A piece of cake
June 9, 2010 4:15 AM   Subscribe

The science of cake. Also, the science of breadmaking, and the science of cheesemaking.
posted by jonnyploy (17 comments total) 35 users marked this as a favorite

 
See also Harold McGee's On Food and Cooking.
posted by kalessin at 4:45 AM on June 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I love cheesemaking (though only my feta, ricotta, and mozzarella have turned out very well so far) because I love the combination of art and science and microbes involved. I love that cheese has a pH requirement.

I also love that it comes in both "instant gratification" and "the best things come to those who wait" forms.
posted by custardfairy at 4:57 AM on June 9, 2010


Do you remember an Inn, Miranda?
Do you remember an Inn?
And the tedding and the shredding
Of the straw for a bedding,
And the fleas that tease in the High Pyrenees,
And the cheese that smelled of goat fart?
posted by pracowity at 5:15 AM on June 9, 2010


When people are mystified by baking (and then mystified when they substitute an ingredient, or baking powder for baking soda, and things don't turn out right), it's often because they don't know the chemistry behind it. Learn what each of the ingredients does, and you can learn to substitute and create. Baking is chemistry -- accuracy and precision ensure consistent, delicious results.

So happy to see these links. I wish this was taught in grade-school science.
posted by fiercecupcake at 5:36 AM on June 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Lean over the bowl and take a good sniff. You can smell the earthy, metallic odour of flour and water with a slightly sour note from the alcohol produced by the yeast and a sweet smell from the sugars released by enzymes in the flour.
my mother used to send all five of us out to play when she baked. when the bread was thisclose to coming out of the oven, she'd call us into the house, along with whoever else we had playing with us. we'd crowd around the table, where she'd already placed a dish of butter, and watch her slice the bread, slide it onto a plate, and place the plate in the middle of the table. hot fresh bread with melted butter. uummm. when that first loaf was gone, we were done, no matter how much we begged to move onto the next.

once in a while she'd couple bread baking day with red (pasta) sauce making day, and she'd reserve some of the bread dough & red sauce for pizza. on pizza day, she let us know we could each invite ONE friend. she'd use the huge rectangular baking sheet and most often made two (maybe more?) pizzas with whatever toppings we had around the house or in the garden.

it doesn't get much better than that.
posted by msconduct at 6:11 AM on June 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


5. Shape into loafs, place in buttered tins and leave to prove for 30 minutes;

Oh, I can't resist.

When we learned bread in pastry school, our (very French) chef murmured, smirking, that he had been taught a comparison to use when deciding if dough was fully proofed. When we pressed him, he demurred -- we were nine female students and one male, and it wasn't proper.

Finally we got it out of him, not without a little more evasion from him and our promises that we could handle it. A bread dough, properly proofed, should feel like the breast of a young woman.

And now you too can remember that when you feel either proofed dough or breasts.
posted by fiercecupcake at 6:21 AM on June 9, 2010 [5 favorites]


Blessed are the cheesemakers.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 6:42 AM on June 9, 2010 [5 favorites]


A bread dough, properly proofed, should feel like the breast of a young woman.

So like bags of sand, then?
posted by Faint of Butt at 6:54 AM on June 9, 2010


The cake of science.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 7:16 AM on June 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


The art and science of Bacon!
posted by luvcraft at 7:23 AM on June 9, 2010


The cake is a lie!
posted by bashos_frog at 7:48 AM on June 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Joe Pastry, which was linked on the blue a while back, is another good resource for this kind of stuff. He usually does one project every week or so and leads up to the main post with lots of little posts about what he learned during the process. It's great. I found this recent post on enzyme action in soaked grains very illuminating.
posted by clockwork at 10:10 AM on June 9, 2010


the science of burgers and fries
posted by The Esteemed Doctor Bunsen Honeydew at 3:06 PM on June 9, 2010


Oh my dear god in heaven you have got to be fucking joking. I owe you my firstborn for this or something.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 6:30 PM on June 9, 2010


See also Harold McGee's On Food and Cooking.

I am reading that right now. I really want to do the version of Thousand Year Eggs he mentions in the egg chapter, the ones where the white comes out clear and the yolk bright yellow.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 6:32 PM on June 9, 2010


Huh. I haven't read On Food and Cooking from cover to cover. I'll have to look for the one you're talking about. Cool.

The only preserved eggs I have encountered so far are: The weird thing I've personally encountered with thousand year eggs specifically is that the incredibly basic taste of the eggs (that comes from the lye/lime that is its outer covering during the preservation process) varies wildly depending on both initial preservation and then preparation for eating after the preservation process is done.

I've met folks who say they just peel and eat, but when I tried it, the alkaline taste was too incredibly strong for me to enjoy and most times I peel and then soak in cold water for and hour or two before I can eat end enjoy them.
posted by kalessin at 8:08 AM on June 10, 2010


Some scientists in Taiwan discovered them. It's a relatively low-alkaline solution, only preserved for 8 days, and cooked for 10 minutes as well.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 11:02 AM on June 10, 2010


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