The Kitchen as a Laboratory: Reflections on the Science of Food and Cooking by Cesar Vega
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Molecular gastronomy - applied. Written by actual food scientists, each chapter addresses a different food question and narrates the science that particular scientist or team undertook to find the answer. Some of these experiments were grant funded research, yet the book is easy to read for the most part, even for a lay person like me.
The book starts with a chapter on grilled cheese, where I learned why mild cheddar melts better than aged, and why fondue works. I couldn't put the book down after that.
Other chapters address texture, crispness, thickening agents, and my favorite - chewy ice cream. The scientists took a look at what makes salep dondurma (which Harold McGee wrote about in the NY Times in 2007) work, and to see if they could replicate it with other ingredients. They had to do this since the key ingredient, salep, a wild orchid derivative, isn't allowed out of the country of Turkey, where it is indigenous to that area only. I was fascinated and horrified and probably won't go to the trouble of trying the recipe they developed on my own, since it is a long list of ingredients I'd have to special order and aren't immediately recognizable, but I could if I so chose.
That's pretty much the underlying sentiment in this book - can we? why not? and how? I was fascinated by it and imagine others would be too. You can just gloss over the chemical diagrams like I did.