Sunday, June 10, 2012



"Molecular gastronomy" seems to be going through a backlash, but cynics be damned:  cooking has truly changed since all these fancy foams started showing up everywhere.  Jacques Pepin put it best in an interview with the Village Voice:
"What do you think about modernist cuisine or molecular gastronomy?  
It's an addition to what we do now. You always learn. We had nouvelle cuisine in the 1970s. Sous-vide is repackaging of what I did at Howard Johnson in the 1970s. We'd put turkey breast in sealed Cryovac bags to prevent loss and to keep them moist, so there was a lot already done in that area. Now, it's about using new ingredients and gelatins and it's creating the "wow." It's like when you see a great couturier. Like when Christian Lacroix makes an enormous hat and you laugh as you see [a model wearing] it down the runway. You'd think, Who wears that? But it trickles down to prêt-à-porter. Not everybody and even Ferran Adrià doesn't eat that way all the time. It's about pushing the envelope. It's more for younger people than for me. After 60 years, I see it as an interesting thing but it's not like I'm going to reincorporate that into my recipes. I'm too old for that." 
Here we are with our prêt-à-porter, Molecule-R's "Cuisine R-evolution" molecular gastronomy kit, our grown-up home chemistry kit.  It can't really be denied: these new-fangled techniques are finding their way into the home, and they're pretty fun, much like making mud pies were fun or putting anything and everything into a blender when you were five was pretty fun.

That said, it's pretty intimidating too.  The kit comes with food-grade chemistry lab tools (pipettes, tubes, syringes and, uh, a set of measuring spoons) and an assortment of powders in individual pre-measured sachets: agar agar, sodium alginate, calcium lactate, soy lecithin and xanthan gum.  What was this stuff, and how do you pronounce all of it?

Rooting around some key books didn't help calm the nerves either: Alinea is not exactly well-suited for an untrained amateur.  But it did (try to) help explain what most of these powders were and de-mystify them a bit, and eventually we got our spherification on.

We tried the "yogurt ravioles" recipe that came with the kit, which comes with a DVD of recipes and other nerve-calming how-to videos:

Yogurt Ravioles

2g sodium alginate (1 sachet from the kit)
1/2 tsp calcium lactate (which is not quite 1 sachet from the kit)
2 cups water
1/3 cup milk
1/2 cup plain 2% yogurt (or higher)

If you don't happen to have Molecule-R's kit, get a digital scale, because shizz has got to be precise when it comes to chemistry.

Dissolve the sodium alginate in the water.  When you first dump it in, you'll see why a handblender is recommended: this alginate does not go easily into that watery night.  As it dissolves, the solution becomes more and more viscous.  Refrigerate it for 15 minutes, and the solution becomes more fluid.  Let the first of those excited mad science giggles begin.

While the sodium alginate solution chills, dissolve the calcium lactate in the milk.  Mix in the yogurt while stirring, and let the butterflies and anticipation build up: tricks are about to begin.

Using a measuring spoon (pick a size corresponding to the size of 'raviole' or sphere you want), quickly dump in one spoon of the milk/yogurt mix into the chilled sodium alginate solution.  As the two liquids meet, the spherication begins.  In darker times one would be stoned for witchcraft.

Don't get greedy: do one sphere at a time, unless you're using a large bowl that can accommodate the spheres without touching each other.  If they do touch, they'll stick together (much like our "rat king" sphere cluster).

After the spheres sit for 3 minutes, use a slotted spoon (one comes with the Molecule-R kit) and carefully fish them out.  Use a steady hand: they'll pop if you don't. Put them in a bowl of cold water to wash off the solution.

At that point, they're ready to serve. We served ours on top of roasted peaches, a good contrast between simplicity and fussiness. The yogurt ravioles were fun to burst, but probably could've used a bit more sweetness (or a higher dose of yogurt) in the end.

Which, incidentally, is a useful example of what this modernist cuisine is all about.  Don't be mistaken: this kit is not going to magically transform you into Ferran Adria, much like all these techniques are not going to save a rudderless chef.  After we finished making our dessert, combing through the Alinea and El Bulli books made it even more apparent how genius those folks actually are.

BUT: that doesn't mean you can't one-up at your own home, or better yet, your pop's home.  The Molecule-R Cuisine R-evolution kit is extraordinarily fun, and with Father's Day coming up, we're giving you and your dad a treat.

We have ONE Molecule-R Cuisine R-evolution kit (regularly $58.95 from their website) to giveaway.  All you have to do is leave a comment describing what you would make for your dad (or what you want your dad/husband/partner/etc. to make for you) using this kit.

