The book is entitled Cooking for Geeks: Real Science, Great Hacks, and Good Food by Jeff Potter and is over 500 pages of recipes, interviews and analysis of food, its properties and the science of cooking and baking! My twelve year old daughter is totally enamored with the scientific explanation of how leavening works, the chemical reactions of everything from yeast to vinegar and of course sugar. Have you ever wondered why some pie crusts are flaky and others more mealy? The answer lies in the ratio of ingredients... all explained in Cooking for Geeks.
The chapters are laid out as follows:
1. Hello Kitchen
2. Initializing the Kitchen
3. Choosing your Inputs: Flavors and Ingredients
4. Time and Temperature: Cooking's Primary Variables
5. Air: Baking's Key Variable
6. Playing with Chemicals
7. Fun with Hardware
The book also includes interviews with great 'geeks' in various disciplines - everyone from Brian Wansink, a professor at Cornell University who studies how we interact with food, to Adam Savage of Mythbusters fame who talks about the scientific process. The interviews add an additional depth to the discussions of each chapter and lend credibility to the author's perspectives...
And of course there are recipes! Everything from no-knead bread to 30 minute scrambled eggs, the experience of cooking and baking takes on new meaning as you control your environment for both taste and science! Take for instance the discussion of why certain meats require slow cooking, providing an explanation of collagen, gelatin and which meats have more and less... including why lean meat doesn't stew particularly well...
I recommend this book for anyone who ever asks WHY? Why can't I cut down on the flour in the bread? Why can't I use lean beef in my stew? Why can't I just cook short ribs for 15 minutes and expect them to be tender? Why do I need to put salt in things when they cook? Why is it that if 350F for an hour cooks it, 500F for 12 minutes doesn't... If you have a need to know why your recipe is working or not, this is the book for you!
Cooking for Geeks: Real Science, Great Hacks, and Good Food is available at Amazon.com for $23.09
For videos, more recipes, and additional interviews, see the book’s companion website, at http://www.cookingforgeeks.com.
If you use Facebook, see http://facebook.com/cookingforgeeks.
If you tweet, follow @cookingforgeeks; use the hashtag "#c4g" for general discussion.
An excerpt from Cooking for Geeks is today's recipe - one that I thought was appropriate for the start of harvest season:
Poached Pears in Red Wine
Poached pears are easy, tasty, and quick. And, at least compared to most desserts, they’re relatively healthy, or at least until the vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce are added. Much of our enjoyment of fruit comes from not just their flavor but also their texture. Consider an apple that’s lacking in crispiness or a banana that’s been bruised and become mushy: without their customary texture, their appeal is lost. But this isn’t always the case. Poaching fruits such as pears causes similar changes in the structure of the fruit’s flesh, breaking down cell walls and affecting the bonds between neighboring cells to create a softer texture that’s infused with the flavor of the poaching liquid.
In a shallow saucepan or frying pan, place:
2 medium (350g) pears,
sliced lengthwise (longitudinally) into eighths or twelfths, and core removed
1 cup (240ml) red wine
¼ teaspoon ground pepper
Set the pan over low to medium heat, bringing the wine to a simmer and then poaching the pears for 5 to 10 minutes, until soft. Flip them halfway through, so that both sides of the slices spend some time facedown in the liquid. Remove the pears and discard the liquid. (You can also reduce the liquid down into a syrup.)
Notes: Fun chemistry fact: the boiling point of wine is lower than that of water. The exact temperature depends upon the sugar and alcohol levels, and as the wine simmers, the ratios shift. It’ll start somewhere around 194°F / 90°C. It’s doubtful that this will actually help you avoid overcooking the pears, though.
Pears are one of those fruits that are underripe until you look away and then go rotten before you can look back. To encourage them to ripen, you can keep underripe pears in a paper bag so the plant tissue will be exposed to the ethylene gas they give off. I find I can get away with poaching pears that are a little more underripe than I might want to eat fresh, but your pears should be at least a little soft.
Try serving this with caramel sauce and vanilla ice cream. Or try poaching other fruits, like fresh figs, and using other liquids. Figs poached in port or a honey/water syrup with a small amount of lemon juice and lemon zest added after poaching are sweet and tasty.
You don’t need to actually measure out the ingredients. As long as the pears have enough liquid to poach in, they’ll turn out great. Add freshly ground pepper to suit your tastes.
And now for today's linky - post your favorite recipe to share here:
Disclaimer: I received an electronic copy of Cooking for Geeks: Real Science, Great Hacks, and Good Food by Jeff Potter from the publisher for the purposes of this review. All opinions are my own
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