#13 Indonesian Regional Food and Cookery

January 13, 2010 2 comments

Indonesian Regional Food and Cookery by Sri Owen - Click to buy @ Amazon

Indonesian Regional Food and Cookery
by Sri Owen (1994)

Ratings: Learn more
Quality: 4/5 – Well written recipes and background
Importance: 4/5 – Regional Indonesian variations
Difficulty: 2.5/5 – Some effort required
Rarity: 3.5/5 – Online, rare

Today’s Cookbook:
Yesterday we were exposed to the basic ingredients of the spice islands of Indonesia with a broad overview of the nation’s cuisine in cookbook #12 The Food of Indonesia.

Today we explore the cuisines of Indonesia’s thousands of islands with prolific Indonesian chef Sri Owen’s cookbook #13 Indonesian Regional Food and Cookery.

Western Indonesian Culinary Regions: Sumatra, Kalimantan, Bali, Nusatenggara, Java, Jakarta, Madura.

Indonesia’s Regional Specialties
If there is a common national cuisine of Indonesia, it consists of coconut, rice, fish, chili peppers, and spices- but even these common ingredients are prepared in dishes that vary widely in every region of Indonesia.

This cookbook presents a variety of recipes for each of the major island regions of Indonesia, listed here with some regional specialties:

  • Sumatra: Arab and Indian influence, roti and korma, fiddlehead ferns
  • Kalimantan: Papaya, pineapple, turtle’s eggs
  • Sulawesi: Dried flatfish, very hot and sour chili sauces, meats baked inside bamboo sections
  • Maluku: Home of nutmeg and clove, no rice, sago porridge, yucca leaves, kenari nuts
  • Bali and Nusatenggara: Roasted duck and suckling pig, bone marrow satay
  • Java and Madura: Buffalo skin crackling, hard boiled egg stuffing, raw vegetable salad
  • Jakarta: Street food stalls, noodles, rice, satays

Jakarta, as the capital, has less of a cuisine itself and identifies with Indonesian cuisine in general.

Dealing with exotic ingredients or their substitutes is a lot easier thanks to extensive notes prefacing each recipe, where the author provides details on the origins of dishes and techniques, often with further regional classification by island (Sumba), ethnicity (Banjar), province (Aceh), city (Manado), religion (Muslim) or geographic (Western Sulawesi). There is a ton of geo data in this book!

Eastern Indonesian Island Regions: Sulawesi, Maluku, Timor, Irian Jaya

Indonesia’s Culinary Cartography
I’m starting to build a simple map of the cuisine of Indonesia, but it’s not very useful to me to look at a map for a place I’ve never been to.

Luckily for me, this cookbook has plenty of cultural notes describing each region’s climate, customs, and resources- the food, water and minerals that shape the cuisine of a place.

The author’s evocative travelogue prose covers a wide range of culinary recollections- feasts, hotels, houses and markets. I relish the small details of her search for characteristic cuisine- like the Balinese spiced duck specialty “Ayam betutu” that is originally from West Java, where it is made with spiced chicken.

These details fill out my culinary map of Indonesia and help me to understand Indonesia’s culinary influences from its neighbors, which incidentally the author has mapped out like so:

Culinary Influence on Indonesia:

  • Holland: Sweets, cakes
  • India: Curries, breads, condiments
  • China: Fried rice, noodles, soy
  • Japan: Restaurants- cheap and expensive
  • USA: Fast food
  • Thailand: Familiar cuisine, restaurants

The cookbook also provides some comment on the reverse colonialist export of “Indonesian” food- to Holland as the colonial feast “rijstaffel” (a table of rice with many authentic condiments), and to Australia through Bali’s street food (nasi goreng, rujak, gado-gado and satays).

Conclusion: Preserving Authentic Indonesian Cuisines
I recommend this cookbook to exotic home cooks looking to expand their repertoire and pro chefs that want to understand authentic Indonesian cuisine- both regional and national.

This is not just a great cookbook with well-written recipes- it’s a rich culinary anthropology. The aim of the author is to collect and preserve regional recipes of her home country- to immortalize what she considers the best of an admittedly infinite cuisine, from fancy resort hotels to rural grandmothers.

The author worries that Indonesian cuisine is going away, but understands that valuing “authentic” cuisine means valuing that all cuisines evolve. We can only save them by documenting them and infusing them into other cuisines- like the vegetarian adoption of tempeh.

My exposure to Indonesian cuisine is still pretty limited, but this cookbook has really educated me. By noticing which “authentic” parts of “authentic” recipes change, I can further hone in on what the most “authentic” technique is- or, more likely, exactly how my techniques are authentic or inauthentic.

Coconuts are turned into coconut flakes by an Indonesian street vendor.

Javanese Side Dish Recipe
Abon is an Indonesian garnish- savory shredded meat flakes that can be made from poultry, beef, pork, fish or shrimp. Keeps in an airtight jar for weeks (commercial versions are preserved to last longer). Javanese palates prefer this extra sweet.

Chicken Abon (Savory chicken flakes)

4 chicken breasts
5 cups water
1/2 tsp salt
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tbsp tamarind water
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp brown sugar
4 tbsp peanut oil

1. Add salt, garlic, coriander and whole chicken breasts to water and bring to a boil.
2. Simmer 45 minutes, remove from heat and allow to cool in liquid.
3. Drain liquid and reserve.
4. Remove chicken breast skin. Use the flat of a large knife to lightly beat the chicken breast for a few minutes.
5. Shred the meat finely. Add tamarind, salt and sugar.
6. Heat peanut oil in a wok and stir-fry the chicken over low heat until dry and color is golden brown.
7. Serve soft abon at this stage or continue stir-frying with more oil if a crisp abon is desired. Serve immediately once crisped.

There is an interesting preserving technique revealed across variants of this dish- the preservation of meat by stir-frying vs hard-frying. The ability to lightly fry a meat and let it sit for a few weeks to develop in flavor before hard-frying tempts me to try other meats. The technique reminds me of making shredded buffalo jerky- of pemmican and preserving strips of forest animals. Maybe a Buffalo Abon with American Southwest seasonings- or a Rabbit Abon with Juniper and Maple Syrup?

