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Monday, November 7, 2011

Book Review - Culinary Reactions

I like science, and love cooking. So Culinary Reactions : The Everyday Chemistry of Cooking by Simon Quellen Field is very exciting to me. The idea is to explain in clear and easy language how the chemicals in our foods react and behave to create what we eat.

From the liquid nitrogen frozen ice cream in the introduction, to the very end where he explains why salt and ice freeze ice cream and all the information in between, he's managed it very well.

The chapters each cover a specific topic, and there is some overlap in the examples used. Like making cheese involves making a protein gel using protein chemistry and can be flavored using molds which are covered in the biology chapter.

The language is clear and scientific. He explains the way molecules interact to create foams such as bread and meringues, how beer and vinegar are made, how specific cultured bacteria can create inhospitable environments for more dangerous bacteria. The affects of acids and bases on recipes, including a very clear explanation of the difference between the two.

Yes, it's science, but it's easy to read and understand.

There are few cooking projects that show the chemical processes at work. A whipped topping that's stabilized with the addition of xanthan gum,  a homemade cheese cheese with instructions for two great, inexpensive and easy to build cheese presses, a turkey that's is surface sterilized to be cooked for a very long time at below boiling point temperatures to keep it super juicy, extracting DNA from pumpkins and fruit, and lemonade with color changing grape juice "chameleon eggs".

If you have a practical knowledge of cooking, you will probably get inspired to try other things like creating invert sugar solutions to use instead of simple syrup, or trying acids like lemon juice in your meringues instead of cream of tartar.

The understanding of the scientific principles behind why ingredients behave the way they do can help make anyone a better cook I believe. I found the information exciting and inspiring, and know I'll use it to develop more recipes for my family.

It's educational and interesting. The projects provide great science experiments to do with your children or just on your own. It's one that my husband is interested in reading as well. He's already said he will build me a cheese press following the instructions in the book so I can try making harder cheeses. I really enjoyed it, and recommend it to anyone who has an interest in science and cooking.

Published by Chicago Review Press and distributed by IPG affiliate links don't affect your cost, and provide extra income to me personally, which helps support my book addiction.

My reviews are always my personal and honest opinion. You can read more about my review policy here.

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