Does molecular gastronomy have a place in pastry? I am beginning to have an interest in it but I'm not sure if our restaurant patrons are ready for it. Any thoughts or recommendations?
molecular gastronomy in pastry
Gear mentioned in this thread:
It is my strong belief that there is always room for new technology and techniques to be applied in pastry, even if it is not glaringly obvious to the diner. You don't need to have foams and caviars to make a dish "molecular" (I still find that term a little misleading) and you don't need to use modern cooking techniques to make desserts that look cutting edge. You can make a very traditional looking baked alaska with dehydrators, liquid nitrogen and versawhip.
Yes. In a way, isn't pastry one part molecular gastornomy, one part craft, one part art, one part chemistry, one part pure wimsy, magic and fairy dust?
Molecular Gastronomy is an interesting term. By Herve This' definition of MG, Ferran Adria etc. are doing "molecular cooking" not MG.
As it is, I agree with those above. Pastry should change and evolve like any other area of food production. I would always say that you need to match your food to your customer base, though.
What I see (not with everyone mind you) is a simplification of technique and dumbing down of presentation infavor of the "baffle them with BS" method. Whereas in the recent past pastries were constructed with many componants (refer to plated desserts in the late 80's-90's) Nowadays is seems most are streamlined and simplified with the references to complicated methods as the value adder(e.g. caviars/foams). Pastry presentation in fine dining has gone the route of ala'carte while it would seem ala'carte had turned to the way pastry has been presented in the past. While pastry needs to evolve as much as any craft, I see an all too disturbing trend with many new pastry chefs who do not know the core fundamentals of pastry. I always say you need to learn to walk before you can fly. It is always amusing when a new apprentice comes in and the first thing they wanted to do was pulled sugar, nowadays it is alginates or xanthan gum. When I suggest we need to make a vacherin first or a custard base I get the mile away stare and a request for the recipe (umm. I'm not sure how to do that...)
The new methods and techniques while exciting and new tend to be overdone by those who dabble in them (too many cooks spoiling the soup). Keep in mind also that most if not all of the "molecular gastronomy" ingredients are NOT new and have been in use for many years. I have several ice cream books for example which reference sodium alginate as a stabilizer as far back as the 1930's. Fast food has been using these very same techniques to make chicken nuggets, uniform french fries and fake fliet of fish sandwiches for years, something I find amusing is that most people have not caught on to this. Most think these "exotic" ingredients are only for the realm of fine dining and uber haughty establishments. WRONG!
My final thought is to question the long term health effects on people who have these ingredients as a STEADY part of their diets. Are all these chemicals healthy in the long term? Should we be including them in our diets? Again to reference fast food, look at the long term effects of that on the population. Another case in point renowned chef Grant Achatz of Alinea in Chicago. A terrible thing to get mouth cancer, could it be related to the constant tasting of these ingredients? I do not know the jury is not in on that yet.
Just my .02. I am only referencing the chemical aspect of this, I am all infavor of new cooking techniques like immersion circulators, sous vide and the like.
With regards to the safety of most of these additives, it has always been the case that anything and everything has had the potential to be dangerous. Lead and copper in cooking vessels, lead-based additives in ancient wine, nitrites, etc. are all relatively "natural" things that have had harmful effects on people long before the industrial revolution. Alternately there are many natural plants that require quite a bit of human intervention to make edible (chief among them being the simple, yet mostly unnatural process of cooking). Most of the stuff food manufacturers use today, the alginates, gums, carrageenans, etc. are extracted from "natural" sources and are not much far removed from gelatin or baking soda (obviously not chemically, but in terms of manufacture).
You've put in to words what i've been thinking about for a very long time. I am a second year apprentice and will complete my apprenticeship by april of 2011. The fascination that students today have with molecular gastronomy does amuse me despite the fact that I work in the pastry department of a molecular developing restaurant in Toronto. I always doubted my skill being unable to live up to or think critically when it came to incorporating these new gimmicks and chemicals into my black box ideas or menu ideas. Although having worked with all these chemicals and gadgets, is it so wrong for me to say that I want to perfect my fundamentals first? With the restaurant scene turning to all of these new ideas there is little room for me to be confident in the ideas that I bring on the table. Conforming to them seems like the only option but hopefully I can keep my basics in tact and one day try to bring back old school with my own creativity.
I agree that fundamentals are important, and I have never liked to master an area at the expense of others. I pride myself in being able to make artisan breads and liquid nitro ice cream or being able to cook a perfect steak with sous vide or on top of a charcoal grill. Execution ultimately is all up to personal style... Michel Roux and Alex Stupak both have my respect and admiration whether classical or new age.
As for the term molecular gastronomy, I admit that I'm not using the term as This wishes it to be used but the fact of the matter is most people don't see it that way so I'm just using the most commonly thought of interpretation.
Btw, where are you interning? There are few places that are truly cutting edge in T.O. most just use a couple of aspects of molecular cooking and not a wider breadth.
I'm not really interning, I work at c5 now. It is at Avenue and Bloor and I really admire the passion the chefs have for the style of c5 but sometimes I get the feeling that I haven't completed everything in fundamentals. Strong bases are what I think open brighter doors for new ideas and creativity. Just an opinion though:)
Ah, C5. I work @ George, I believe your Executive Chef has some interesting stories about that place.
I think the fact of the matter is that apart from working at a really good hotel a restaurant's dessert menu will never cover all of the classical pastry techniques, hence the need to diversify your experience. I had a conversation once about a kid whose first job was at Alinea, obviously a top restaurant but perhaps not somewhere you want to spend your first years. Of course, Achatz thumbed his nose at the detractors by including a classical Escoffier-era dish in the tastings now.
It is something I have been wanting to try as well. I am experimental and adventurous with my food anyway, I love trying different techniques, textures, flavors etc.
I too work at a restaurant in a small town that it was only in the last 5 years our local grocery store finally started carrying pancetta.
We are starting to make our own truffles and I thought there is a way that I can kinda "ease" people into some more different and interesting ideas. (seriously, our customers think sprinkling salt on a chocolate is "avant-garde")
Frankly, I'm not that interested in fancy chemicals. I've used foams, malto-dextrose, nitro and the like and they are fun to play with. But I guess I'm old school in that if you can make a really good dessert/pastry the old fashioned way, why bother to go to that except to say "it's molecular gastronomy". It's a novelty to me. As far as I'm concerned, if it ain't broke, don't fix it.
And I'm finding most restaurants aren't interested in it because of the time it can take and the extra expense. There are, however, restaurants (like Alinea and el Bulli) that base their reputation on those techniques. In those instances, it's how it's done.
I attended a demo put on by Valrhona last year, and the pastry chef used quite a few techniques using this. However, some of the desserts tasted too flat to my friend and me, but they looked pretty. I had a BIG problem with radish juice being used in a granita, though. Just didn't care for it.