Categories: Cookbook Tags: ,

#12 The Food of Indonesia

January 12, 2010 Leave a comment

The Food of Indonesia by Lother Arsana - Click to buy @ Amazon

The Food of Indonesia
Authentic Recipes from the Spice Islands
by Lother Arsana, Heinz von Holzer and Wendy Hutton (1995)

Ratings: Learn more
Quality: 3.5/5 – Good photos and recipes
Importance: 2.5/5 – Good introduction to Indonesian
Difficulty: 3/5 – Making spice pastes, hard to find ingredients
Rarity: 2.5/5 – Some cookbook shops, online

Today’s Cookbook:
Yesterday we got some vague culinary inspiration from molecular food similarities by studying a hardcore food science textbook- cookbook #11 Chemistry of Spices.

Today we’re going to pivot from the abstract science of all spices to a specific country’s real food- as seen through the lens of a hotel chef from the spice islands themselves in this cookbook #12 The Food of Indonesia.

Visual glossary of Indonesian herbs, spices and flavorings: Basil, Carambola and Candlenuts (Kemiri).

Learning Indonesian Ingredients
I may never go to Indonesia, but I am fascinated by the mother cuisine of the fabled spice islands. I still want to learn about Indonesian food and incorporate their ingredients and techniques into my style- even if in the most rudimentary way, as a good starting point for understanding some kind of authenticity.

The first step to learning an exotic cuisine is experimenting with their exotic ingredients. This book has a visual glossary of Indonesian ingredients, complete with Indonesian names. This is an easy gauge of a good ethnic cookbook for me- if all of the recipes and ingredients are identified in their mother tongue. Even if the recipes suck, at least I’ve still got a decent language reference. This is vital for cross-training in a cuisine- shopping for the ingredients and reading indigenous recipes requires mastery of those “foreign” ingredient names.

More importantly, considering a body of ingredients as a whole helps me construct a flavor profile for Indonesian cuisine by sussing out the characteristic herbs, spices and flavorings, listed here with their names and uses:

Indonesian Flavorings

  • Dried Anchovy (Ikan Teri) : Salted and fried.
  • Candlenut (Kemiri) : Adds oily texture, substitute raw macadamias
  • Sour Carambola (Belimbing Wuluh) : Acidic fruit, substitute grapefruit
  • Chili Peppers (Cabai Rawit) : Torn into pieces and soaked in hot water
  • Cinnamon (Kayu Manis) : Actually cassia, not true cinnamon- use whole bark
  • Clove (Cengkeh) : Used mostly for cigarettes
  • Coconut Milk (Kelapa) : Infuse with spices
  • Coriander (Ketumbar) : Most common spice in spice pastes, often with white pepper and cumin
  • Cumin (Jinten) : Another common spice paste ingredient
  • Galangal (Laos) : Must be peeled, adds unique fragrance
  • Garlic (Bawang Putih) : Smaller and milder cloves than western garlic
  • Ginger (Jahe) : Must be peeled, do not substitute powdered
  • Kaffir Lime (Jeruk Purut) : No juice, double leaf and grated skin are used
  • Lemongrass (Serai) : Adds lemony flavor, used as a skewer for meats
  • Nutmeg (Pala) : Freshly grated for best fragrance
  • Palm Sugar (Gula Merah) : Faint caramel taste, substitute brown sugar and maple syrup
  • Pandan Leaf (Daun Pandan) : Add fragrance to desserts and curries, substitute bottled essence
  • Peanut (Kacang Tanah) : Ground and used for sauces
  • Peppercorns (Merica) : Whole black and white
  • Dried Prawn (Ebi) : Soaked in warm water and used without shells
  • Salted Soy Beans (Tauco) : Tangy and salty, used in sambals- “Yellow Bean Sauce” in markets
  • Shallot (Bawang Merah) : Raw for sambals, pounded into pastes, deep fried for snacks.
  • Shrimp Paste (Trasi) : Toasted before eating to mellow the offensive aroma
  • Black Shrimp Paste (Petis) : Thick syrup of fermented shrimp
  • Salam Leaf (Daun Salam) : Subtle leaf, relative of cassia, no substitute
  • Soy Sauce (Kecap Manis) : The original ketchup mayonnaise condiment?
  • Star Anise (Bunga Lawang) : Add strong licorice flavor
  • Tamarind (Asam Jawa) : Fleshy sour pulp
  • Turmeric (Kunyit) : Adds yellow color, must be peeled- substitute powdered turmeric

For an ethnic food I’ve never tasted (and possibly never will), suggested replacements (when available) help me approximate what a food might taste like. If I ever do find Sour Carambola, I would like to be surprised at how like or unlike a grapefruit it would taste- and often that comparison helps me notice other differences that lead to other culinary experiments.

Indonesian sambals are used as condiments for a variety of dishes- clockwise from top: Shallot Sambal, Dried Anchovy and Green Chili Sambal, Chayote Sambal, Jicama Sambal, Soup Sambal, Shrimp Paste Sambal, Sour Sambal, Fragrant Chili Sambal.

Sambals: Indonesian Condiment Genome
Once I have a general understanding of the flavor profile of a cuisine’s ingredients, I often turn to the cuisine’s characteristic sauces or condiments.

The intensely flavorful condiments knowns as Sambals have their beginnings as an important Indonesian seasoning: the spice paste. The key first step in making a Sambal is making a spice paste- a homogenous blend of a variety of aromatic herbs and spices:

Technique for Making Spice Paste and Sambal

  • Goal is to break everything up into as homogenous a mix as possible
  • First, grind hard items to a powder: dried spices, nuts, leaves, lemongrass
  • Next, grind rhizomes finely: turmeric, ginger, soaked chilies
  • Next, grind moisture-filled ingredients: garlic, shallot
  • Finally, mix in wet ingredients: shrimp paste, tamarind juice
  • Infuse fat with spice paste (frying): oil, coconut milk
  • Infuse liquid with spice paste (simmering): stock, water
  • Add optional vegetable, fruit or meat- cook it in the sambal or just use as sauce

What can we do with this spice paste and sambal technique? The first thing that comes to mind is intense spice rubs for poultry- or maybe a Texas-style barbecue sauce? We can generate further fusion by the incorporation of Indonesian ingredients- think pork ribs with star anise and pineapple chili barbecue sauce. There are countless combinations for Sambal- the recipes in this cookbook are a good starting point for exploring these.

