A mini cooking class and plenty of Obama foodie secrets as the Crustmaster hits the Ivy League to talk about the science of cooking...
President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama have put a major emphasis on education, so it makes sense that their Executive Pastry Chef, Bill Yosses, lectured at Harvard University this fall. But he wasn't simply teaching cooking: Yosses was talking molecular gastronomy, as a guest speaker in the university's newest and most popular undergrad physics class, “Science and Cooking: From Haute Cuisine to the Science of Soft Matter," which uses cooking techniques to demonstrate basic science principles. (Above: Yosses, mid-lecture)
Yosses also spoke at an evening lecture that was open to the community, and he astonished his standing-room-only audience with amazing feats of culinary derring do, prosecuted at a lab table with just a whisk, some bowls, a few basic ingredients, and a bottle of liquid nitrogen. Harvard has now released a video of the lecture, which was titled Brain Candy: How Desserts Slow the Passage of Time. It includes fun dishing on Obama foodie favorites, White House kitchen secrets, and such excellent step-by-step lessons in technique, with four different recipes, that it's a complete mini video cooking course.
"Science and cooking are so uniquely joined and have been since the time the first caveman put meat over a bonfire," Yosses told the rapt audience packed into the school's science center auditorium. "Nothing could be more important in my mind than the study of food."
The science principle of the week was polymers, the basic components of food, and Yosses used his recipes to show how polymers are changed by temperature and pH during cooking. He made Chocolate mousse, meringue, strudel, and liquid-nitrogen olive oil sorbet, and each is demo'd in high detail in the video. The mousse is made with just chocolate, water, and gelatin, with no eggs or heavy cream, and taken from Herve This's book Molecular Gastronomy: Exploring Flavor, which is considered the foremost guide on food science, and was required reading for the course. The strudel was also made with limited ingredients, and Yosses showed how it multiplied in size as the polymers changed.
"Don't worry, nobody's going to eat this," Yosses joked as he worked the dough at the lab table, to much laughter. "God knows what's on this table."
"This is much better if the person doing it is about 360 pounds, that's really what Austrian cooking is about," Yosses added, to more laughter. "It just looks better when you have the Pillsbury Dough boy." (Above: Yosses and the dough)
Yosses also gave a slide show that has photos of the White House, and he tipped his audience that the Obamas love salted caramels (their affection for Seattle confectionery Fran's Chocolates has been made much of, and the Grey Sea Salt and Smoked Salt caramels are still handed out as gifts from the East Wing). Yosses published his own wonderful dessert cookbook this summer, The Perfect Finish, but he said that the most interesting dessert he's ever made for the President and First Lady was a hot-sugar-and-olive-oil slinky, from legendary chef Ferran Adrià's cookbook.
Adrià's non-profit funded the course at Harvard, as did frequent White House guest chef José Andrés and his ThinkFoodGroup. Both also lectured during the course of the series. (Above: A longshot of the lecture hall, and the big video screen that hung above Yosses at his workstation)
*Check the sidebar of the blog for plenty of Yosses' White House recipes.
Warning: The first ten minutes of the video is the lead instructor for the course giving a recap of all that had gone on in class up to Yosses' lecture.
*Video & photos courtesy of Harvard University