Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Good Science

I stumbled upon a fantastic article on the Guardian's website today: 'The Science of Cake'. My father is well known for being a sponge for knowledge and a hawk for facts; I think is born of his natural curiosity to understand things (he is a psychiatrist, after all). He has either passed or imprinted this habit on me though, alas, I don't think I will ever be as knowledgeable as he. It does mean that I sometimes find myself pondering the reactions that cause bread to rise while I wait for my loaves to bake or why the blades of my teensy food processor are angled just so to enable the optimum number of cuts while I whizz up a batch of pesto so this article was right up my street.
It was fascinating to find out about the chemistry of cake making. Because of the reactions and the molecular science involved, I've always looked at baking in a different light to the subtle art of combining flavours that set a lot of chefs apart from the rest. The author, Andy Connelly, goes into the history behind it too. My favourite line in the whole article is a quote from Miss Leslie, a popular cookbook author circa 1857, where she 'described a technique that would allow cooks to beat eggs "for an hour without fatigue" but then advised: "to stir butter and sugar is the hardest part of cake making. Have this done by a manservant." ' Finally, the excuse I need to get The Boy doing all the hard graft!

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