Whole fish grilled on a banana leaf, served with tomato sambal (Ikan Bakar Colo Colo)

Conclusion: General overview, good for dabbling
This cookbook has some gorgeous pictures and some good recipes- but it’s by no means a complete reference to the national cuisine (if there is one) or indeed any of the islands on their own. Some dominance is alluded to re: Javanese cuisine, but beyond sometimes identifying islands-of-origin for a recipe, there’s not really any sense conveyed of each island’s culinary differences.

The recipes are exciting but sparsely described- most of the writing is taken up with travelogue-style “Come to my country!” romantic descriptions of local street food carts and feasts. I also get the feeling that perhaps a fancy hotel chef has their own framing of Indonesian cuisine which might be different from a Timorese grandmother.

I think there will be more to investigate about this cuisine in tomorrow’s cookbook #13 Indonesian Regional Food and Cookery.

Spiced Pineapple Stew and Vegetables with Spicy Coconut (Pacri Nenas with Jangan Olah). A tropical fruit is used as a vegetable by cooking it in a savory coconut milk curry started from a candlenut and chili spice paste (recipe below).

Spice Paste Coconut Curry Recipe
This recipe builds a complex spice paste, fries it, and infuses the coconut milk used for a pineapple curry dish.

Spiced Pineapple Stew (Pacri Nenas)
3 1/2 cups coconut milk
1 ripe pineapple, peeled and cubed
1/4 tsp black peppercorns
2 whole star anise
3 sticks cinnamon
2 cloves
pinch grated nutmeg
1 stalk lemongrass, bruised
1 inch galangal, peeled and sliced
1 tbsp tamarind juice
salt to taste
1/2 cup thick coconut milk
fried shallots to garnish

Spice Paste
5 dried red chilies, soaked to soften
1 tsp coriander seeds, crushed
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
6 shallots, peeled and chopped
2 candlenuts
1/2 inch fresh turmeric, peeled and sliced
1/2 tsp chopped palm sugar
2 tbsp oil

1. Use food processor to grind spice paste ingredients.
2. Saute spice paste in oil until very fragrant, then add 3 1/2 cups coconut milk.
3. Heat until boiling while stirring, add rest of ingredients- withholding thick coconut milk and shallot garnish.
4. Keep at a simmer until pineapple becomes soft. Finish with thick coconut milk and heat for service.

#11 Chemistry of Spices

January 11, 2010 1 comment

Chemistry of Spices by V. Parthasarathy, B. Chempaka and T. J. Zachariah - Click to buy @ Amazon

Chemistry of Spices
by V. Parthasarathy, B. Chempaka and T. J. Zachariah (2008)

Ratings: Learn more
Quality: 4/5 – Great Textbook
Importance: 5/5 – Spice Hackers’ Bible
Difficulty: 5/5 – Food Chemists Only
Rarity: 4/5 – Expensive, Rare

Today’s Cookbook:
Yesterday we delved too deeply into the chemical workings of chocolate manufacturing with cookbook #10 The Science of Chocolate.

I like to go as deep as my mind can comprehend- and then go one level deeper (so that I can give my brain something to work on).

Today’s cookbook is a dense food science textbook by a group of researchers at an Indian spice institute (!), so let’s try and spice hack it up with cookbook #11 Chemistry of Spices.

Cinnamon and clove’s major chemical constituents are modeled here- Eugenol, Benzyl benzoate and Cinnamaldehyde (Cinnamon) vs Eugenol and Eugenyl acetate (Clove). Clove and cinnamon share a flavor compound- signs of culinary synergy.

Total Spice Chemistry
When I started learning Molecular Gastronomy, I had to teach myself organic chemistry- mostly by reading textbooks. This book taught me everything I ever need to know about spice chemistry, with a focus on the culinary uses of spices: Aroma, Taste, Color and Pungency (trigeminal nerve effects).

How is spice chemistry useful to cooking? Let me show you an example.

Here is every spice listed in this book, with its consituent flavor compounds (responsible for taste or aroma) along with region of origin:

  • Black Pepper: Piperine (South India)
  • Ginger: Gingerol (China)
  • Cardamom: Cineole (Himalayan India)
  • Turmeric: Turmerone (India)
  • Cinnamon: Cinnamaldehyde, Eugenol (Sri Lanka)
  • Clove: Eugenol (Indonesia)
  • Nutmeg, Mace: Sabinene, Myristicin (Indonesia)
  • Coriander: Linalool (Eurasia)
  • Cumin: Cuminaldehyde (Mediterranean, India)
  • Fennel: Anethole (Mediterranean)
  • Fenugreek: Diosgenin (Eurasia, Ethiopia)
  • Paprika: Capsanthin (South America)
  • Vanilla: Vanillin (Mexico)
  • Ajowan (Bishop’s Weed): Thymol, Terpenene (India)
  • Star Anise: Anethole (China, Vietnam)
  • Aniseed: Anethole, anisaldehyde (Eurasia)
  • Garcinia: Humelene (Indochina, Africa)
  • Tamarind: Fufural (Madagascar)
  • Parsley: Menthatriene (Europe)
  • Celery: Myrcene, Limonene, Pinene (Eurasia)
  • Curry Leaf: Caryophyllene (South Asia)
  • Bay Leaf: Cineole (Mediterranean)

It may be obvious how to pair spices by considering their region of origin- Vanilla goes good with Chocolate, they both come from Mexico. But what about understanding the chemical components of spices? Do Clove and Cinnamon taste good together because they both contain Eugenol? What about Star Anise, Aniseed and Fennel?

