food science have lent some “advices” to friends and family lately well worth recalling. Then there’s Jonathan – he’s deciphering the genetic protein codes of flour, and how they can be re-manipulated from formula to get the desired nutrition, and results from kneading, gluten work, and tasty baked crust.

What about the science of wilting bitter greens, chards, lettuces and other leafy greens with kosher salt to give the “affect” of blanching in hot water without even turning on a burner, or losing nutrients? You’ll hardly get a goiter, a little salt goes a long way…. leave it in a bowl for a while. What’s even cooler? The sufficient amount of flavour imparted to a lightly dressed salad in the end…. completely raw….

Ya, ya, I’ve studied the science of eggs and dairy, the pros and cons to pasteurization from milk to juices, the enzyme comparisons in meat to fish to dry wall – cool. But the science that satisfies my need for more is always baking science, and I wanna make cookies RIGHT NOW without a recipe, and KNOW that they’re going to work. “Magic” baking powder – small plastic tub in the back of your cupboard. If you’re like me, you read ingredients. If you’re my twin, you are confused by ingredients. If you’re my soul-mate, you don’t use ingredients until you understand what their purpose is. Anything with more than 4 syllables and remind you of Grade 9 science require a dictionary. Then challenge yourself to use that “word” in a sentence (like a Grade 4 Spelling Bee) to ensure you “get it”. Example: a pleasing 2-word item commonly found in cookery: baking powder – sodium bicarbonate (baking soda aka fridge refresher aka toothpaste aka cleaner), salt, and cornstarch. Soda reacts to liquid/acid. Cornstarch absorbs moisture so there’s no premature leavening. Too much powder and there’s bitterness and potentially “holey” baked goods. Or worse, they collapse. Well that’s BS. I want chewie cookies. Not tall cookies, with bubbly holes.

So here’s my question: have you ever dissected a recipe and interpreted the purpose(s) of each ingredient? Only then can you *truly* wing it – and really that’s where all the fun is had. Mammas and Gramammas have been saying for eons, “deary, don’t forget to really cream the fat and sugar together… or else…” Or else what? Flat, uninteresting cookies. Lame in everyway. Playdough. Nausea. Telling psychiatrists later in life why your childhood sucked so badly as they’re writing you prescriptions for ridelin, just because of bad cookies. Creaming ingredients “enlarges” the ingredients. Why do you need powders then? Ah! Breakthrough. Baking powder = laziness; creaming by hand = tennis elbow; creaming by machine = genius.

Cookies (these ain’t raw, but ain’t so bad for you):

1 cup steel-cut oats
1/2 cup tipo “00” flour 11% protein (Italian equivalent to “all purpose” flour – higher protein than cake flour, but lower than bread flour)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract (I make my own, naturally)
2 free range organic local eggs (binders – adhesive for fat, sugar and dry ingredients to stick together without “gluey-ness”.)
2 tbsp almond butter (excellent taste, texture, and substitute for butter)
2 tbsp butter (a little to test recipes… next time I am certain I will not need it, while still achieving the same “flakiness”)
1/2 cup organic cane juice crystals (frankly, I do not like the taste of sugars… except this – tastes “natural”, and melts when cooked, not creamed)
1/4 cup pecans
1/4 cup walnuts
1/4 cup 99% chocolate bar (hugely important antioxidants and cocoa butter content for thickening)
1 tsp sesame seeds
1/4 cup sultana raisins
1/4 cup thompson raisins
1/4 tsp salt

350F 16 minutes

In case the method wasn’t obvious, cream together almond butter, butter and crystals. Add in vanilla, and beat one egg at a time into batter. Remove from mixer, add in oats, and flour. Fold in just to combine. Do not over-disturb the gluten. Fold everything else in.


About Lauren Mote

Lauren has been an intricate part of the food industry for many years. Whether it’s behind the bar, in the kitchen, tasting and learning about wine, or sitting with her laptop writing food stories and reviews at the local coffee house, it was clear at an early age that Lauren’s professional and personal life would be completely consumed by the joy and passion of edibles.
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