Canadian entries only (sorry!), and please remember to leave some way for us to contact you.

Enter right up until 11:59pm (Vancouver time) on Sunday, June 10th, 2012, just a week before Father's Day!


the clutterer Web Developer


  1. I would try EVERYTHING, My dad would love this. He loves to cook and tries new recipes all the time! This would be perfect!

    Heather MacIntyre from Nova Scotia

  2. I would try to do the cheese foam

    However as my wife is a scientist i would let her do some magic with it as well

  3. Ditto on the trying everything, but I want to get this for my husband (a scientist) and my kids, and I think the kids would vote for surprise bubbles, because what kid does not like surprises?

    sageg (at)

  4. hmm will have to rethink the fondue concept

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. My dad loves quirky stuff like this. I'm sure that he'd love to try most everything but he was talking about some fruit juice caviar the other day he had seen on the internet. So I'm pretty sure that a fruit raviole or caviar would be first on the list!


  7. I would love to try spherification with things like olive oil

    andrew @ aneb . ca

  8. Though i would love to make my dad everything on the recipe list, it's more likely that he would want to take over and play with the kit himself. It looks like so much fun! He would love run sheets and mint caviar.
    Thanks for the giveaway!

  9. My Dad always loved toasted bread with Cheez-Whiz and Strawberry jam. I would do a recreation of that, possibly deconstructed. Toasted bread with cheese powder and strawberry ravioli. Might be awful, might be awesome. Either way it would be a ton of fun!

  10. I'm a chemist, and my dad has never really learned much chemistry outside of the enzymatic oxidation of ethanol. So he always has lots of questions (and lots of skepticism) about chemistry, especially the "chemicals" he can't pronounce on ingredients lists.

    So if I were awarded this kit, I would make my dad some ice cream using liquid nitrogen, with and without xantham gum, so he could taste the difference.

    Joel Kelly- jkelly at chem dot ubc dot ca

  11. I would try out everything.. this is pretty cool stuff and makes me think back to all the times I read and watched shows about El Bulli

  12. I would try out all 50 of the recipes on their DVD! This sounds like a fun way to enjoy food! I would love to video tape all my experiments & post them to Youtube for everyone to see.

    Contact me at: hainam AT shaw DOT ca

  13. i would use it to get my dad to eat healthier! veggies in disguise.

  14. balsamic vinegar pearls, with strawberries and basil! (in bite-sized appetizer spoons. ) He would love it!

  15. Wow...I think it's an extra ordinary ways to make a perfect raviole.
    I guess there's lot of fun in preparing with this kit. Would definitely give a try

  16. I would use it to make some kind of caviars. My dad loves to cook so this would be perfect for him. Jcmliao at gmail

  17. We call my dad the angry chef as he is a great cook but always gets mad when he is cooking. If he had this great kit he could become the mad, scientist chef and he would love it.

  18. My dad would definitely go nuts with this!
    I'd say he'd experiment with pearls of all kind because he adores those popping pearls from froyo places.

  19. These are so cool! I would make the surprise bubbles.

    tinalee351 at gmail dot com

  20. I'd like to try some pigs blood caviar with potato dust.

    classic. delicious.

  21. My dad needs more fruits in his diet so I'd whip up some fruit bubbles (thinking watermelon) and raspberry foam... for dessert after his strawberry risotto. :)

  22. Both me and my father are suckers for mangoes... so would love to try the Mango verrines! at gmail

  23. The spherical tzatziki would be interesting to try to make!

  24. The surprise bubbles look like fun to enjoy with my dad!

  25. It is such an easy kit to use. In Australia I got mine from You can also get the recipes in pdf format id you don't have a video player near your kitchen

  26. I worked in this company as Senior Buyer, R& D , they owed me and an old couple money $2000.00, please see the interesting story:
    can you accept a company who didn't do fair trade? Employees are also customers in marketing courses, they treated their employees like this, how they treat the customers?
    On their pinterest, I posted more than 40 times, and they deleted me more than 40 times. Why they cannot reply me? Even I have no penny, I will not take old people's money. Some people has no face, no shame.
    Inspiration is not creation. It's different. Molecule gastronomy started in the year eighties in Europe. Some people got inspiration from UK, it’s not creation. Creation is that you put something totally new.
    I also want to remind some company. For the food contact products sold to Europe & US(like
    Food Styling Revolution kit, Mortier Pilon), you have to get the real security certificate like LFGB(for Europe market), FDA(for US market), otherwise you cannot sell on these markets. It’s the government law. We must obey the law, otherwise there would be no order in the society. Also please check if your products have product defect problem, you have to recall the products. Take care of the health and the security of the customers. They are human beings.