If you memorize this list, you can experiment with culinary synergies by looking for complementary chemistry of spices through their constituent flavor compounds. Which brings us to..

Molecular Spice Hacks
Geeking out about chemical synergy between spices is just one trick we can learn from this reference book.

Looking through cookbooks to get ideas is a simple enough thing to do for most cooks- but where we really challenge our cooking style is by trying to incorporate culinary ideas from other realms (like Chemistry).

Each chapter of this book is really a 20-page paper written by a researcher at an Indian spice institute (!), listing for each spice:

  • an in-depth description of culinary and medicinal uses
  • description of the plant’s botany (parts used)
  • composition of the spice’s volatile oils, non-volatile pigments and oleoresins
  • commercial specifications, origins of production, grading and manufacturing processes
  • molecular diagrams and charts indicating essential oil makeup of the spice

Often I like to experiment with a spice for a full month- trying different forms (ground, whole) and origins/cultivars (I especially like doing this with salt). Different cultivars of spice plants contain different proportions of essential oil, and luckily this cookbook covers all of the commercially important ones- often comparing quality grades and parts of plants, as shown in this cinnamon chart:

Essential oils from different parts of cinnamon and their volatile compounds. The twig’s bark oil contains mostly cinnamldehyde, while the clove-flavored compound eugenol is more pronounced in flower oil pressed from cinnamon buds and flowers.

Besides cultivar and flavor compound information, there is plenty of nerdy food trivia for each spice that is bound to inspire- ex: the constituent of nutmeg responsible for hallucinations (Myristicin) is also responsible for that spice’s insecticidal properties. But what spice will kill the bugs in my mind?

Conclusion: Spice Hackers Only
This is an expensive chemistry textbook, and I think the only people who would benefit from adding this to their library are hardcore spice hackers, home chemists, or spice purveyors. I think I’ve gone too far off course into Science and hopefully tomorrow’s cookbook will restore our journey’s culinary course.

While reading this book, I was forced to focus on one spice’s chemical properties for 20 pages- which provoked a lot of ideas. Previously I have had to rely on Gernot Katzer’s Spice Pages, a sort of one-man spice encyclopedia, to dive deep into a spice- but this book replaces Gernot’s resource for me because it goes so much deeper and was written by experts.

No recipe today, but I leave you with another example of how deep this book goes: a chart showing Vanilla’s aroma compounds. Each time I sniff a vanilla bean, I try and detect more of these odors and think about what wine I would serve or what other food this would highlight- just another way spice chemistry challenges me to evolve my cuisine.

Vanilla bean aromas detected by Gas Chromatograph/Olfactometer. Listed are the chemical compound, the concentration in parts per million, the aesthetic odor quality, and the headspace intensity (weak, medium, or strong)

Categories: Cookbook Tags: , ,

#10 The Science of Chocolate

January 10, 2010 1 comment

The Science of Chocolate by Stephen T. Beckett - Click to buy @ Amazon

The Science of Chocolate
by Stephen T. Beckett (2008)

Chocolate confections are scanned by an MRI to trace the migration of fats. Softer fat is shown as lighter.

Ratings: Learn more
Quality: 4/5 – Educational, thorough
Importance: 5/5 – Choco-Hackers’ Bible
Difficulty: 5/5 – Chocolatiers only
Rarity: 2/5 – Specialty Shops

Today’s Cookbook:
The past few days we’ve gotten aesthetic blasts of chocolate technology from a chocolatier’s perspective with cookbook #8 Fine Chocolates, Great Experience and cookbook #9 Fusion Chocolate.

Today we dive even further into the chemistry of chocolate production and manufacturing with chocolate technology professor Stephen Beckett and his cookbook #10 The Science of Chocolate.

Configuration of solid and fat particles that make up chocolate: Milk, Cocoa, Sugar and Fat.

Chocolatier Chemistry

This book has everything I would ever want to know about chocolate, and then some.

From cacao harvest through chocolate production and even all the way to packaging the final confectionaries, this book covers every process in precise, chemical terms with amazing diagrams.

Here’s a breakdown of the chocolate knowledge herein:

  • Cocoa Bean: Demographics of production, composition of cacao pod, fermentation and drying, storage and transport
  • Chocolate Ingredients: Sugars, milk fat, whey, milk proteins, milk powder, chocolate crumb
  • Cacao Processing: Bean winnowing and roasting, nib and liquor roasting, Maillard reactions during roasting, grinding and milling nibs
  • Chocolate particle size has a significant effect on viscosity, shown here in configurations of chocolate particle packing: All same size, Two sizes, Three sizes.

  • Cocoa Production: Cocoa alkalizing (dutching), pressing cocoa butter, cocoa powder
  • Making Liquid Chocolate: Milling, refining, conching, types of conches
  • Chocolate Flow Properties: Controlling and measuring viscosity, particle size and structure, additions of fats and emulsifiers
  • Cocoa Butter Structure: Desired crystalline forms, tempering as pre-crystallization, chocolate fat bloom, cocoa butter replacers
  • Chocolate Manufacturing: Mass tempering and storage, moulding, shells, enrobers, panning, coating, and cooling.
  • Laser scanning microscope image of chocolate containing an emulsifier- lecithin, shown flourescent- bordering solid particles.

  • Chocolate Analysis: Measuring particle size, determining moisture, measuring fat content, determining viscosity, testing flavor and texture.
  • Advanced Chocolate Products: Filled chocolates, multiple centers, bubbled chocolate, retaining shape, ice-cream coatings, diet chocolate.
  • Packaging: Reducing moisture and fat migration, foil and paper wraps, flow-wrapping process, biopolymers, robotic packing.
  • Health: Nutrition, tooth decay, obesity, positive health effects, antioxidants, psychoactive compounds.

There really isn’t a lot more to know about the current state of chocolate manufacture.

The first step of becoming a chocolate hacker is to learn the laws of chocolate. What’s exciting about today’s book isn’t just how completely it takes this first step with you, but how the chocolate analysis techniques and experiments contained within bring you to the next step of chocolate hacking: breaking the laws of chocolate. Snap!

