Woo-hoo! We just got Cooking for Geeks in the mail. You can view it as a cookbook that takes time to delve into the science of the recipes or a food science book with demonstrative recipes. Or maybe an introduction to everything that food geeks know about, but everyone else wishes they did. It also has a series of interviews with geeks, chefs and scientists– including us, but I’m not sure which of those categories we fit into. Regardless, we enjoyed talking with Jeff about the book and are happy to see it out in print!
The cover design with splatter marks and stains means less worry when it gets spilled on in the process of cooking (not that I’ve ever worried about that with any of my other cookbooks).
Most pages have ample room for margin notes, which is something I’m fond of for recipe alterations. It flops open on the counter well, too.
We got a nice shoutout from Jeff on NPR’s Science Friday last week for the laser cut pie crust from our Apple pie, which is featured in the book along with our electrocuted hot dogs. Thanks, Jeff, and congrats on getting the book out there!
Our neighbors stopped by with buckets (yes, buckets) of excess plums. Not that you’ll necessarily be so lucky, but if you should happen to find a nice supply of plums, here’s something awesome you can make with them: Indian style plum chutney. Perfect for topping your samosas or naan, and at least as easy as marmalade.
There are a few standard ways to acquire spices. The usual involves buying a new spice now or then when you need it for some new recipe. Or perhaps acquiring a “set of spices” with a built in organizer system. These obviously work, but are prone to being expensive, disorganized, or subject to artificial limits. Obviously, a more optimal solution exists. We set out to create a better, backwards compatible, scalable spice organization system so that you don’t feel silly adding another 20 or 30 or 40 items to your palette.
Indian style preserved lemons, commonly referred to just as “lemon pickle,” come in probably not hundreds, but thousands of varieties. Here’s how to make just one of these amazing creations: Gujarati Lemon Pickle.
Sweet, salty and easy to make, it takes a few spices, a few minutes and about a month.
The basic picture of the atom that many of us grew up with– that of little electrons orbiting the nucleus like so many planets orbiting the sun –turns out to be a little misleading. Reality is somewhat more complicated: a matter of wave functions, spherical harmonics, and ultimately probability clouds.
The chart above shows the appearance of a single hydrogen atom in a few of its lowest excited states.
In each of those states, the electron is found in a different orbital, some of which have unfamiliar shapes. But even the term “shape” is a little funny for something that you can’t hold in your hand. These are actually probability density plots, which show the likelihood of observing the electron in any one position at a given time– and more correctly, 2D projections of 3D probability densities.
So even the humble hydrogen atom can be a bit complex. Fortunately, we have advanced technology that can help us cut though the quantum mechanical haze: Cookies!
These are atomic spritz cookies, made by taking a fairly common cookie press and outfitting it with custom plates.
It’s not quite a trivial process, but the end result is pretty neat: you get to eat the atomic orbitals. Continue reading →
I never really set out with the goal of roasting my own coffee beans, it just kind of happened.
It started a month ago when we got a coffee grinder. Naturally we started getting whole bean coffee, which we used at a rate of about one pound per week. While I’m not (by any standards) a coffee connoisseur, I found myself noticing that the first pot of coffee out of the new can really was just betterthan the last pot of coffee out of the old can– meaning that the coffee quality does actually decline noticeably after just a week.
Now, that’s a minor annoyance, and hardly cause for action. But, two weekends ago I happened to be browsing in a home brewing store (needed champagne yeast– that’s another story) where there were sealed bags of green coffee beans just sitting there on the shelf. Fair trade, organic, and in a number of varieites. Only 5 bucks a pound. So what the heck, right?
It turns out that there’s a common and cheap method of roasting coffee at home: using a regular air popcorn maker. You put the beans in the popper as though they were popcorn kernels, heat them for a few minutes until they’re properly roasted, and then cool them. (You can read the details of this process here, here, here, and here, amongst other places.) This is kind of neat because it doesn’t take much in the way of equipment and it roasts just enough for a big pot of coffee.
The weak point in the popper method is the cooling. The beans keep roasting as long as they are still hot, so many of the sites suggest pouring the beans back and forth between a couple of metal colanders until they cool down. We tried it, and while it did cool them faster than a cookie sheet, it was more tedious than fun. It also seemed a bit silly to use this nice semi-automatic roaster and then turn it over to a manual process for the next few minutes. So, here is our better (if somewhat obvious) solution: a dedicated coffee cooling tower, built from a second modified air popper. Continue reading →