Kitchen Experiments for Lessons in Chemistry


Our latest book selection for Cook the Books Club has been Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus, hosted this round by Debra of 
Eliot's Eats.   From the Publisher:

"Meet Elizabeth Zott: “a gifted research chemist, absurdly self-assured and immune to social convention” (The Washington Post) in 1960s California whose career takes a detour when she becomes the unlikely star of a beloved TV cooking show."

 I found the book somewhat enjoyable, occasionally interesting and sometimes annoying.  Interesting historically in a sad way, with a look at how professional women have been treated in the past.   Annoying, hypocritical really, in the sense that "scientists" as well as authors, artists, engineers, etc. understandably, very much dislike having their work and inventions, or designs appropriated by others.  As happened in the novel.  Actually it's a criminal offense.  Yet they can look at the beauty, purpose and design all around us and assign it to random chance. Ha.  Also, I found it highly unlikely that her cooking show would have become popular in the early1960s.  What did become popular then was Julia Child's cooking show. 

There is a lot of hypocrisy in the world and always has been, not just in the arena of women's rights.  At least Garmus' novel was thought provoking and even occasionally humorous, despite the improbable and sometimes fantastical side.  I loved Elizabeth's dog, 6:30.  When Calvin died, "he sensed her death wish, and because of it, had been on suicide watch all week." Like her daughter, the dog is rendered almost magically intelligent and gifted.

 I wasn't especially inspired to any particular meal, but thought a few of my ongoing kitchen experiments would be apropos.  One being to go from making the tapioca pearls, or boba in my Halo-Halo, as posted earlier, to preparing Bursting Bubbles for tea or cocktails as well as in that dessert.  

For another, it's an experiment with formulating coconut oil via fermentation.  We have lots of coconuts here, which I'm sad to admit, have mostly just been dropping to the ground.  Opening and preparing them is a lot of work.  Somewhat like cacao, but with chocolate we have made the time and extended the energy!  So, upon engaging a bit of help (gardener and reluctant Bob) we have begun that oil project.

After husking, which requires some strength, then cracking open and getting the meat out of the shell, there comes juicing.  Next, in my experiment, I'll be using a bit of kefir whey to inoculate and then slightly ferment the cream.  That supposedly, in a day or so, separates it into oil and curd.  We shall see.  Updates to come.

As for the Bursting Bubbles, a molecular gastronomy technique that is used to make food into spheres and having the fitting name: spherification.  The picture above shows spheres (bursting bubbles) that have been made out of blueberry juice, using sodium alginate and calcium chloride to achieve the bubbles.

They didn't turn out as large as I would have liked.  Probably more practice or research is needed.  But did provide a lovely burst of flavor and texture for my Kir Royale.  Kir being a drink more popular in Europe, is white wine with a bit of Cassis (a black currant liqueur) and a Kir Royale uses sparkling wine, which I prefer.  Bubbles are fun and with the bursting bubbles even more so.

Chocolate making is another ongoing kitchen experiment, due to the fact that I have yet to master tempering.  My recent injury put that whole project off temporarily, but it's back on the to do list. My nibs are calling me.  So much to love about cooking -  the experimentation, trying new ingredients, techniques and combinations! I love doing things with what's available in our garden.  Pandan is on the list too, along with bitter melon, climbing over the pineapples, and lets not forget the breadfruit!

I'm linking this post up with Cook the Books for our current selection, with Heather at her Foodies Read Challenge and with Weekend Cooking, hosted by Marge, the Intrepid Reader and Baker.  Please do check out all the good food and books on those sites.  


Debra Eliotseats said...

I love that you highlighted two of your experiments. Both sound kind of daunting for me. I agree that parts of the books were totally fantastical but I still loved it. You know they're setting the series in the 1950s. I wonder what else they will change.

A Day in the Life on the Farm said...

I can't wait for the updates on the coconut oil. Thanks for sharing your kitchen fun with us.

Mae Travels said...

Your experiments are really neat.
best, mae at maefood.blogspot.com

Marg said...

I started reading this and had every intention of participating in this round of Cook the Books but life, and other books, got in the way.

Love that you shared your kitchen experiments.

Thanks for sharing with Weekend Cooking!

Delaware Girl Eats said...

Hmmm - bursting bubbles indeed

Delaware Girl Eats said...

boy - that sounds like a lot of work. Hope it was worthwhile...

Simona Carini said...

Both experiments sound like fun, Claudia. I hope the oil project is going well and the bubbles look nice: I like the color. As I've written in my comment to Amy's post, I'm intrigued by the spherification concept :)