Various chocolate manufacturing machines. Panning machine for coating and drying chocolate-centered confections, instrument for measuring chocolate particle size with laser light scattering, and a cocoa butter press.

Today’s cookbook straight up REVERSE ENGINEERS Aero Bars, a popular UK confectionary containing huge air bubbles.

Reverse Engineering Chocolate
Professor Beckett uses his 30+ years of chocolate industry experience (at Nestle and later as a chocolate professor in Germany) to reverse engineer common chocolate confectionaries.

Techniques are discussed at depth for how to reverse engineer chocolate products and defects using scientific equipment like:

  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): Trace migration of soft fat through confectionaries
  • High-Pressure Liquid Chromatography: Detect flavor compounds common in chocolate (pyrazine, *-methylpyramize)
  • Texture Analzyer: Determine failure point of chocolate, evaluate “snap” texture
  • Differential Scanning Calorimeter: Determine spread and types of crystalline states in chocolate
  • Lasers: Measuring distribution of particle size in chocolate

The author consistently goes deep into the science AND the industry, dropping cutting edge chocolate manufacturing knowledge (Aero Bars tried to aerate with CO2 gas, which didn’t taste as nice as what they use now- N2O gas).

Conclusion: Chocolate Hacker’s Bible
If you are starting a chocolate company and need to geek out on every aspect of chocolate chemistry, this is a great starter book for you. Most pastry chefs would be fine with the amount of chocolate science contained in the past two chocolate cookbooks, but if you are diagnosing some tricky chocolateering, today’s book definitely has the answer you seek.

Today’s Choco-Hacker’s Bible is part of the Royal Society of Chemistry’s food science series. Each book tackles a different aspect of food science with thorough diagrams and experiments aimed at the home chemist. This author also has a full-on Chocolate Manufacturing textbook, which would be too much detail for my bookshelf, so I prefer this mini-textbook if I need to research any aspect of chocolate, be it ingredient or technique.

Testing the snap of chocolate with a 3-point bend test: force is applied to the chocolate sample until it snaps. Poor texture chocolate bends slowly before snapping, good texture snaps quickly.

Chocolate Texture Experiment

This cookbook does not have recipes- it has procedures and experiments. Here is one such experiment:

Chocolate Hardness Measurement


Show that small changes in temperature have a significant effect on chocolate’s hardness


  • Refrigerator
  • Set of weights (kg)
  • Retort stand
  • Counter sink (metal rod with conical spike)
  • Portable microscope
  • Bars of chocolate

Color distribution of Smarties, a UK chocolate confectionary.


1. Store some bars of the same brand of chocolate at different temperatures for at least 12 hours. Refrigerator, warm room and cupboard are good places to start.
2. Take a chocolate sample and place it in the retort stand, just below the point of the conical spike.
3. Place a weight on top of the spike carefully and balance it for a few seconds so the spike sinks into the chocolate.
4. Remove the weight and spike from the chocolate.
5. Move the sample a small amount to the side and realign the spike to the surface of the chocolate.
6. Place a bigger weight on top of the spice. Repeat several times, making a note as to which mark goes with which weight.
7. Use portable microscope to measure diameter of weighted marks. Repeat process for each bar of chocolate at different temperatures
8. Graph the diameter readings and weight applied, grouped by temperature of storage.

This experiment determines the relative hardness of chocolate at different temperatures using a simple home kitchen lab setup.

#9 Fusion Chocolate

Fusion Chocolate by Frederic Bau - Buy @ Amazon

Fusion Chocolate
by Frederic Bau (2006)

Chocolate finds a place in savory dishes like this Faux Tofu of Chocolate, Warm Haddock Shavings with Pink Pepper, Spring Leeks in Soy Vinaigrette.

Ratings: Learn more
Quality: 5/5 – Gorgeous, inspiring
Importance: 4.5/5 – Savory chocolate!
Difficulty: 4.5/5 – Pastry professionals
Rarity: 4.5/5 – Very rare, expensive

Today’s Cookbook:
Yesterday we got schooled by Callebaut’s chocolate genius Jean-Pierre Wybauw in the fundamentals and dreams of chocolate patisserie with cookbook #8 Fine Chocolates, Great Experience.

Today’s cookbook is from rival chocolate company Valrhona’s wunderkind Chef Frederic Bau- he takes us on an equally gorgeous and inspiring journey through the savory uses of chocolate with cookbook #9 Fusion Chocolate.

Cacao pods from different parts of the world have different qualities.

Making Chocolate Beautiful
Before Bau gets into some truly insane, gorgeous savory chocolate recipes, he shares a lot of his knowledge about the manufacture and use of chocolate. This is another book full of amazing information for improving your chocolate working techniques.

Comparing two types of chocolate defects: Fat Bloom and Sugar Bloom.

From his privileged position within an elite chocolate company, the author shows us how Valrhona’s chocolate is harvested, fermented and blended according to the characteristics of the cacao- shown here in these organoleptic spiderweb charts:

Organoleptic profiles can show the shape of chocolate’s flavors and aromas. Shown here are unbalanced single-origin cacaos from Ecuador and Madagascar, next to a balanced, blended chocolate from Valrhona (Araguani 72%). Sense properties mapped here are Acidic, Camphoric, Spiced, Toasted, Fruit, Floral, Chocolatey, Long, and Bitter.

After cacao nibs are blended, the composition of Valrhona’s premium blends are illustrated here in these chocolate-by-percentage photos:

Samples of Chocolate: 70% Guanaja, 67% Extra Amer (Bitter), 40% Jivara, and 35% Ivoire, showing the composition of the ingredients used in these specialty Valrhona blends: sugar, cacao nibs, added cocoa butter, milk solids, vanilla and lecithin.

Once Valrhona’s couverture chocolate finds its way to your kitchen, Chef Bau is very concerned that you temper it correctly- using active mixing and a regular heat-diffusing surface like marble.

