Science Kits For Gastronomers And Mixologists: Molecule-R

One of the most in­ter­est­ing books that we’ve seen, that some­how is still avoid­ing a place on our shelves, is Mod­ernist Cui­sine: The Art and Sci­ence of Cook­ing. It’s large­ly the price tag that has kept us away, de­spite the re­flex­ive sali­va­tion that oc­curs any­time we’re near a copy. The pho­tog­ra­phy is as­tound­ing, and though you might not be able to make many of the items with­out some spe­cial­ty equip­ment or in­gre­di­ents, it’s still a lot of fun to think about.

That’s where Molecule-R’s new kits come in handy. We saw them at a show ear­li­er this year, and have been ex­cit­ed to try out their prod­ucts. Clev­er­ly pack­aged, they make in­cred­i­bly gifts for any adult who is grow­ing bored of the same old recipes and prod­ucts, and will en­cour­age ex­per­i­men­ta­tion among even the most ac­com­plished bar­tender.

The Cui­sine R-evo­lu­tion kit in­cludes a help­ful DVD that in­cludes around 50 recipes, a few uten­sils (pipettes, a slot­ted spoon, three sil­i­cone tubes, some mea­sur­ing spoons, and a sy­ringe), and fifty pack­ets of ad­di­tives. You’ll get ten each of agar agar, which is sim­i­lar to gela­tine for geli­fi­ca­tion, cal­ci­um lac­tate and sodi­um al­gi­nate (for spher­i­fi­ca­tion), xan­than gum which serves as a thick­en­er, and soy lecithin for emul­si­fy­ing (cre­at­ing foams). Of course, most of these items aren’t found in your ba­sic kitchen cab­i­net, so are handy- and are pret­ty flex­i­ble as well. We tried a few at­tempts- geli­fi­ca­tion is easy, since you can take dif­fer­ent liq­uids and play around. But foams were com­plex, and re­quired an im­mer­sion blender, pa­tience, and a lit­tle prac­tice. Spher­i­fi­ca­tion was tough- cre­at­ing those nifty dumplings of, say, de­con­struct­ed olives, takes some re­al work and prep time, since you’re es­sen­tial­ly run­ning a tiny chem­i­cal lab and have to pay at­ten­tion to pro­por­tions, tim­ing, and very care­ful­ly han­dle the end prod­uct lest it ‘pop’. Fun, to be sure- though our re­sults don’t have us anx­ious to start a Fat Duck com­peti­tor any time soon.

But it isn’t just food­ies who can ap­pre­ci­ate mod­ernist cui­sine- you, too, can cre­ate crazy cock­tails! We’re not talk­ing about bit­ters (though they did gel well, and work great in com­bi­na­tion). The Cock­tail R-evo­lu­tion kit in­cludes four of the same in­gre­di­ents- but swaps out agar agar for cold sol­u­ble gelatin in­stead, which is more flex­i­ble for use with chilly bev­er­ages. The DVD on­ly in­cludes 30 recipes, but are re­al­ly easy to mod­i­fy of course, and that’s a good part of the fun. Spheres and foams are… much less com­mon on drinks that in cui­sine in our ex­pe­ri­ence, and made us a bit nos­tal­gic for Or­b­itz. Our re­sults here were de­cid­ed­ly more mixed (pun in­tend­ed), per­haps be­cause these were more about ap­pear­ance and less about fla­vors- the tex­tures were of­ten an­noy­ing to our sip­pers, and we could rarely achieve the bright col­ors that are called for (per­haps some food col­or­ing would help).

At $60 for each kit, they are per­fect­ly priced to be a sol­id birth­day or even wed­ding gift. We wished for an iPad app to help us, since we do en­joy us­ing the tablet in the kitchen. Al­so, don’t for­get dessert: we en­joyed one of the ex­tras that is avail­able for pur­chase- pop­ping sug­ar, car­bon­at­ed light brown crys­tals that are kind of like Pop Rocks with­out the fla­vor. Add to ice creams, dessert sauces, or on cakes for an ex­tra pizazz- it was a def­i­nite hit, and is avail­able for just un­der $30 (though you get more than a pound; small­er quan­ti­ties would be nice and def­i­nite­ly suf­fi­cient).

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