The author goes on to describe his fool-proof chocolate tempering technique:

  1. Melt chocolate and hold at 113F for at least 10-12 hours.
  2. Pour 3/4 of melted chocolate over room temperature marble. Keep the rest hot.
  3. Once on the marble, mix the chocolate with a wide scraper- don’t mix too rapidly.
  4. Mix on the marble until the temperature drops to 80F (milk chocolate) or 84F (dark chocolate). Then stop mixing- the stable crystals have formed, and can be used to seed the remaining chocolate.
  5. Stop cooling the chocolate by integrating the reserver 1/4 hot chocolate. Mix and hold tempered chocolate at 83/84F (milk chocolate) or 88/89F (dark chocolate).

Savory chocolate lasagna is made by tinting strips of pastry dough with cocoa powder.

Using cacao nibs for a spicy tuile, flavored with cubeb pepper and served with mango and skewers of bay scallops.

Savory Chocolate Recipes
The recipes in this cookbook exist on the cutting edge of culinary artistry- which means they require “adventurous” diners. Dishes like Chocolate Lobster and Turbot with Chocolate Polenta indicate just how experimental this cuisine is, going way beyond chocolate-as-sauce.

Here are some examples of how Bau uses chocolate in different savory components:

  • Solid: Chocolate tofu, chocolate polenta, chocolate pasta, smoked ganache wafer, cacao nib breading
  • Cold Sauce: Chocolate mayonnaise, chocolate chaud froid, chocolate chantilly
  • Hot Sauce: Chocolate sauce americaine, spicy chocolate veloute, chocolate sauce nantua, chocolate mustard bechamel
  • Confectionary: Guinea fowl bon-bons, foie gras chocolate nougat, spiced milk chocolates
  • Clouds: Chocolate tomato espuma gazpacho

The safest part of the book is the dessert section at the end- the techniques are as challenging, but the chocolate is safe and sound surrounded by sweetness.

The recipes are gorgeously illustrated and innovative, but they are even more interesting as a chronicle of fascinating techniques and styles from all of the chefs that Bau has interacted with on behalf of Valrhona. There are a lot of El Bulli-innovated techniques and significant name-dropping of famous continental chefs. Bau is to be complimented for acknowledging his lineage.

Another beautiful, killer chocolate and seafood dish: Sauteed Monkfish Cheeks and Liver, Chocolate and Mustard Bechamel, Pureed Peas in a Puff Pastry Box.

Conclusion: Inspiration for Chocolate Experiments
This is an expensive cookbook designed to give you some crazy original ideas about how to use chocolate in savory dishes. I think this would be most helpful to professional chefs who want to differentiate by showcasing their authentic chocolate hookup and want to move beyond mole variations. Studying this cookbook really helped me break through the seafood/chocolate wall, starting with a long ago chocolate fennel veloute that I served with grilled squid.

The photography is beautiful, and it has to be, because these recipes are so challenging with their flavor.

In the end, there are a stunning array of ideas to be gained from this book- but as experimental as it is, it’s just not as essential of a chocolate bible as yesterday’s cookbook #8 Fine Chocolates, Great Experience. Sorry Valrhona, Callebaut wins this one!

Chocolate Seafood Recipe
This rich lobster sauce is emulsified with Manjari chocolate 64% to add a shiny texture while bringing out a unique flavor combination of saffron, chocolate and seafood iodine.

Emulsifying a lobster coral Sauce Americaine with Valrhona’s Manjari 64%.

Grilled Norway Lobster Tails, Sauce Americane Thickened with Coral and Chocolate

30 Norway lobsters
2/5 cup cognac
2/5 cup whiskey
1 head garlic,
1 onion, chopped
3.5 oz shallots, chopped
14 oz tomato pulp, fresh
3 tbsp tomato paste
7 oz carrots, diced
2 leeks (green part only)
20 threads saffron
1 1/4 cup dry white wine
6 oz Manjari chocolate 64%
salt, pepper, olive oil

1. Remove 20 lobster tails. Reserve coral and refrigerate with tail meat.
2. Roast oiled lobster heads and shells at 450F for 8-10 minutes.
3. Remove shells from oven, flambe with cognac and whiskey.
4. Allow shells to cool, then grind with food processor.
5. Saute shallots, onion and garlic in large pot.
6. Add ground lobster shells, with tomato pulp, tomato paste, carrots, leeks. Cook down, then add saffron, white wine, and black peppercorns.
7. Cover with water and simmer for 3-4 hours, skimming when required.
8. Strain and reduce sauce by half.
9. Blend reserved lobster coral with 2 1/8 cups of the sauce americaine.
10. Bring mixture to a boil and remove immediately from heat.
11. Melt chocolate in pan. Add a little warm sauce americaine at a time and emulsify by whisking.
12. Add rest of sauce through a strainer, whisking the whole time.
13. Season with salt and pepper and whisk with stand mixer for a few seconds to incorporate.
14. Grill lobster tails before service. Serve with sauce americaine, saffron polenta fingers and crispy leek julienne.

#8 Fine Chocolates, Great Experience

January 8, 2010 2 comments

Fine Chocolates, Great Experience by Jean-Pierre Wybauw - Buy @ Amazon

Fine Chocolates, Great Experience
by Jean-Pierre Wybauw (2004)

Gorgeous photo of a soft-centered chocolate truffle.

Ratings: Learn more
Quality: 5/5 – Inspiring, brilliant
Importance: 5/5 – Chocolate bible
Difficulty: 4.5/5 – Pastry professionals
Rarity: 4.5/5 – Very rare, expensive

Today’s Cookbook:
Yesterday we evolved classical French sauce theory into new taxonomies like Dessert and Salsa with cookbook #7 Sauces: Classical and Contemporary Sauce Making.

Today’s cookbook takes us further into the dense and melty world of dessert taxonomies with Callebaut’s head chocolatier, Belgian chef Jean-Pierre Wybauw and his ultra-rare chocolate bible- cookbook #8 Fine Chocolates, Great Experience.

Glass Baume meter shown with Refractometer (Brix)- both used for determining concentration of sugar syrup- with a conversion chart for degrees Brix to degrees Baume.

Gorgeous Chocolate Technology
What a stunning book- glossy gorgeous photos are used to illustrate chocolate and sugar techniques, dessert ingredients, and over 100 chocolate recipes. Unlike other pastry chefs (Pierre Herme) who are showing off their pastry aesthetic with glossy photos, I get the sense that Wybauw is really showing off pastry technology in general.

Characteristics of dessert ingredients are covered in-depth, as seen in this list comparing the relative sweetness of sugars and other sweeteners used in chocolate making.


  • 100: Sucrose: Table sugar, not alcohol-soluble
  • 30-65: Glucose syrup: Slows crystallization, can increase viscosity
  • 30: Dextrose: Reduces sweetness
  • 125: Invert Sugar : Keeps centers soft
  • Invertase: Enzyme used to split glucose and fructose, softens centers
  • Honey: Sensitive to fermentation, contains glucose and fructose
  • 130: Fructose: Increases fruit flavor, temperature sensitive
  • 27: Lactose: Adds milk aroma
  • 50: Sorbitol: Cooling effect, slows crystallization

Complete reference for chocolate tools, including this dipping fork and chocolate melting pan.

Sugar Alcohols

  • 60: Mannitol : Vegetable-derived, no aftertaste. Mild Laxative
  • 100: Xylitol : Vegetable or fruit-derived, no aftertaste. Mild laxative.
  • 45: Isomalt : Beet-extracted, suitable for diabetics, does not carmelize.
  • 90: Maltitol: Hydrogenated maltose, temperature stable.
  • 40: Lactitol: Hydrogenated milk sugar (lactose).

Artificial Sweeteners

  • Acesulfame-K: 200x sucrose sweetness, heat-resistant, suitable for baking
  • Cyclamate: 30x sucrose sweetness
  • Saccharin: 300-500x sucrose sweetness
  • Aspertame: 200x sucrose sweetness, considered harmful

The sweeteners don’t end there: Wybauw also covers familiar and exotic natural sweeteners such as fruits, maple syrup, palm sugar, carob flour, gula djawa (Indonesia), date syrup, jaggery (India), manna sugar (Italy), agave syrup (Mexico) and stevia.

Visually diagnosing common chocolate defects: Dull patches, fat bloom, air bubbles, cracks in moulding.

As a chocolatier’s reference, there is no better book- Wybauw offers diagnoses and solutions for common chocolate defects and discusses how to extend shelf-life with sugar, water and acidity. There are several multi-page tables, for converting from degrees Brix to degrees Beaume, and for illustrating chocolate crystallization during tempering.

Amazing Chocolate Recipes
Stellar, professional chocolate recipes: that’s the main reason to get this book (though the pictures are nice). The second half of the book breaks chocolates and sugars up into the following categories:

  • Fillings: Candied fruits, caramel syrups, creams, fondant, and fudge
  • Nut Chocolates: Pralines, tuilles
  • Butter-centered Chocolates: Butter pralines, butter chocolates, egg creams
  • Ganache-centered Chocolates: Cream, butter and chocolate
  • Caramels: Butter, nut, honey and chocolate
  • Nougat: Soft, hard, fruit, nut, chocolate
  • Fruits-in-liqueur: Cherries, pineapple, raisins, pineapple
  • Marzipan: Including perzipan (peach or apricot pit-based marzipan)
  • Truffles: Piped centers, flavored and rolled in chocolate
  • Fruit Dough: Pectin-thickened, pate du fruit

One of many gorgeous photos of truffle balls, accompanying some amazing recipes.

The bulk of the book is a visually stimulating selection of recipes, designed to show off the possibilities of the chocolate and sugar theory put forth in the first half of the book.

Non-professional chefs might be thrown off by the sparse recipe instructions and rarity of ingredients- but if you make the effort to try a few recipes, the worst that can happen is you will be forced to eat the fanciest chocolate mistakes you’ve ever made.

Two page spread dedicated to showing the process for dipping cherry cordials- first in fondant, and second in chocolate.

Conclusion: Chocolate Dreamers Bible
This is an extraordinary cookbook for any pastry chef looking to get some inspiration from Wybauw’s seemingly endless configurations of fundamental chocolate techniques. Learning to improvise at this level is made easier with the gorgeous Food Porn photos and massive amounts of beautifully-presented but poorly-translated chocolate and sugar information.

This striking orange truffle is made from ganache flavored with cointreau extract, dried, and then rolled in flakes of white+dark chocolate.

Open this book to any page and you will come across some great insight into technique and ingredient. On p.156, Wybauw flavors a cream ganache with dried and powdered basil, but makes sure to add near the end and never boil the basil. On p.157, he’s demonstrating the correct technique for removing extra ganache filling from a bullet mold.

Wybauw has other books that are more affordable, but cookbook #8 Fine Chocolates, Great Experience is a unique contribution to the field of desserts. It’s well put together and so complex that it would take a long time for any algorithm to comprehend the many vectors of instructive techniques that are transmitted like the tasty Logos from this chocolate bible.

Pistachio Marzipan Chocolate Recipe
This is a great professional-quality recipe, and the book is full of them- but you often have to deal with strangely translated English (“Remove centre from the cutter. Blend the softened butter with the centre.”).

Arabe is a butter-based chocolate, flavored with marzipan, pistachios, Passoa liqueur, white+milk chocolate, and honey- and finally molded within dark chocolate.


100 g pistachios
100 g marzipan
100 g Passoa liqueur (passionfruit and citrus)
30 g sorbitol
200 g liquid honey
300 g butter
400 g white chocolate
400 g milk chocolate

1. Shell and grind pistachios to a powder in food processor.
2. Mix ground pistachios with marzipan and Passoa liqueur.
3. Add sorbitol and honey, beat into smooth creamy consistency.
4. Add and beat in softened butter, fold in the chocolate.
5. Cover molds with dark chocolate, allow to solidify. Add chocolate and nut mixture and allow to stiffen. Cap off with more dark chocolate.

Professional (hard-to-find) ingredients weighed in metric? We are in Fancy Recipe-land.

#7 Sauces: Classical and Contemporary Sauce Making

Sauces: Classical and Contemporary Sauce Making by James Peterson - Buy @ Amazon

Sauces: Classical and Contemporary Sauce Making
by James Peterson (1991)
2nd Edition (1998)

Glace de viande’s target consistency is demonstrated with color photos in both hot and cold forms.

Ratings: Learn more
Quality: 4/5 – Excellent recipes
Importance: 5/5 – Sauce bible
Difficulty: 3/5 – Moderate
Rarity: 2/5 – Cookbook stores

Today’s Cookbook:
Yesterday we learned about foregoing “exact” recipes for the visceral improvisation of ratios, especially with sauces and bread doughs, in cookbook #6 Ratio.

Today we’re going to geek out about categorizing and improvising sauces with James Peterson’s sauce bible- cookbook #7 Sauces: Classical and Comtemporary Sauce Making.

Beyond Mother sauces
The author blows past the French concept of “mother sauces”, including in this 2nd edition such non-European (gasp!) sauces as salsa, Thai chili sauce, and even Indonesian kemiri (candlenut)-thickened sauces. Before we jump off into the world of alternative sauce taxonomies, here’s a refresher on the Mother Sauces of Careme and Escoffier:

Making a gastric properly requires vigorously caramelizing sugar. This and other tricky parts of the recipe are illustrated with gorgeous color photos.

Classic Mother Sauces, their bases and thickeners:

  • Hollandaise/Bearnaise: Egg Yolk, emulsified with hot oil
  • Mayonnaise: Egg yolk, emulsified with cold oil
  • Bechamel: Scalded milk/cream, roux-thickened
  • Espagnole: Browned beef, roux-thickened
  • Veloute: Boiled chicken/veal/fish, roux-thickened
  • Tomato: Stewed tomatoes, roux-thickened

The cookbook offers several other categories for sauces:

  • Liaisons: Thickeners like gelatin, starches, egg yolks, cream, butter, giblets, bread, wine lees, yogurt, and seafood coral (roe).
  • Integral Sauces: No stock, just the juices of the cooked protein.
  • Non-Integral Sauces: Stock-based, made separately from cooked protein.
  • Crustacean sauces: Thickened and flavored with shells and coral (roe).
  • Jellied sauces: Classical chaud-froid, meat and fish jellies.
  • Butter sauces: Compound butters, beurre blanc, and broken butter sauces.
  • Puree-thickened sauces: Raw or cooked nuts, vegetables and fruits.
  • Salad sauces: Vinaigrettes, dressings, salsas, relishes, pesto.
  • Pasta sauces: Regional Italian specialties for seafood, vegetable, meat and tomato dishes.
  • Asian sauces: Japanese broths and dressings, Southeast Asian and Chinese condiments, Indian spice powders and curries.
  • Dessert sauces: Anglaise, sabayon, cream, chocolate, caramel and other sweet sauces.

Using a stand mixer to infuse lobster shells into butter, color photos are used to indicate desired chunk size and consistency.

Attempting Asian Sauces
I think Peterson could have done a bit more research on the Asian sauces section. All of the Japanese sauce recipes and techniques are cribbed from cookbook #1 Japanese Cooking: A Simple Art, including a dashi recipe straight lifted from that Japanese culinary bible. The author even goes so far as to recommend instant dashi for chef use- because it’s not as poorly made as the West’s bouillon cubes!

Lack of historical context in a larger body of common ethnic recipes makes the Asiatic section of this cookbook a confusing one. Allow me to illustrate with this list of “ingredients for stir-fry” sauce, which might be more accurately listed as:

Thickeners and flavorings for Chinese stir-fry sauce:

  • Chilis: Add spiciness through chili pastes, whole peppers, ground peppercorns
  • Black beans: Fermented, crushed- adds salty flavor
  • Ham: Thinly sliced, add saltiness near end of cooking
  • Hoisin sauce: Sweet anise-scented soy bean sauce, adds sweetness
  • Orange peel: Dried slivers, adds aroma to sesame oil and chilis
  • Oyster sauce: Adds seafood flavor, used with sesame oil
  • Peanuts/Other Nuts: Add nutty flavor + texture, fried and paired with sesame oil and garlic.
  • Sesame oil: Adds an intense, savory flavor.
  • Honey/Sugar: Add sweetness to vegetables and meats during stir-frying.
  • Vinegars: Combine with sugar for sweet and sour sauces.

The author made a commendable pass at including Asian sauces. We must still rely on region-speific cookbooks with their ethnic contexts to even begin to master authentic Asian sauces.

Thickening chart for professional cooks, showing proportions of liaison to incorporate or process to achieve the desired thickness.

Conclusion: Essential sauce reference
This is really the ultimate sauce bible. Especially if you are a professional cook and need a solid, dependable recipe for a sauce you’ve never even heard of- this is the book you need.

I felt like this book really encouraged me to improvise with sauces. Much like yesterday’s cookbook #6 Ratio, there is a ton of fundamental sauce knowledge. There are cool tricks like making a compound chlorophyll butter for changing the color of a hot sauce via au beurre, and great visual references such as the thickening consistencies of sauce liaisons chart.

The numerous PERFECT recipes for how to execute Western sauces more than make up for omitting complex starches like methylcelluloses or gellans, and a frankly rudimentary pass at Asian sauces. I think that’s the most vexing thing about Peterson’s impressive effort at forging a sauce reference that attempts to re-enshrine and evolve the classics: it’s still classically myopic.

Dried Mushroom Sauce Recipe

This recipe stood out for me since I have a good supply of dried morels, and could make this any time of the year.

Morel Jelly

20 dried morels
2 cups brown meat jelly
splash of port

1. Rinse dried morels in running water. Rest in bowl after splashing port on them. When softened, squeeze gently to remove dirt.
2. Infuse morels in hot brown meat jelly in a small saucepan. After 10 minutes, strain the jelly through cheesecloth.
3. Chop morels and stir into jelly for service.

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